Sunday, 27 July 2014

On My Bookshelf (45)

I came to the realisation that the last time I did one of these was in February just after my birthday! Surprisingly, I've been quite good and not bought many books in the last five months, mostly because I haven't been blogging as much and haven't had much time to peruse the shelves of my nearest Waterstones. I'm slacking really, aren't I?


Londoners by Craig Taylor - I picked this up for £3 in a secondhand bookstore in Bristol when I visited there the other week when visiting one of my flatmates from Somerset. It's a book that came out just after I started working at Waterstones and I was always a little intrigued by it. Since going to university, I've realised how lucky I am to be a Londoner and so close to the city as well as some of the perceptions of Londoners both from the residents of the capital and those who live far away from it. I'm interested in what my fellow Londoners have to say!

Landline by Rainbow Rowell - Rainbow Rowell has a new book. She wrote Fangirl and Eleanor and Park. Need I say more?

Books by Charlie Hill - I found this on a table in Waterstones in Bristol and since I feel like I've going through a book version of a mid-life crisis recently, this seemed to appeal to me perhaps to make me appreciate reading for myself again.


Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld - Oh YALC, how you were so brilliant. When Lucy and I spotted this on the table in the corner of YALC, we both instantly grabbed a copy of this proof and preceded to fangirl about how much we both wanted to read it. Scott Westerfeld is one of most well-liked authors after his superb Uglies series, so I'm interested to see his latest book. So looking forward to delving into this one soon....

Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen - This was handed to me at YALC and I'm interested to read a memoir that is aimed at YA. While I'm not normally into non-fiction books, this sounds quite interesting and reminded me a lot of the novel Going Vintage from the blurb!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? 
What did you receive this week? Link below and I'll send a comment!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Meant To Be - Lauren Morrill

Source: Own
Pages: 304
Publisher: Delacorte Books

Synopsis: Straight-A student and geek, Julia knows she is accident prone, she knows how to follow rules and being organised and prepared. She knows how to write essays and that she needs to have her pocket Shakespeare and pencil sharpener on her at all times. That's also why she knows Mark, her crush since childhood, is her MTB (Meant to Be).
However, everything Julia knows is about to be turned upside down on her spring break as she goes on a school trip to London where she is partnered by her personal tormentor and the class-clown, Jason. After Julia is dragged to a wild party, she keeps receiving texts from an unknown number. Jason promises to help find out the suitor if she agrees to live a little and break some rules along the way. Julia will find out the meaning of rules and true love all in the backdrop of the city of London.

Although I may be bordering on the last six months of being a teenager as my 20th birthday looms closer and closer, I still love to slink back to the days in my mid-teens when I loved a good romance novel. While I'm far more cynical about them, I don't think any female can resist a dash of romance in their reading as long as its done right. MEANT TO BE was a book I got given about a year ago, mostly because Julia sounded like a version of myself but also, because it seemed like a fun, easy read.

Upon starting this novel, I could immediately see the conclusion and started to think maybe this book wouldn't be as good as I hoped. However, I struggled on and found myself suddenly really enjoying this book. The book becomes addictive with all these questions lying underneath that made me want to read and read to find out at the end. This is a cheesy romantic comedy for sure, but I was left with this appreciation for any love in my life at the time - be it for family or friends.

The main character, Jules, goes through London, seeing both the unknown places of the city and the tourist attractions we all know and love. It was brilliant seeing a modern perspective of the city, especially for myself as a Londoner, which isn't too rife in books. London isn't considered 'romantic' with that title calling to places like Paris or Rome, so it was good to have this setting instead of something more stereotypical.

Anyone that is a reader will appreciate Jules, a nerdy girl who follows the rules and consumes literature. I loved Jules mostly because it was like reading about myself and I entirely felt for her and related to her as she negotiated the confusing and exciting world of love.

MEANT TO BE is the perfect, summer easy read or even as a light break between books with the continual theme of death, war and grief (which is a lot of books these days). This is predictable and cheesy, but sometimes we all need a bit of that as a break. I liked this a lot, especially as it made me appreciate those around me and any book that has that kind of emotional response, well, the author's doing pretty well.

I give a 4 out of 5

Thursday, 17 July 2014

It's Kind of a Funny Story - Ned Vizzini

Source: Own
Pages: 444
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Synopsis: Struggling with academic and social pressure, one night in the early hours, Craig Gilner's depression becomes too much and he seriously starts comtemplating suicide. However, he checks himself into Six North and put in an adult mental health ward to start working towards getting better. Here, he meets an interesting cast of people who help him move towards facing his depression.

One of the woes of being a reader, a bookseller, or a book blogger is that amongst all these books you consume day in, day out, the books you read, regardless of how good you thought they were, seem to blend all into one. It seems like you've read lots of books over a month because you've been reading constantly, until you discover the total count for the month is only two short books. That is until you find that one book out of 9 or 10 books that really shines out. The one you become completely and utterly besotted with, consuming the pages eagerly, ferociously planning your day around your reading, ready and waiting for the moment you can start reading that book again. Those books are always the ones that stay with you, become rereads, get recommended dozens of times and ultimately, become our favourite books.

This is how I was for Ned Vizzini's IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY. I was on holiday when I was reading this book and found myself waiting somewhat patiently for some free time in between being a tourist, eating and sleeping which meant I could absorb a couple more chapters of this magnificent book. It was utterly brilliant surprise to love this book that much, something I wasn't quite expecting when I first picked it up. I bought this book over a year ago, and I wonder now why I left it sitting on my shelf for so long.

The best way to describe IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY is that it is a novel about depression that is not at all depressing but ends with this new found hope installed within you. It's a book that is needed and highlights a lot of issues young people experience in growing up that perhaps isn't really talked about enough. I mean in literature when is it ever discussed about the impact of the pressure that is placed on a lot of us to do well especially at a school that wants to keep its prestige? I know that throughout my school years and at university, the pressure mounts up continuously as expected when you want to do well and everyone deals with that differently. While some behave as if the potential to not do well is on the same problem level as choosing what to wear in the mornings, there are others where the pressure can take hold. I'm one of the latter, and I can fully understand and believe how something like school can make someone get depressed, like Craig in this book.

Vizzini writes Craig as if he is any other teenage boy. Certainly he is, but as the book goes deeper and Craig comes closer to facing his depression, it becomes clear how real and messed up his problems are. This book is so beautifully written, it's engaging, intelligent and original, making it a delight to read on every page. The characters are truly what make this book even more superb. From the beginning, there is the idea that these characters are too extreme, too crazy, too affected by their problems to enjoy their character and trust what they say. However, through these moments scattered throughout the book, it is evident that all these characters (and there's quite a few) have a brilliant depth to them, and this craziness that we kind of expect without even thinking when someone says 'mental health ward' makes them that much more interesting. They are some interesting voices, including Craig, to tell a novel like this through.

This is a rich, real and insightful novel that is simply a pleasure to read. There are parts which some may find difficult particularly near the beginning, however, the overall feeling of hope by the end of the novel is reason enough to read this book. Depression is a complex issue to write about and even understand and can be misdiagnosed or missed all together, both instances explored in this book.
Something that kept being brought to mind while I was reading was the coverage from book lovers when I found out Ned Vizzini had passed away last year. He writes something special with a richness and emotion that makes this novel so sad, hopeful, exciting and annoying all at the same time. We need more books like this. 

I give it a 5 out of 5

Monday, 14 July 2014

My Mad Day at YALC

On Saturday, instead of having a lie-in or helping with housework, I headed to Earls Court for the first ever YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) hosted by the London Film and Comic Con. To say it was a really good day doesn't even cut it, it was brilliant.

Aside from the crazy queues to actually just get in and the craziness of being amongst thousands of cosplayers while clutching my heavy bag of books for dear life, the day started well once I found the YALC area. I stood at the back of a panel discussing dystopia (a favourite genre of mine) in YA with Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness and Sarah Crossan - all three authors I love and admire. It was interesting to hear about their thoughts on genres in general and where they think the genre is going. It was such a surreal moment standing and listening to these authors whose books I have devoured, spotting a few familiar faces in the crowd who I knew were bloggers and then, Stan Lee walking past me on the way to his photo taking session. Very, very weird and brilliant moment.

The Dystopia panel - Sarah Crossan, Patrick Ness,
Malorie Blackman

Those kind of moments only got more frequent. While walking away from getting my book signed by Sarah Crossan, I happened to look over at the group of people I was passing and came face to face with none other than Lucy from Queen of Contemporary. Out of all the people I wanted to meet and see at YALC, she was the one I wanted to meet the most. Lucy is a really good blogging friend of mine, and her blogs are one of the best in my opinion around. She's helped me so much from motivating me to blog, talking to me constantly for the past two years to helping me write a feature article all about blogging for a university assignment. I've watched her blog work its way and it was just so amazing, so surreal and so brilliant to talk to her face to face. We went to the Superfans panel together with some other bloggers, where I think we both geeked out about Rainbow Rowell being one of the speakers, as well as then meeting Rainbow Rowell herself together and I spent a bit of time going round with her with so many authors, bloggers and publicists recognising Lucy, it was really nice to see for me.

I am so awe struck by both how lovely and genuine everyone was. There were times people had a conversation with me having probably no idea who I was, but merely because of a shared love for books and publishing. As Lucy put it in her reflection of YALC, no-one cared what your gender was, no-one cared where you came from, no-one cared about your age, everyone just cared about you being there for your love of literature. And that is something that makes me put faith back in humanity.

I left YALC about 5pm at a point where I felt utterly exhausted and like my shoulder was about to turn permanently numb. I continued my celebration of an amazing day by meeting my boyfriend and some friends who were in London for the day and had dinner at this nice restaurant just off Oxford Circus called 'Vapiano' (the cheesecake was so good).
Upon already commenting that I felt like the amount of books I had brought with me up to Central London made me feel like I'd robbed my local Waterstones store, I handed my boyfriend my goodie bag of books to him exclaiming 'Wow, that's heavy, that's a lot of books'. Yes, it was and yes my shoulder hated me on Sunday morning but it was so worth it. Bring on the next YALC!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

There is a geek in all of us.

I have a confession. It's perhaps not at all surprising if you know me personally or if you've followed my blog for a long time but it's a confession all the same.

I am a geek.

Geek [geek]. noun. a person who has excessive enthusiasm for and some expertise about a specialized subject or activity []

Yes, I definitely am. Apart from the cliches that are brought to mind when thinking about geekiness, such as actually paying attention in lectures, working 100% towards every assessment and seem to do quite well from doing so, when it comes to books, the geekiness is really brought out. Amongst my friends who are all similar to myself, I ooze this ideal life full of books with a passion for books, a blog and until recently, a job in a bookshop.

However, when it comes to the real world (which became shockingly clear when I went to university), I am essentially a geek. I have been told that whenever I talk about books, I have this wide smile on my face and I talk really fast with many hand gestures. Another passion of mine is sci-fi films. Watching anything with any sort of science fiction theme in it brings this special sort of concentration where I am so absorbed within the narrative and how clever the plot is. With my boyfriend describing himself as a 'film geek', this works when watching films together to the point where he specially chooses films that have a sci-fi element because he KNOWS I will enjoy it. However, with anyone else, getting them to watch something other than a teen move with a dystopian element (I point to The Hunger Games which for the record, I did enjoy) is trouble and I know they are secretly judging my geekery. So, science fiction in books is like the ultimate thing that brings out the total geek in me.

I get excited about book signings and book adaptations rather than going clubbing. I remember coming back to university from a trip at home where I met and got a book signed by Veronica Roth. I was so happy and excited by it yet I was only met by plain looks. For instance, I'm going to Comic Con on Saturday in London, a fact people either raised their eyebrows at quietly judging or starting geeking out themselves about the film aspect of Comic Con. However, why am I going? Well, there is YALC, a book conference...

However, as I've grown older, I've realised that everyone has a little geek in them. Everyone has different interests and passions and that enthusiasm differs from different people. Mine is stronger than a flatmate's passion for cooking, but as long as those around you allow you to share your enthusiasm as they do, that's the main thing. The conversations around the dinner table at university is purely geek if I think about it, ranging from topics about the media, books, TV shows, make-up, computers, films and video games. I remember when I was in secondary school and going through the realisation at how geeky I was, I was reading in our form time as I always did considering no-one really spoke to me and the conversations around me were incredibly boring. A girl who I would have guessed as someone who would rather take an ice cold bath than read a book asked me what I was reading. I told her, and there was a pause when we kind of looked at each other in surprise. Then, she asked me for some recommendations and we had a massive geek out about books. Apart from that 5 minute conversation, I never talked about books with her again, she chose to keep her love for books under wraps while I was more open.

Moral of the story? Everyone is different. Yes, I am a geek. I am an open geek that is kind of proud and weird about those kind of things. It is something that defines me and what people like about me. However, this guy I see at university who just oozes coolness could go home and spend endless hours watching foreign films and then blog about them. I could see someone in my seminar class at Comic Con in the Book Zone. I think we just have to accept that geekiness is a part of all of us.

I'll leave you on one of my favourite quotes I found somewhere which someone told me defined me.

"I want a girl who reads, who feeds her addition for fiction with unusual poems and plays that she hunts out in crooked bookshops for days and days and days" Mark Grist

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Don't Even Think About It - Sarah Mlynowski

Source: Netgalley
Pages: 336
Publisher: Orchard Books

Synopsis: When class 10B of Bloomberg High School in New York get their flu jab, no-one quite the side effects they received. Aside from the sore arm, those that take the jab in this class suddenly start developing telepathic powers. It means they can hear what everyone around them is thinking, their loved ones, their family, their friends, strangers in the street, between themselves. It means they know everyone's secrets and scandals. They know everything, for better or for worse.

Sarah Mlynowski is an author I've always been intrigued by but never had the opportunity to try and read one of her books. When I saw DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT after seeing a few positive reviews across Twitter, I knew this was the chance to read my first Mlynowski book. I mean, telepathic powers? That's not something you see in books everyday!

I started this book quite critically. Telepathic powers in literature is something I haven't seen before as I think it's probably quite hard to get that across in writing. Add a bunch of teenagers in there and I was thinking this was going to be like a really, really bad teen movie trying to reinvent the genre or something.
I was pleasantly surprised, however. It was the perfect read amongst the remaining coursework, exams and a busy period getting ready for the end of university. It was something I could put down in the middle of a chapter and pick up a day later and understand completely where I was in the story. The writing and plot, especially finding out the consequences as well as the advances of having these powers, hooked me entirely throughout.

As many bloggers have pointed out, the novel is narrated from the whole class, which is about 24-odd people. I was thinking when starting this book that this could make the narrative incredibly jumpy and have characters where we only know the basic details. This was handled pretty well, I thought by focusing on a certain few students but also narrating as a general group. While there are certainly 'main characters' in the group that have a greater impact from the telepathy, there is a general feel for how something as big as this can affect such a large group.

The main appeal of this book is the brilliant concept behind the novel. Everyone dreams at some point of the benefits of being able to read each others minds. This novel really gets behind that dream and allows you to see the pros and cons if everyone knew our secrets and private lives. I admit that after finishing this book, I had moments of trying to miraculously turn on some hidden power to read my flatmates' thoughts on what I was wearing or my mum's thoughts on how clean she actually thought my room was.

This novel was such an easy, interesting and most of all fun read for a holiday or during a busy period. Sure, it's quite flouncy in its writing and plot, and it does skirt over a few of the minor details about how the telepathy works. However, if you're not too bothered by that or just want a FUN read, this is the book for you. I loved how it put a total different twist to YA by creating a book that is contemporary but also sci-fi and paranormal too. I liked this book, and I especially liked Mlynowski's writing. She will be on my to-read more now!

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me the chance to read this title!

I give it a 4 out of 5

Thursday, 3 July 2014

IBW Bookshop Crawl: My Favourite Independent Bookshops

As part of Independent Booksellers Week this week, on Saturday 5th July, there is a Bookshop Crawl (like a pub crawl but books, alcohol breaks optional) across the UK challenging bloggers and vloggers to visit as many bookshops as possible in their local area to support the booksellers working there and help towards bookselling in the UK. Unfortunately, I cannot participate, even though this sounds like such a great excuse to spend time in my favourite bookshops in London, so I've put together this post of some of the independent bookshops I've come across in the UK that are simply brilliant.

I may be an ex-Waterstones employee whose loyalty lies majority with that company, but I do love independent bookshops. They have this air of personality to them, every one is never the same. But also, I always feel good when leaving the shop, knowing I've helped towards a local business that is seen to rarely now on our high streets.

2 Church Walk, Richmond, London


Richmond is a place I spend the majority of my time within when I'm at home. It's where I worked, where I hang out, where I shop - it's a beautiful town that doesn't feel at all like you're within London and it's only 20 minutes away from me.
This in one of the independent bookshops that is so close to me, but took me years to find. In an alleyway just off Richmond high street, this bookshop boasts a range of both modern, upcoming titles as well as an extensive secondhand selection in their basement. The amount of times I have found some of my most anticipated 'to-read' books and even some academic books for my studies in here is endless with a selection that is both reasonably priced in the secondhand section and in good condition.
I really like visiting this shop both with friends, in my lunch breaks when I was working at Waterstones and also by myself. It's so quiet and friendly in the shop that I really feel like I'm entering a little world within the bookshop only finishing when I open the door to the street with a ring of the bell above the door and back into the street where a pub stands next door.
It's a brilliant little shop, and somewhere a lot of locals and Londoners don't know about.

725 Christchurch Road, Bournemouth

When I moved to Bournemouth for university, I thought the only bookshops I would be visiting would be the university's own Blackwell's or the Waterstones shop where I worked. However, I soon found out about The Crooked Book, a unique bookshop about 15 minutes from Bournemouth's town centre in Boscombe high street, which is a vintage shop, a coffee shop AND a bookshop. Considering vintage clothes, coffee and books are three of my favourite things, this place is like heaven for me. I've only been able to warrant a trip once when some bookish friends from home visited me and it was utterly brilliant with a wide selection of secondhand book titles, both modern and old. I picked up vintage copies of some classics, 'Brighton Rock' and 'Ballet Shoes'. It's rather cheap as well (brilliant for student over here) and it's just a generally nice experience to visit this beautiful shop even if you're not the biggest fan of books.

If you want to join in or find out more, check out Rosianna Halse Rojas's YouTube video telling you how to join in! I hope to see some of you join in!