Saturday, 7 June 2014

David Levithan-Two Boys Kissing


I am a huge fan of David Levithan and have enjoyed all of his books, collaborations and all. I'd even go so far as to say he's the best YA author around. I'm pleased that many of the books I've been reading and enjoying for years are now being published in the UK and I'm glad he's getting more of a profile here, shame it's probably due to his associations with John Green but exposure is exposure.( I love John Green too, it's just in my personal opinion David Levithan is superior).

Two Boys Kissing weaves together several stories about the young gay experience. The book is narrated by the generation of gay men lost to aids, and through their monologues they recount their own experiences as well as observing what happens in the lives of the young men in the modern day. It's a very skillful way for Levithan to highlight where advances in acceptance have been made but also how far there is to go.

The two boys kissing in the title are Harry and Craig, ex-boyfriends who are trying to break the world record attempt for the longest kiss, an action that is born from a homophobic attack on their close friend who also films their record attempt. As the kiss is streamed live more support grows but their kiss isn't without its detractors.

This is a very important and timely book, arriving as it does in a time when gay rights are still being fought for and I still find homophobia is rife throughout society. Its about time we could get to a point where who you love and who you want to marry are only of concern to you and your lover, why the hell are the right-wing majority so caught up on who you choose to share your bed with anyway?

This book is many things, sweet, poignant and very moving and it's the kind of book I'd love to see on the shelves of school libraries. It speaks for those of us who hope that one day we'll live in a world less prejudiced and more accepting of the right to love who you love.

On a side note I watched 'The Normal Heart' this week, a HBO film set during the Aids epidemic. Although it's a fictionalised account many of the characters are based on real people and it's a raw and largely unsentimental look at the period. I still can't get my head around the sheer ignorance on display then and that this happened during my lifetime is truly repugnant. If, like me, you like getting riled up about injustice or (also like me) enjoy watching depressing dramas I really would recommend it. Mark Ruffalo, one of my favourite actors is great as always and he avoids what I know could have been a much more theatrical performance in different hands.

Two Boys Kissing: 4.5 stars
The Normal Heart:4 stars

Friday, 16 May 2014

Love Letters to the Dead

Laurel is a teenager drowning in grief for her sister who died a few months earlier, when she is asked to write a letter to someone who is gone as an English assignment she begins a process of trying to understand and come to terms with her grief.Each letter is addressed to a dead star like Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse although the book reads more like a diary as Laurel uses the letters as a way of trying to understand her life.

I first became interested in this book when I was intrigued by the title and then further intrigued by the cover quote from Stephen Chbosky. 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' is one of my very favourite books and I'm a big sucker for being influenced by who is quoted on the cover.In this case I was right to be influenced like this.Despite my love for YA in general I haven't been very inspired by anything I've read recently,which made the discovery of this book that much sweeter.

What I loved:

I found the writing very evocative and there was real emotional depth to the letters,I could really feel Laurel battling with her feelings.While she is an understandably sensitive teenager she can also be wilfull and rather reckless which serves to make her seem like a real teenager.Similarly,her relationship with Sky is developed in a realistic way through the initial flood of hormones which then give way to more difficult matters.

Although I assume the book is set now there was  an enjoyable sense of the retro thanks to the references to Nirvana and River Phoenix. I love books with pop culture references and a lot of the references here were ones seeped in nostalgia for my own teenage years.I also liked the absence of references to modern technology and the fact that the teenagers don't speak in slang or text speak.

I always enjoy reading about sisters and their relationship and so I loved reading about Laurel and May although at times it made for heart wrenching reading.Towards the end of the book Laurel becomes increasingly honest about May's death and when the events begin to fit together it was with a building dread that I became aware of what had been happening.

The ending.Although I could anticipate what the very end would consist of I thought it was carried out perfectly and although I was sad it had to end I couldn't have been happier with how things were tied up.

This is an excellent debut and for me it's up there with the best the genre has to offer.Aside from Stephen Chbosky I would recommend this to fans of David Levithan,Tabitha Suzuma and Elizabeth Scott.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

To Kill a Mockingbird

I'm not someone who really subscribes to the notion that there are certain books you 'should' have read.For me reading is all about what's enjoyable and will maintain my interest, I couldn't really care less about the  '100 Books you should Read before you Die' type stuff.However,there are a handful of books I really don't understand why I havent read by now,and 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is one of them. After seeing a review on a blog recently from someone else who'd owned a copy for several years but hadn't read it I decided to finally do it.

I won't bother with a plot summary because I'm sure most people gave an idea what it's about.This book deals with all manner of issues surrounding tolerance as well as the realities of small-town life and how difficult it can be to operate outside the norm.It also does a great job at showing how integral you upbringing is in terms of the values you are introduced to and the lessons you are taught via your family.

When it is done well,using a child as a narrator can be a skilful technique,something which may well have begun with this book.Scout is an excellent filter through which to experience the world of this book.She is charmingly honest and never afraid to question actions she cannot comprehend.She is also very wilful and a bit of a smarty pants which I love.These characteristics really make Scout feel alive on the page and I have such a vivid image of her in my head as a result.Her innocence also gave me the needed distance from the depressing nature of many of the events in the book.Scout won't allow herself to be beaten down by all of the cruelties that unfold,and that stops things from ever feeling bleak or depressing.Many of the things that happen are sad,infuriating and avoidable yet they are also exceptionally believable.

I am always fascinated by the insights a book can provide into the dynamics inside the family and that's something which is dealt with expertly here.I really felt like I got to know the Finch family and although at times it felt hopeless I was really rooting for Atticus.I admired him a lot as a character and I never felt like he compromised his family and their wellbeing despite the enormity of his job.So often in books I find fathers are barely developed stoical figures or controlling, so I loved Atticus all the more for being a Father that was really setting an example.

I would definitely recommend this book as a timeless story with themes that still resonate today,and is a very memorable tale with a great moral core.

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Comeback

I would really like my own corner of the internet to talk about all things book related so I thought I'd attempt to resurrect this poor, neglected blog. I'm not sure what form the content will take because despite having endless opinions on everything I read I don't think my strength is necessarily writing endless reviews. For now I just wanted to say hello and I hope there are a few of you out there!

My currents reads:

Diane Setterfield-Bellman & Black
I'm reading this as part of #twitterbookclub which involves reading one chapter per day and then tweeting about it which is pretty fun so far.

Charlotte Roche-Wrecked

This is the kind of 'shocking' book I'm drawn to read for several reasons, mainly to see if I can actually be shocked by a book these days. I'm about halfway through at the moment and the jury is still out, I've not found anything about the book particularly subversive despite the graphic sexual content from the first page.If anything I'm finding this quite a depressing read which isn't what I had in mind when I picked it up,I also think it could be quite triggering particularly for people with anxiety as the protagonist is very neurotic and pessimistic.

Well I think that's all for this outing, back to the reading!

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Book Pile

In my latest attempt to get this blog off the ground I thought I'd try and introduce some regular features,the first of which is 'My Book Pile'. Forgive me if this name is already taken but I like the thought of doing a regular post similar to 'In My Mailbox' but also incorporating books I've read and am excited about that week.I may not include ALL of the books I've acquired that week purely because if I've hit some particularly lucrative charity shops my finds may be too excessive to admit to!

Books I've acquired recently:

(Apologies for the slightly lame photo!)From left to right:

David Levithan-How They Met and other Stories
Ian Mcewan-Sweet Tooth
Dorothy Koomson-The Rose Petal Beach
Tera Lynn Childs-Sweet Venom
Danielle Ganek-The Summer We Read Gatsby
Francesca Lia Block-The Water&the Wild
Lucinda Riley-The Light Behind the Window
Ian Mcewan-Solar
David Van Etten-Likely Story trilogy
Michael Walsh-As Time Goes By
David Levithan-Every Day

So quite a varied selection there!David Levithan is one of my all-time favourite authors so once I had his latest book in my possession it seemed only right to complete my collection by purchasing 'How They Met' too.I also discovered he is one of the authors of 'Likely Story' so I got that at the same time.The Dorothy Koomson book I've been looking forward to for months and has a gorgeous cover which my photo doesn't do justice!'The Summer We Read Gatsby' I've wanted to read ever since I read about it a couple of years ago,I ordered a used copy from the US which has taken 3 weeks to arrive so I'm pleased to finally have it and 'The Water&the Wild' is the only Francesca Lia Block book I don't have I believe,she's another author I absolutely love.

What I'm currently reading:

I'm enjoying the Mcewan although I'm finding it a bit slow at the moment so I'm hoping it will pick up soon, the slowness led me to  start 'The Repossession' which seems really good so far and not the dystopian book I was expecting.

In other news...
Those of you who know me personally may be aware I work in a bookshop where for the past 3+ years I've been looking after all of the Fiction sections.That's all set to change this week as I become a floor manager and I'm also taking the Teen section under my wing.I'm a huge Teen enthusiast anyway but I know once I actually work there I'll probably find so much great stuff to read I won't touch any other genres for a while!I'm looking forward to the change and hoping it will be the push I need to get around to reading some of the Teen stuff I've been postponing for ages!

That's all for now but I also plan to introduce a favourite authors post soon to give an overview of must reads for authors I love and think you should too!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Return!

For months I've been thinking about resurrecting this blog and after considering it once again today I decided to go for it. Thanks for the twitter encouragement too people,you know who you are!

I'm not planning to stick to a rigorous schedule with posting as I figure this is supposed to be a fun past-time so I'm content to go with the flow. I've also been thinking about what kind of blog I want this to be, which is a bit more difficult. I definitely want the main focus to be books but I'm hoping to avoid writing endless reviews and instead feature some discussion posts and some more personal 'what reading means to me' type stuff. So here's hoping that all works!

I'd also like to overhaul the layout but for now I thought I'd ease myself in and talk about what I've been reading recently. I'm on holiday from work at the moment so I was hoping to read a lot and even made a list/pile of things to read.Of course that hasn't worked out so much,instead I've fallen into a bit of a book slump, fuelled by choosing books I subsequently found difficult to get into and further poor choices. It's picked up a bit over the last few days so I'm hoping for a fruitful few days!
I'm currently reading:

This is one I've had on my kindle for months but was reminded of after purchasing Jessica Warman's latest book 'Beautiful Lies'. I tend to be like that,I'll buy a brand new title from an author after neglecting other books of theirs for months,blame my massive hoarding streak!

When I'm reading an e-book I usually have at least one physical book on the go too, which at the moment is:

This is definitely a book I feel like I should have read by now, particularly as I've read all of John Green's other books and this is one of the most well known, it's certainly the first of his books I became aware of anyway. I think sometimes it makes me sad to think I'll be completely up-to-date on books by an author I love so I purposely 'save' one or two for when I need them, hoarding logic again! I like this so far but I don't feel like it has the magnetic pull I felt when I was reading 'An Abundance of Katherines' or 'The Fault in Our Stars' which I wholeheartedly think is a masterpiece.

While I'm on the subject of 'books I feel like I should have read by now' I ticked another one of those off my list recently:
This isn't actually the edition I read, as I couldn't find a picture of that one I just chose the one I liked the most! I've had 'The Great Gatsby' on my mental to-read shelf for years but had never felt it was the right point to read it.Now after reading it I wish I'd read it sooner as I think waiting for so long made me build it up to mythical proportions.I enjoyed it I really did and the writing is faultless. What left me disappointed I think was the brevity of the book and the romance. I was expecting a heartbreaking romance(which I generally LOVE)and instead I found most of the characters vastly unlikeable(which I think is intentional)and the outcome of the story almost pointlessly tragic.I feel bad voicing such opinions on such a well-regarded book, particularly when I did enjoy it and am generally a fan of Fitzgerald's but hey,this is my place to share my thoughts!
So I think that's all I have for now but I'll see you again soon!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Review:Between-Jessica Warman

book cover of   Between   by  Jessica Warman

'Between' isn't actually released in the US until August and October over here but I thought I'd review it now whilst it's fresh in my mind. Perhaps once I've been blogging longer I might have the foresight to make notes as I read but at the moment I'm just winging it!

'Between' arrived with a plain blue cover with hardly any blurb and comparisons to 'Before I Fall' and 'The Lovely Bones' (both books I really enjoyed), so expectations were high. At over 400 pages in paperback 'Between' is something of a beast and pacing-wise it's a bit uneven. I don't think I'm spoiling anything to say that the book starts with a bang as at the end of the first chapter Elizabeth discovers she has died, but after this initial revelation the book spends the first 100 pages dragging its feet until picking up again around the 150 mark.

My initial problem was with the character of Elizabeth Valchar herself. She's the typical mean girl those of us exposed to American teen books and movies know so well, a spoilt brat who thinks the world owes her a favour. She's similar to the protagonist in 'Before I Fall' in her selfish popularity but rather predictably she starts to grow as a person as she learns a few life lessons.

To begin with the aspects I've outlined above felt too familiar and left me frustrated, however as Elizabeth became accustomed to her existence as a spirit and began to remember more of her life before things became intriguing. Crafting the idea that after death Elizabeth and her companion Alex's memories of their lives are hazy was a clever turn as the reader fits the pieces together at the same pace as the characters do.

'Between' is a difficult book to discuss without giving away surprises the plot hinges upon but I really enjoyed seeing Elizabeth develop beyond a spoilt stereotype into a traumatised girl who spends much of her time feeling lost. The love story element referred to in the press release also took me by surprise and doesn't follow the usual path of the anguished paranormal love story.

By the end once all of the pieces were firmly in place I felt quite touched by Elizabeth's sad story and was really glad I'd persevered through the difficult beginning to get to the heart of the story beneath. 'Between' is a different take on the life beyond death theme and has shown me there is breath left in the telling of paranormal stories.

Rating: 4 out of 5