2017 Roundup

Perhaps you’ll have noticed from my silence on the blog that 2017 wasn’t a particular good year for reading for me. I didn’t get anywhere near my Goodreads goal and also didn’t manage to succeed in the British Books Challenge goal either. I’m a little disappointed, especially when there were so many books released in 2017 that I wanted to read. But, over the last few weeks I’ve been seeing a lot of people say that they too weren’t too happy with how much they read during 2017 either. So, I thought, let’s put this into perspective and instead look at just a few of the amazing books which I did read in 2017 and look forward to what I could do better in 2018!

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After hearing about it for the first time in December 2016, one of my standout booksfrom this year was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. It’s such a standout novel, and I knew it would be from the moment I heard about it for the first time. It’s, as John Green on the cover suggests, stunning. I left the book feeling bowled over by how powerful it has the potential to be. I can’t really do it justice, even months after I read it, so I absolutely encourage you if you haven’t already got a copy, for whatever reason, make it one of the first books of 2018 you buy. You won’t regret it – I’d consider it essential reading for so many people.

john_green_turtles_all_the_way_down_book_coverOne of my more recent reads was, speaking of John Green, Turtles All The Way Down.We’ve waited a long time for a new book from John, and it’s finally here – the tale of Aza and her friendship with Davis, whose millionaire dad has gone on the run, leaving his whole estate behind to a tuatara. It’s classic John Green, with emotions everywhere, little trickles of philosophical insights scattered throughout the novel and characters who you leave feeling like you know them after finishing the book. Again, I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of this book. It’s really a heartwarming read.

the_loneliest_girlAnd, readers of the blog will know that I’m a massive fan of Lauren James’ books, and 2017 gave us a new one from her too; the absolutely incredible ‘The Loneliest Girl in the Universe.’ I was completely blown away by what seems like a completely unworkable concept, but in reality creates a phenomenal book that I guarantee you you’ll read in maybe a maximum of two sittings. I don’t think I want you to read just this book, I think I want you to go out and read Lauren’s back catalogue – if you’re new to YA or even sci-fi, as I wasn’t that big a fan of the genre before I read it, The Next Together is an amazing place to start for either category of books. Then read The Last Beginning and The Loneliest Girl. It’s well worth it.

Going forward into 2018, I’m setting a more moderate goal for myself on Goodreads and setting myself a goal of 20 books. I think that it’s far more achievable than the 50 I set myself last year, though I definitely would still like to beat it. I’m looking to diversify the books I read, and can’t wait to read all of the brand new voices which are arriving in YA this year. I’m going to give the British Books Challenge another go in 2018 as well – I’m a little sad that I didn’t manage to crack it last year, but I’m giving it a go this year as well. And I hope to blog a lot more in 2018 as well, so hopefully you’ll hear a lot more from me in weeks and months to come. I’m certainly looking forward to it.

What are your reading resolutions? Did you have a good 2017? What are you going to do differently in 2018? Let me know what you think in the comments! 

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Culling Books

Every so often a bookworm is forced to take a good long look at their shelf and realise that actually, they have way too many books. Amber from The Mile Long Bookshelf wrote a great blog post that made me think, on New Year’s Day 2018 as I write this, the time had come to really cull my own book collection. I thought I’d write a quick little blog post just to sum up some thoughts on it.

In a nutshell, it’s actually quite difficult. You’re forced to look at a lot of books which you’ve either bought over the years or accrued in other means, and decide which ones you’re going to get rid of. In the end, I started using three key criterion to decide which ones I wanted to get rid of.

  • Am I ever likely to read this book again? If yes, keep it. If not, chuck it.
  • Have I got another copy of this book? For instance, I have two copies of The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. I don’t need two, even though it’s a phenomenal book. So, unfortunately you have to be brutal and get rid of duplicate copies in order to make space for more wonderful stories. It’s nothing personal towards Jandy, you understand?
  • Did I actually enjoy this book? I’ve got quite a few books on my shelves which I haven’t actually enjoyed that much. This seems fairly self-explanatory – it’s impossible to love every single book that comes my way, so some it just makes sense to get rid of.

As someone with books sitting about in most places, I managed to get to a total of 61 books which I was prepared to get rid of (and 61 is a rather big total for me!), ready to create just a bit more space on my shelves. What to do with them though?

Well, in the past my go to option for books has been to give them either to a charity shop or to my local library, which is always happy to accept donations and rest assured there’s some books which I’ve culled which will be going there. There are websites which are willing to buy books you don’t want from you as well, and I’m shipping a few off to them as well to make space on my shelves too.

There are plenty more places which are willing to accept donations of books, and I’m sure local primary schools would be willing to accept as well, so this is where I refer you to Amber’s post, linked above, for a far more comprehensive look at how to do this properly. However, I will say I do in fact encourage book culling. You’ll look at your shelves afterwards and notice how much space you have now to welcome in brand new titles, and there are plenty coming this year that you’re going to want to give rightfully deserved space on your shelves.

And rest assured, you’ll be giving someone else the chance to enjoy the books that perhaps you either didn’t enjoy as much as you thought you would have or you loved and have extra copies of, so you’re prepared to cling on to one as your own and instead let others enjoy the same stories. Far better than allowing them to gather dust, right?

Are you culling any books at the moment? What are you planning on doing with them? Which books coming out this year are you prepared to give space to on your shelves? Let me know in the comments! 

Books I’m Looking Forward to in January 2018

Happy New Year’s Eve! I hope 2017 was a good year for you – the silence on my blog throughout this year has been due to exams and not being able to read for much of it. However, 2018 is a new year, so I hope to start as I mean to go on and begin blogging regularly again.

9781910655672To start off, I thought I’d bring back an old format I used a while ago and start talking about the books I’m looking forward to in January, and I’ll start by talking about The Fandom by Anna Day. This book is one that I know is hotly anticipated. Back in March, The Bookseller reported that The Fandom became Chicken House’s fastest ever selling international rights title. The story focuses on Violet, who arrives at Comic Con in cosplay and ready to be part of her fandom in real life, for The Gallow’s Dance – a major movie franchise. A freak accident at Comic Con however puts her in the heart of The Gallow’s Dance, so she must take her place within the story and play her role. This is undoubtedly a really exciting book, out on the 4th January, and I’m happy to say Anna will be joining me right here on the blog for the blog tour – see the sidebar for the details of all the stops!

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Next, let’s talk about I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan, already making waves within

the YA community. It tells the story of Muzna Saleem, who dreams of becoming a novelist, though her parents would prefer it if she became a doctor and married “a cousin from Pakistan.” Then, Arif Malik, the “high school hottie,” takes an interest in her. To continue quoting the blurb, because I couldn’t do it justice; “As Arif begins to lead Muzna down a dark path, she faces a terrible choice: keep quiet and betray her beliefs, or speak up and betray her heart?” I’m really excited about this one from a new voice in YA, out on the 25th January 2018 from Macmillan.

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Readers of the blog might know that I love the works of Non Pratt, and I’m pleased to say that with a New Year comes a new book from her too – her second with Barrington Stoke.

This one’s called Second Best Friend, and it features inseparable best friends Jade and Becky, yet a spiteful comment is made about Jade by her ex, forcing her to see that she has always been second best in everything. Then, there’s a school election, giving her a chance to see just how far she’ll go to be better than her best friend. Non Pratt is a familiar and amazing voice within YA, and if you’ve read her previous Barrington Stoke title, Unboxed, you’ll know that you’re not wrong to expect great things from this book as well.

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Finally, for this list at least, it’s the finale to the series by Kerry Drewery that’s included Day 7 and Cell 7 – Final 7 arrives on the 11th January, and this one picks up with Martha and Isaac now on the run, with the government branding them both rebels and a danger to the public. Described as “heartstopping,” this is definitely not one to miss in January.

As always, there are so many amazing books to be expected in January from so many amazing authors. This list is just a few picks of mine, but definitely go out there and tell me any I’ve missed that need to be on my list

(Release dates are UK only.)

Review: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

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It’s been a while since I last reviewed a book, and that’s almost entirely down to a reading slump that I fell into. A few weeks ago however, I found myself in that all too familiar state of finding a book being released soon, deciding I have to have it, then pre-ordering it immediately. It just so happens this time, the book on the other end of the webpage was Turtles All The Way Down by John Green. I can’t have been the only one to recognise the origin of the title, and wondering in what, almost entirely abstract way Green would manage to weave such an idea into the book; a book about a girl suffering with OCD reuniting with an old friend who happens to be the son of a millionaire on the run who has left his entire estate to a tuatara alongside her friend who together try and find the missing millionaire. How were you going to weave in a concept about Earth and it lying on the tops of many turtles all stacked on top of one another?

I can’t judge for that unfortunately. Trust me – read it and the reference is appropriately in there, so do go and find it for yourselves. What I do know is that this book felt somewhat different from John Green’s previous novels. Those who know me as a reader specifically well enough will know that The Fault In Our Stars was the first YA novel I ever read, and it’s like a gateway to the rest of the genre. I loved it. Make no mistake – Turtles is distinctly John Green, with philosophical insights littered from the get-go that make you suddenly question your very existence (I remember an insight from Aza where she reminds herself that there are bacteria within her gut that digest her food for her and can tell her brain what to do, so whether or not she actually is digesting her food and whether her thoughts are her own – it’s stuck with me several days after finishing the book!) and characters who are linked in some way who happen to fall into a romance. It makes it sound like I’m calling the book a cliché, which in a way I suppose I am, but the best kind of cliché.

I do know from watching John’s videos online that he’s been able to tie in personal experiences of his own into the writing of this book, which I think makes the book more insightful. Experiences vary vastly when it comes to things like mental illnesses, which for me personally made the book more interesting.

I appreciated the use of the romance between Aza and Davis as being a focal point of the story, though not the only one and certainly not the main focal point of the story – it’s not the only time you see a story arc emerge within the novel. There are several parallel stories which, although sounds odd, works perfectly, though I won’t say more through fear of spoiling the book for those who haven’t read it.

It’s been a while since John Green wrote his last book, but I’m very happy he’s back. I enjoyed Turtles All The Way Down – as you may have guessed from what I’ve written above, it’s not my favourite John Green novel, but it’s still a worthy read in any and every case.

 

Spotlight On…Stories for Homes Volume 2

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Hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? But, I’m back and I’m shining the spotlight on a volume of books today set out to do good. Emma Darwin, author of The Mathematics of Love, commented on this book calling it, “A cornucopia of witty, tragic, elegant, raw, heart-warming and terrifying stories that take the idea of Home, play with it as only truly talented writers can, and all to help those who have no home at all.”

Yes, it’s the second edition of the Stories for Homes anthology, edited by Debi Alper and Sally Swingewood, in support of Shelter.

55 writers, both unpublished and published, come together in this anthology with short stories on issues like poverty, homelessness, crisis and others to life with the aim of doing some real good in the world for people who these issues genuinely affect too.

And the first edition of the book managed to raise over £3,000 for Shelter, so as you can see there’s a potential for this book to do some real good, perhaps go even further than £3,000!

This second edition contains not just short stories but flash fiction and poetry too, so there’s definitely something for every type of reader in here.

It’s available now as an ebook (published 28th September 2017, in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy), and Sally Swingewood, one of the editors of this anthology, commented on the book upon it’s release.

“The Stories for Homes collections would not be possible without the generosity of a huge number of volunteers. By working together we have produced a book which will not only delight but also help address one of the biggest humanitarian crises facing modern society. In a world where migration, identity and belonging are in the news daily we have a duty to help everyone have a home in which they feel safe and settled. Stories for Homes is one way we can be part of the solution”

Plus, if you want to read more, head to storiesforhomes.wordpress.com, a website featuring a further collection of flash fiction, poetry and real life experience of people who have had housing problems and/or have experienced homelessness along with columns from the professionals with advice.

Make sure you go and check out the other posts from across the blog tour for this book as well! And like I said, this book is available now as an ebook to buy today.

Review of Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls

(Andersen Press kindly sent me a copy of this book in exchange for a review, but my opinions on the book haven’t been affected as a result.)

Sally briefly mentioned this book that she was writing a while ago on Twitter, and I remember distinctly seeing that tweet and being really excited about it. I couldn’t wait to read this book, and then when I finally saw that proofs had become available a few months ago I was extremely excited.

Things A Bright Girl Can Do is a book set in the early 1900s when the campaign for women’s suffrage was on the rise. Set in the East End of London, three girls – Evelyn, Nell and May, join the fight for women’s suffrage, all for their own reasons, be it that women were expected to marry rather than continue education or for equality for all kinds of women in the case of Nell and May, the story follows the three characters throughout the campaign for women’s suffrage.

This is the first ‘historical’ fiction book I’ve read in a very, very long time. Any hopes I had for the book to be as amazing as I expected it to be though were entirely realised.

This is a powerful book, and whilst it explores two or three almost separate storylines simultaneously which can be confusing at times, you get really involved with the characters as they fight for the vote. The setting perfectly compliments the characters, and it’s a powerful book about equality, feminism and being who you are and making no apologies for that.

I loved reading about them, and I think that, even if you, like me, don’t usually go for historical novels, you’ll love this book in like I did.

Sally has an incredible voice when writing. You can see it in any of her past books and it shines through in this book too. I can’t recommend it enough. Definitely worth a read.

An Interview with Simon James Green

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Hello! It’s been a while but I’m back and I’m so excited to be sharing an interview I did with Simon James Green (and Noah Grimes!) about Noah Can’t Even.

This interview was first published over on Beth’s blog, Words From A Reader, who let me ask Simon and Noah these questions in the first place, so thank you!


Starting with a challenge; sum up your book in five words.
SJG: Madcap coming-of-age comedy!
NG: Full of lies, really awful.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
SJG: I’ve always loved coming-of-age stories, and I’ve always wanted to write one about a geeky boy questioning his sexuality. I also really enjoy writing comedy – making people laugh is the best feeling – so I knew I wanted it to be funny too. Finally, there was a particular piece of writing advice that stuck in my mind: in every chapter, turn up the heat on your character a little bit more and make life even harder for them. Those things combined in my head to create the story.
NG: Right, Simon (1) just because I get good grades and once built an Airfix Avro Vulcan B Mk2, which I hung from my ceiling on bits of cotton, that doesn’t make me a ‘geek’ necessarily. (2) Shut up about my sexuality. (3) You know full well that you stole the idea from things I told you for your own profit and have probably even bought a Nespresso machine on the proceeds whilst I have received only grief from everyone laughing at me.

How much of the books content came from your own experiences?
SJG: The book isn’t really autobiographical, but I did base certain elements on my own teenage years – for example, I absolutely hated PE at school, just like Noah does.
NG: That’s a lie. The book is based entirely on secrets that I told Simon in confidence. He got me to trust him by buying me some Skittles and then saying nice things about how he thought my poetry was good. When my defences were down, he got me to open up more about my life and unbeknown to me, he was writing all this down to use in his stupid book.

When the cover was first shown to you, what was your initial impression?
SJG: I loved it! It’s such a bold, attention-grabbing image and it sums up so much about the book. I couldn’t have been more pleased. It was designed by Liam Drane at Scholastic, who’s a genius!
NG: I hated it. It’s an appalling, diabolical image that I suppose someone thought was funny or something. It’s not exactly subtle, is it? Personally, I prefer the sort of covers you get on more literary books – maybe a picture of some barbed wire, or a shattered mirror reflecting a fractured face, to indicate the inner turmoil of the character – that sort of thing.

Secondary school/high school can be a rough place for a lot of people. What tips would you give to anyone in school for surviving it?
SJG: Always remember that almost everyone is going through their own form of private hell, and despite appearances sometimes, everyone is in the same boat and feels the same insecurities and anxieties. Find people like you, who you connect with and don’t make you feel like crap. Hang on to those folks and be there for each other – they’ll get you through. Finally, it may seem like it, but it’s not forever. It will end. And things will get better.
NG: I found that becoming Head Student Librarian granted me a lot of respect amongst my peers, especially when they beg me not to give them fines for late returns. Having a position of power strikes fear into the hearts of the mean kids and I know that when they call me rude names and make gestures behind my back it’s only because they are scared and jealous. Also, I keep a list of everyone who has wronged me so that one day, I can get revenge on them.

What tips do you have for any aspiring writers?
SJG: Write the thing that you would want to read – it’s a long slog, so you’ve absolutely got to love the thing you’re working on. Get feedback on your work – whether from a crit group or a freelance editor, if you can afford it. Keep going, read lots, believe in yourself I truly believe there’s a place for everyone’s story, you’ve just got to find it.
NG: I am actually a successful writer and have recently won a prize for one of my poems, which has now been included in a special anthology, so I am well placed to give out writing advice. I suppose my number one tip would be this: you need a lot of stationery if you’re going to be a professional writer who wins awards, like me. The Viking catalogue is a good place to start for all the essentials, like folders, reams of paper and an array of different types of pen.


Simon and Noah are both on Twitter – @simonjamesgreen @noahgrimes12