Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Recommendations: Road trips!

Summer is the season of the road trip novel and it just so happens that I love road trip novels! Here are some of my favourites:

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson
S&S|7th July 2011

Amy has had a sucky year and her mum deciding that they’re moving from California to the East Coast and Amy has to get the car there doesn’t really improve anything. Especially as she hasn’t driven since her dad died. The son of a family friend, Roger, comes to the rescue, joining Amy on her trip. To her surprise, Roger turns out to be funny, sweet and cute and he’s intent on turning their cross country drive into a full-on road trip.

Morgan Matson’s debut is sweet, fun and emotional and it’s just the perfect summer read. Amy and Roger go on a real emotional journey as well as a physical one and I loved watching them get to know each other, open up and fall in love. All of the little extras – tickets, playlists, photos, receipts, menus – just made it come alive. Wonderful!

From What I Remember, Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas
Electric Monkey|7th January 2012

Kylie is due to give the most important speech of her life at midday today – the Valedictorian speech. But she’s just woken up in Mexico with a killer hangover and next to the hottest boy in school.

This book is one of the most fun I’ve ever had reading. It’s hilarious and heartwarming and has an unexpected depth to it. The characters grow and develop such a lot in such a short amount of time and I fell in love with them. Everyone is complex and layered and there’s just so much more under the surface and it takes this crazy, crazy adventure for everyone to figure that out about each other. Highly, highly recommended.

How to Be Bad, E Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle
Hot Key Books|4th June 2015

Vicks is a wild-child; Jesse has a life-changing secret and Mel is the new girl, desperate for some friends. As different as they may be, they all have one thing in common: they want to escape. So they “borrow” Jesse’s mum’s car and head to Miami for the weekend.

This is an easy, enjoyable read about three very different girls. I remember loving how distinct each point of view felt as each author wrote each girl and you don’t know who wrote which until after the story.



Open Road Summer, Emery Lord
Bloomsbury USA|3rd March 2015

Reagan has just broken up with her boyfriend and she’s nursing a shattered heart. Her best friend, Dee, is a country superstar and recovering from her own break-up. Fortunately, Dee’s huge American tour is about to kick off, offering the girls a summer of bonding. Then Matt Finch joins the tour and his charm could be more than Reagan can resist…

I fell in love with this novel at the beginning of the year. It hit me in a way that a book hadn’t in a long time and I devoured it. It’s both warm and summery and angsty and emotional in the way that the best contemp is and I just, GAH, I LOVED THIS BOOK! Emery Lord became an instant favourite and I devoured her second book, The Start of Me and You, as soon as it came out and her third is already on pre-order.

Pretty Bad Things, CJ Skuse
Chicken House|1st March 2010

Twins Paisley and Bea hit the headlines when they went missing for three days when they were six. They were looking for their dad. But now they’re sixteen and they have a clue; they might finally find him.

CJ writes wonderfully off the wall, funny and charming UKYA. (And she’s an awesome person too, btw). The plot for this one is a little bizarre, but in the best way. There’s a Las Vegas sweet shop crime spree, two very different twins and the constant fear of Paisley and Beau’s world coming crashing down. Such fun!



Paper Towns, John Green
Bloomsbury|19th December 2013

Q has loved Margo Roth Spiegelman for as long as he can remember so when she climbs through him window one night and invites him on a revenge mission, he can’t say no. But she’s not at school the next morning and she still hasn’t showed up after a week. Then Q starts to spot clues and so he goes on a road trip with his two best friends to track her down and learns about him and Margo along the way.

This one really doesn’t need an introduction, but with the adaptation coming out soon I couldn’t leave it off my list! It’s been a really long time since I read this, but I remember it being just as witty and thoughtful as you’d expect from John Green. Now I think I’d definitely see Margo as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but I do like her character and the journey she and Q go on in the novel. Read it before the film!

Two-Way Street, Lauren Barnholdt
Simon Pulse|26th June 2007

Jordan and Courtney are totally in love. They’re going to the same college and they have a cross-country road trip to get there. But then Jordan dumps Courtney for a girl he met on the internet and it’s too late to change plans: the road trip is still on. Courtney is heart-breaking but powering through it. Jordan has a secret about why they really broke up and why they can’t ever get back together.

This is an oldie! Told in dual narrative (my fave), we get two different sides to the same story and a gritty look at a complex, genuine relationship between high school sweethearts. This is one of those books that you can devour in a few short hours whether you’re chilling by the pool or bemoaning the damp English summer. Pure escapist fun.

The Last Summer of Us, Maggie Harcourt
Usborne|1st May 2015

Limpet, Jared and Stefan are embarking on their last road trip together. Everything’s changing and it’s only going to carry on changing – they need to escape for a few days so they climb into Stefan’s clapped-out old car and take to the road.

What’s that? A UKYA road trip novel, you ask? YES. Maggie Harcourt’s debut is set in Wales! There’s such a genuine feel about this novel. They bicker, they tease each other, it doesn’t always go to plan and there are some utterly ridiculous moments that crop up along the way. It’s beautiful, sad and hopeful and I loved it.



So those are my road trip recs! Do you have any you think I’ve missed? Any you recommend?


Sophie 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Mini Reviews: Thoughts from Women

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi

Pages: 64
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Release Date: 9th October 2014
Edition: Kindle e-book, purchased

Synopsis
What does ‘feminism’ mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently argued essay – adapted from her much-viewed TEDx Talk of the same name – but Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun. with humour and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century – one rooted in inclusion and awareness.

Mini-review
Adichie talks about feminism from a very personal standpoint and in relation to a culture that I know very little about. Being a woman, particularly a feminist woman, in Nigeria is tough. You aren’t greeted when you enter a restaurant; in fact, in some restaurants, a woman isn’t allowed in on her own; women aren’t allowed to speak for their community among the Igbo people, where Adichie was brought up; women are trained to be marriage material. It all sounds very Victoria, but that’s how it is there and it’s scary.

The ideas of what is feminine and how she herself counteracts those in her teaching, her writing and her view on women in society lays nicely next to the constraints of masculinity. Adichie says that men need to be taught that feminie is not bad, you don’t have to oppose all of the typical feminine traits to be seen as masculine. Socialisation exaggerates gender into inescapable social constructs that cannot possibly fit every woman.

This is an eye-opening and important speech and I sincerely hope that it’ll be read by young people everywhere.

Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit

Pages: 144
Publisher: Granta
Release Date: 14th November 2014
Edition: UK hardcover, purchased

Synopsis
In her iconic essay ‘Men Explain Things to Me’, Rebecca Solnit investigates the conversations of men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t.

This famous and influential essay is included here along with the best of Solnit’s feminist writings. From rape culture to grandmothers, from French sex scandals to marriage and the nuclear family, and from Virginia Woolf to colonialism, these essays are a fierce and incisive exploration of the issues that a patriarchal culture that will not necessarily acknowledge as ‘issues’ at all. With grace and energy, and in the most exquisite and inviting prose, Rebecca Solnit proves herself a vital leading figure of the movement and a radical, humane thinker.

Mini-review
This collection of seven essays from Rebecca Solnit provides an easy to read and accessible introduction to feminist writing that is perfect for younger readers or those just being introduced to feminist literature.

Solnit covers a range of topics, including male entitlement, rape culture, rape and sexual assault, traditional gender roles, marriage, control, confinement, the disappearance of women, how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go. She does all of this with humour and brevity; there’s no sense of overcomplicating things that don’t have to be, she’s not patronising or belittling in any way and nothing is overblown.

Most of the ideas in Men Explain Things to Me and Other Essays were ones I had come across before but it was really interesting (and terrifying) the read the extra anecdotes, news stories and statistics to back those ideas up. It makes for powerful reading and a great launching pad for those interested in feminism. Highly recommended.

Very Good Lives, JK Rowling

Pages: 80
Publisher: Sphere
Release Date: 14th April 2014
Edition: UK hardback, purchased

Synopsis
In 2008, JK Rowling delivered a deeply affecting speech at Harvard University. Now published for the first time in book form, Very Good Lives offers JK Rowling’s words of wisdom for anyone at a turning point in life, asking the profound and provocative questions: How can we embrace failure? And how can we use our imaginations to better both ourselves and others?

Drawing from stories of her own post-graduate years, the world-famous author addresses some of life’s most important issues with acuity and emotional force.  

Mini-review
Before I even get to the insides, I just have to mention how beautiful this book is as an object. Underneath the simple dust jacket is a beautiful read hardcover with a pattern of graduation caps on it – I love it when publishers jazz up the naked hardcover! But the illustrations continue.

Alongside JK’s inspiring words are gorgeous red, red, white and grey illustrations and quotes that have been transformed into gorgeous typography. There’s something to marvel at on each page.

The speech itself is funny, witty, inspiring and thought-provoking and I loved the messages about the importance of failure and the ability of imagination to transform you and give you an intense sense of empathy. I also really liked the point that JK made about the burden and privilege of graduating from an institution like Harvard. They are people not used to failure or struggle or lack and how they should use that position for the good of everybody. I thought that was an incredibly important point, and probably something a few of those graduates should definitely think about with the moves they make in their lives and career.

Sophie 

Monday, 27 July 2015

21 Stolen Kisses, Lauren Blakely

Pages: 251
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Release Date: 26th May 2015
Edition: Kindle e-book, purchased

Other Titles by this Author: Caught Up in Love series, Seductive Nights series

When I first met him I resisted.
Like any forbidden love, I told myself he was a crush, and it would pass.
It was a lie. It never faded.

And I never expected he would fall for me just as hard.

There were so many reasons that should have kept up apart, least of all, the decade that separated us. Growing up in New York City I learned early on that love is a double-edged sword. Love broke up my parents, love took away my friends, and love – the big, intense, never-been-like-this-before love – landed me in therapy. Now I’m heading to college, and it’s time to give love a clean slate again. But, can I still really start over when he’s still in my life? Because the one man I’ve always wanted, is the only one I can’t have… And he wants me just as fiercely.

Can I settle for anything less that the love of my life?

I always find the novels that come from Bloomsbury Spark to be fun, easy, quick to read and brilliant for easing me out of a slump. 21 Stolen Kisses was no exception.

Before I go into the review properly I just have to say how not quite true the synopsis for this novel is: love didn’t land her in therapy, her dad sent her; she’s still in high school with about nine months until college; she has no intention of a clean slate and there’s eight years between them, not ten. I know it sounds silly to pick on that, but it does get on my nerves a little when the synopsis and actual content of the novel don’t match up!

I was fully prepared for 21 Stolen Kisses to be a student/teacher romance, but it’s not, and I was pleasantly surprised by the nature of Kennedy and Noah’s relationship. It was definitely something I’ve not come across before and I really enjoyed the new dynamic it lent to their relationship and the possible ramifications if knowledge of their relationship got out. I’m always a sucker for the combination of swoon, sweetness and potential disaster! When I started to think about their relationship I couldn’t decide how I felt about it, but I definitely felt their connection while I was reading and I decided that that was enough for me. There’s a real palpable chemistry between Kennedy and Noah and the dual narrative made sure that came from both sides.

Letters are of huge importance in this novel and I really loved the way they were woven into the story. As well as Kennedy dispensing copies of famous love letters across New York City, they are also interspersed in the narrative. Kennedy writes Noah a love letter, detailing their 21 stolen kisses and kisses she wants them to have in the future and excerpts of this letter are peppered between chapters throughout and I think it’s a brilliant idea. It really tied the story and the ideas of the novel together beautifully.

Through the love letters, the adoration that Kennedy (and Lauren Blakely, I suspect!) have for NYC came across so strongly. It made me so sad to read about that city that after a single visit, I’m head over heels in love with and desperate to return to. It’s always lovely to read about places that you’ve been and can vividly draw to mind and it’s even better when something like a Broadway show – something I’d dreamed of since I was little – came up in the novel and they went to the theatre that I did. It gave me a happy-sad.

I have to admit that throughout it all I was waiting for everything to come crashing down, and of course, it did. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. Then Kennedy made a seemingly convenient decision, which I actually ended up really respecting. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s rare for characters of YA to make sure mature, thoughtful decisions when they’re wrapped up in intense love affairs and I liked it a lot. (And I liked the eventual happily ever after even more!)

21 Stolen Kisses is a swoony love letter to Broadway, New York City and love itself. A lovely read.

Sophie  

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Letterbox Love #98

Letterbox Love is a way to show you all of the lovely, lovely books I’ve gotten in the post, bought and everything else over the last week. Summaries are taken from the cover, or Amazon/NetGalley/Goodreads in the case of e-books, unless otherwise stated.

For review:

I snagged these two proofs in the goody bag from the YALC Blogger Brunch. Thanks Nina and Kat!

These Shallow Graves, Jennifer Donnelly (proof)

Josephine Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon she’ll be married off to a handsome, wealthy gentleman. But that’s the last thing she wants. Jo dreams of becoming a writer – an investigative journalist like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort apparently shot himself while cleaning his pistol. But as New York City’s wealthiest men – owner of a newspaper and partner in a huge shipping firm – JO knows he was far too intelligent to clean a loaded gun.

Unable to accept that her father could have been so careless, she begins to investigate his death with the help of a smart, infuriatingly handsome reporter, Eddie Gallagher. In their race against time to discover the truth it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for answers. But now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and this time the truth is the dirtiest part of all.

I’m a bit fussy when it comes to historical fiction, but I’ve only ever heard wonderful things about this author so I’ll give it a go!

Silence is Goldfish, Annabel Pitcher (proof)

My name is Tess Turner – at least, that’s what I’ve always been told.

I have a voice but it isn’t mine. It used to say things so I’d fit in. it used to tell the universe I was something I wasn’t. It lied.

It never occurred to me that everyone else was lying too. But the words that really hurt weren’t the lies: it was six hundred and seventeen words of truth that turned my world upside down.

Words scare me, the lies and the truth, so I decided to stop using them.

I am Pluto. Silent. Inaccessible.
Billions of miles from everything I thought I knew.

Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (proof)

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra – who are barely even talking to each other – are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will tell them what’s going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only once person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents – including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more – Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes. 

This looks completely fascinating and totally unique, and massive. Thanks Rock the Boat!

Bought:

The Tattooed Heart, Michael Grant (paperback)

He is the Messenger
Be afraid

A group of people were walking slowly up the road towards us. Four of the men carried something, and I could already guess that this was a funeral procession.

“Why are we here?” I asked.

“This is the victim,” Messenger said. “Our business is with the ones responsible. The wickedness we pursue is not murder, but murder’s source.

“It is hatred we pursue. Hatred.”

Messenger and Mara serve the balance. They seek out injustice and punish the wicked. But their world is changing and everything depends on the decisions Mara makes. The Messenger’s apprentice is about to face her greatest test…

Woo, early copy! I can’t wait to read this, even if I am upset it went straight to paperback and I have the first in hardcover…

Witch Hunter, Virginia Boecker (paperback)

The witch hunter
Elizabeth Grey may look harmless, but don’t let that fool you. She can take out five necromancers with a single sword and slay a wizard at fifty paces.

Accused of witchcraft
But when she’s found carrying witch’s herbs, she’s thrown in jail with no chance of escape. Only magic, which she’s fought against all her life, can save her…

Rescued by the enemy
Now, with Elizabeth’s chances of survival in the very hands of those she has been trained to fight, she faces an impossible choice:

Magic or murder?

I also bought finished copies of Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine and The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle to get signed at YALC. And nabbed a copy of Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo for only £2! Not going to put the summary as I haven’t read books one and two.

Ink and Bone, Rachel Caine (paperback)

Knowledge is power. Power corrupts.

In a world where the ancient Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, knowledge now rules the world: freely available, but strictly controlled. Owning private books is a crime.

Jess Brightwell is the son of a black market book smuggler, sent to the Library to compete for a position as a scholar…but even as he forms friendships and finds his true gifts, he begins to unearth the dark secrets of the greatest, most revered institution in the world.

Those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life – and soon both heretics and books will burn…

It’s Rachel Caine and the Great Library of Alexandria. ‘Nuff said.

The Islanders Volume 1: Zoey Fools Around and Jake Finds Out, Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant (paperback)

On a small island it’s easy to know everything about your friends…except for the truth.

Two years ago the tiny New England community on Chatham Island was rocked by tragedy – three teenagers had a terrible accident that left one dead. Now Lucas Cabral, the person responsible for the events on that fateful night, has returned. But life on the island isn’t the same, and everyone Lucas once considered a friend refuses to speak to him. Everyone except Zoey Passmore.

Zoey knows that Lucas is off limits…but she can’t seem to stay away from him. Even though she knows it would be better for everyone if he had never come back. Even though she is dating Jake, the brother of the boy who died. As Lucas and Zoey grow closer, Zoey risks tearing apart their close-knit group of friends if they discover the truth…that she’s falling for her boyfriend’s worst enemy.

Friendships will be tested, hearts will be broken, and secrets will be unearthed in the electrifying first two books in the Islanders series.

Michael Grant and his wife writing summer contemp? Officially intrigued.

I recently read and loved the new YA reissue of Daphne Du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek so I had to order the other two!

Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier (paperback)

On a trip to the South of France, the shy heroine of Rebecca falls in love with with Maxim de Winter, a wealthy, handsome widower. But as they arrive at Manderley, his Cornish mansion, a change comes over Max and the young bride is filled with dread. Friendless in the osolated house, she realises that she barely knows the man she has married, and in every corner of every room is the phantom of his beautiful first wife, Rebecca.








Jamaica Inn, Daphne Du Maurier (paperback)

After the death of her mother, Mary Yellan crosses the windswept Cornish moors to Jamaica Inn, the home of her Aunt Patience. There she finds Patience a changed woman, downtrodden by her violent husband Joss Merlyn. Mary discovers that the inn is a front for a lawless gang of criminals, and is unwillingly dragged into their dangerous world of smuggling and murder. Despite herself, she becomes powerfully attracted to a man she dares not trust – Joss Merlyn’s brother. Before long she will be forced to cross her own moral line to save herself.






As If! The Oral History of Clueless as Told by Amy Heckerling, the Cast and the Crew, Jen Chaney (paperback)

Will we ever get tired of Clueless?
Ugh, as if!

Acclaimed pop culture journalist Jen Chaney celebrates the twentieth anniversary os the classic film’s release in the first book of its kind, weaving together original interviews with writer and director Amy Heckerling; key cast members, including Alicia Silverstone (Cher), Paul Rudd (Josh), Stacey Dash (Dionne), Donald Faison (Murray), Elisa Donovan (Amber), Wallace Shawn (Mr Hall), Twink Caplan (Ms Geist and associate producer); and other crucial Clueless players like costume designed Mona May, casting director Marcia Ross, director of photography Bill Pope, former Paramount chairwoman Sherry Lansing, and many more. Cast and crew also pay heartfelt tribute to the late Brittany Murphy, who lit up the screen as Cher’s protégée, Tai.

Chaney explores the influence of Jane Austen’s Emma as the unlikely framework for Heckerling’s script, the rigorous casting process (including the future stars who didn’t make the cut), the functional yet fashion-forward wardrobe, the unique slang that drew from the past and coined new phrases for the future, the sun-drenched soundtrack that set the tone, and – above all – the massive amount of work, creativity and craft that went into making Clueless look so effortlessly bright and glossy.

As If! illuminates why plaid skirts and knee socks will never go out of style, and why Clueless remains one of the most beloved comedies of all time.

I couldn’t not get this, really! Clueless is one of my all-time favourite films. So looking forward to diving into this.

The Martian, Andy Weir (e-book)

I’m stranded on Mars.

I have no way to communicate with Earth.

I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days.

If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So, yeah. I’m screwed.

I’ve been thinking about getting this for ages but I was finally pushed into it by Sarah (Feeling Fictional)’s comments on Goodreads while she was reading it.

Sophie 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

I'm a sucker for pretty endpapers...

I am a big fan of hardcovers. I never used to buy them; they can be pretty pricey after all, and not that many YA novels are actually published in hardback over here that often. But that seems to be changing. More and more publishers are taking the risk with hardcovers and even though I have a rule about buying hardcovers (the book has to be at least 300 pages long), it makes me very happy.


Why? Endpapers. I have a thing for books as objects. You may have seen my post about my Penguin Clothbound Classics editions or have heard me mention my need to collect the Penguin English Library and Penguin Modern Classics paperbacks, or even just seen me whinge on Twitter about a cover change mid-series. And even though you can’t see endpapers until you open the book, I know they’re there and that makes all the difference to me.

Sadly, when it comes to beautiful endpapers, the US are way ahead of us there. They are a luxury and must add quite a bit to the production costs of a book, but I really do think they’re worth it. They make a book into a desirable, collectible object. They’re definitely something aimed at booklovers or as a gift book; a sporadic reader will go straight to the chart paperback, I’m sure, but us booklovers are so worth the investment. We probably spend hundreds and hundreds of pounds on books each year.


I’m also a fan of how something like endpapers can brand a series or an author or even a publisher or a bookshop. When you see a large, grey cover with a white title and gorgeous vintage patterned endpapers you instantly know it’s a Persephone Books edition. Persephone Books are an indie bookshop and publisher in London that focus on rereleasing forgotten women’s classics from the 19th Century. Sadly, I haven’t got my hands on any yet but I have a visit planned! I also know that I won’t be able to just get one…


I also love it when series’ have cohesive looks and endpapers. Becca Fitzpatrick’s UK hardcover editions of the Hush, Hush series have the same black and white feather design in all four novels and Charlie Higson's The Enemy series has patterned skulls; Darren Shan’s Zom-B saga have gorgeous comic strip endpapers throughout the series and the US hardbacks of the Blood of Eden trilogy has the same patterned endpapers but with a different colour in each book. It just makes me so happy.

Do you have particularly strong feelings about endpapers? What makes you invest in a physical copy of a book?

Sophie