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Final Round-Up

Monday, December 22, 2014

I am conscious that the last few posts have either been lists or non-book related thoughts. As this blog is primarily a book blog, I thought it would be nice to just do a final round-up of the last few books I've read. 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Sáenz
This was such a beautiful book about family, friendship, growing up and beginning to figure out who you are. For a start, I love the names Aristotle and Dante so I was immediately on their side. The writing was wonderfully poetic and the characters were loveable. Most contemporary YA is about maturing and having mini-breakthroughs. Occasionally it can get tiresome but this story was handled so delicately and lovingly. Yes, it was a book filled with love and it's a great book if you are searching for diverse reads. 

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
First and foremost, the hardback is lovely. The pages are thick and glossy, the colours stand out, and there are loads of pictures. As for the actual writing...BRILLIANT! In a similar vein to Bossypants, there's a mix of memories and advice. I really found Amy's advice helpful - from the very beginning when she advises on saying 'yes please', to smaller nuggets such as a career is something that often happens to you rather than something you sit down and plan at 18 and then carve out (I'm paraphrasing). Anyway, I'd recommend this to absolutely everyone - regardless of age, sex, background, whatever. 

We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride
Wow. I was blown away by this book. It reminded me of the film Crash in the way that all of the characters are connected by this one, horrible event.  I think the thing that got me was the truth and humanity within the story and I had a lump in my throat throughout most of the story. Nobody's perfect but we just try to do the best for our loved ones and ourselves. Bashkim and Luis will stay with me for a long time. 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
For me, this was just ok. I think it started off strongly and the world-building was brilliant in the beginning but then it went off on a tangent and by the time we got back to the original quest, I was a little bit lost and little bit bored. However, I would never describe myself as a gamer, so perhaps I'm not the target audience. A few of the cultural references made me chuckle though and the world in which Wade resides highlights an important question about how far we're going to go with this whole internet thing.

Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot
It took a while for me to get into this one, probably because I'm not much of a Brideshead fan (I tried but I just wasn't into it). Also, I continually saw comparisons between Even in Paradise and The Great Gatsby but I didn't really get that vibe. Anyway, I think generally I prefer to just read about the rich and troubled rather than through the eyes of an outsider, however by the end I didn't want it to finish. Just as Charlotte grew to love the Buchanan family, so did I. It was dreamy and melancholy in just the right way. Oh and Charlotte herself was a great character. I will definitely read Chelsey Philpot's next offering. 

YA Superlatives Blogfest 2014 - Day Four - Best In Show

Thursday, December 18, 2014

For more information or to join in, please visit the brilliant hosts of the YA Superlative Blogfest: Katy UppermanTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and Jessica Love

Very cute - just like the book. It reminds me a bit of Rob Ryan's work. 

The couples in Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park
As I said in my review, it's a YA novel so I don't think I've spoilt anything for anyone by saying Celeste has a romance. There are some other couples in there too that are very swoon worthy. 

We Were Liars by E.Lockhart
I'm sure it has already won lots of awards and there will be more to come. 

Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park
Can you tell I really loved this book? 
Ashes to Ashes by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian
As I said earlier in the week, I was a little underwhelmed by this one but the series was great. I'll probably re-read it. 
Such a warm and sweet summer story. I really like this book.

Amazing! It was published 22 years ago but is still relevant. Definitely one I'd recommend to teens today.

Perfectly Messy by Lizzy Charles
I liked the first in the series but thought this was even better. The characters really grew up and the issues were handled well. It even pre-empted the celebrity photo hacking. 

Blue by Lisa Glass
I haven't come across any reviews of Blue amongst the blogs I regularly frequent. It's really engaging, packed with interesting characters, and not just a summer read! 

Inspiring, frightening, hilarious, heartbreaking...I read some great 'adult fiction' this year and these were just a few I enjoyed the most. 

Burn for Burn Trilogy by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian or We Were Liars by E.Lockhart
I'm still pushing for this from last year. As I said before, Dawson's Creek meets Vampire Diaries meets Pretty Little Liars. If that's not a recipe for teen television heaven then I don't know what is. We Were Liars would make for a nice mini series too. 

YA Superlatives 2014 - Day Three - Elements of Fiction

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

For more information or to join in, please visit the brilliant hosts of the YA Superlative Blogfest: Katy UppermanTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and Jessica Love

A nice, original idea having the love story told from the perspectives of all those around the protagonists.

Jennifer E.Smith wins this one again. New York, Scotland, California...lots of nice places in this one. Also the surf books (Rough Waters by Nikki Godwin and Blue by Lisa Glass) - one was set in California and the other Cornwall, England. The latter isn't that far from me but I've never been. 
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
I thought this was beautifully written. The prose matched the subject matter - it was very lyrical. Oh and the actual song lyrics were great! 
Sonia from Let's Get Lost
Her story just tugged my heartstrings. The most memorable amidst a host of memorable supporting characters. Second place goes to Matt from Flat-Out Celeste. 

We Were Liars by E.Lockhart
I liked the use of fairytales in this one. 

YA Superlatives Blogfest 2014 - Day Two - Popularity Contest

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

For more information or to join in, please visit the brilliant hosts of the YA Superlative Blogfest: Katy UppermanTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and Jessica Love

Tia from Biggest Flirts
She was a laugh, always bringing band practice to a halt with her shenanigans.

Well, since they're already in a band...

AJ from Rough Waters
Even though he managed to (mostly) stay out of trouble in this book, I'm sure we'll see old AJ return if anyone messes with Haley in the next one. 

Tia & Will from Biggest Flirts
Naturally. Special shout out to Bruno from Wish You Were Italian also. 
Lillia from Ashes to Ashes
Second year in a row for Princess Lillia. She upped her game in Ashes to Ashes too - we got stylish Valentine's Day outfits, riding boots, and dream prom dresses. 
The whole Drenaline Surf gang from Rough Waters
I love them all. Whilst the storyline for Rough Waters wasn't my  favourite, the friendships were still superbly written. Who wouldn't want a gang of surfers as BFF's? 
Hudson from Let's Get Lost
The beginning of Let's Get Lost was magical and although he wasn't in most of the novel, he was still memorable. Runner up would have to be Matt Finch from Open Road Summer
Ringer from The Infinite Sea
Obviously. She's a superbad genius. 
Sara and Brielle from Tease
People seemed to either appreciate or complete hate Tease. Sara and Brielle were awful but..they were behaving like many teenage girls and got their comeuppance.

Celeste from Flat-Out Celeste
She's complicated and amazing and quite possibly my favourite character of the year. 

YA Superlative Blogfest 2014 - Day One - Head of the Class

Monday, December 15, 2014

For more information or to join in, please visit the brilliant hosts of the YA Superlative Blogfest: Katy UppermanTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and Jessica Love

I was really excited to participate in this year's YA Superlative Blogfest until I scanned my Goodreads 'read' shelf. I've only read 18 YA books published this year but most of them wouldn't make my end of year favourite's list. I read some great books but they were either published a few years ago (especially as I tried to catch up with everyone's recommendations from last year!) or they were adult (I can't stress enough how much I loved The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect). Still, I'll try and give it a go but just know I'm kind of clutching at straws! 

FAVOURITE DYSTOPIAN The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
I didn't really enjoy this as much as The 5th Wave - I think it ran out of steam and what happened to strong, independent Cassie? - but I loved Ringer's storyline. 

FAVOURITE CONTEMPORARY  Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park
Probably one of my favourite books of the year actually. I just love Celeste and all the other characters and the world Jessica Park has created. I hope there's another in the series (well there better be given what happened at the end!)
A fun rom-com. Great setting (I will always love a book set in Florida) and I loved the high school marching band drama. I need to get the next one because I liked those characters even better. 
So cute! Such a pleasant surprise. Again, I loved the setting and the adventure and the growth of the characters. 
Even though this felt like a bit of a let down, I still had to include it because the series overall is very good. Also, there's an epilogue/'where are they now' type ending, which is always a winner for me.

Top Ten Tuesday: First Encounters

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is: Top Ten New To Me Authors I Read In 2014. 

I glanced back at this year on Goodreads and to be honest, I'd say about 75% of this year's list is comprised of new to me authors. So, I whittled it down by saying 'ok, the story was great but how about the writing?' because you can have a brilliant story and some rather questionable writing, can't you? 

Ridley Road by Jo Bloom

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Publisher: W&N
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

For fans of Maggie O'Farrell and Sadie Jones, amid the rise of fascism in sixties London, one woman searches for her lost love . . . Summer, 1962. Twenty-year-old Vivien Epstein, a Jewish hairdresser from Manchester, arrives in London following the death of her father. Alone in the world, she is looking for Jack Fox, a man she had a brief but intense love affair with some months before. But the only address she has for him leads to a dead end. Determined to make a new life for herself, Vivien convinces Barb, the owner of Oscar's hair salon in Soho, to give her a job. There, she is swept into the colourful world of the sixties - the music and the fashions, the coffee bars and clubs. But still, Vivien cannot forget Jack. As she continues to look for him, her search leads her into the fight against resurgent fascism in East London, where members of the Jewish community are taking to the streets, in and around Ridley Road. Then one day Vivien finally spots Jack, but her joy is short-lived when she discovers his secret . .
I was drawn to this book for a few reasons. Firstly by the title - Ridley Market reminds me of my childhood. Secondly the cover is lovely. Finally, the time period and the Jewish aspect. On the whole, I liked Ridley Road. It was comforting in the way of a Sunday night drama on ITV. The blurb says it is for fans of Maggie O'Farrell and I would agree. 

With regards to the characters, Vivien started off really strong. In fact, the beginning of the story in itself is very strong. She was intriguing and I was looking forward to her journey. However, she kind of became a background character in, what I believed to be, her own story, which was a shame. On the other hand, Jack wasn't much of a character but his story was interesting. This is where I encountered my only real issue with Ridley Road. I think wished the story was focused on one thing or the other - either a girl moving to London who, whilst getting used to all the glitz and glamour, meets a man from the shadows OR a man dealing with life as part of a fascist group. Full stop. Personally, I would read both - especially the latter as some of the scenes with Jack at the HQ were really great. 

There were quite a few supporting characters, who we might've gotten to know more about if the story had been one or the other. Either way, they were all likeable in their own way - even mixed up Stevie. Oh, and I definitely wanted to know more about Vivien's land lady for some reason - I liked her a lot. 

Before reading Ridley Road, I didn't know anything about the anti-Jewish activities in 1960's East London. Due to my background, I know about the racism but nothing about the Jewish story, so I found that part of the book really interesting. I'll have to look up some of the sources listed by Jo Bloom at some point. 

Still, overall, Ridley Road is a nice read. My commute is long and boring, so I don't have much patience for books that don't particularly grab me these days, however I quite looked forward to catching up with story each morning and I finished the book, which isn't something I have been doing a lot recently.

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year...Again

Monday, November 24, 2014

And so it begins again. Awards season. Well, it's been underway for a while but for us, the casual spectators, we are just waking up to what might be crowned Best Picture next year. So, let's take a brief tour around the houses. I don't really write film reviews - I tried a few times but I didn't find it as 'easy' as writing book reviews - so don't expect any profound thoughts going forward. 

What are we looking out for?
This is my 'to watch list' which, like my 'to be read' list, will probably remain just that. A list. 

So far I've only seen Interstellar. Ah...Interstellar. There were flashes of brilliance but mostly it was TOO LOUD and TOO LONG. I usually love a Hans Zimmer score and Interstellar was beautiful but the sound editors/mixers/Mr Nolan were having a laugh. It didn't help that we were in a teeny tiny screen and all squashed together for the three hours. Still, never mind. Oh and I hope Jon Faverau gets something, somewhere for Chef. I LOVED that film.

Who are we looking out for?
I lurve me the red carpet. Looking at our list of potential hopefuls, we might be graced with some fashion loveliness.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt always turn up looking elegant and dapper. Eddie Redmayne sure knows how to choose and wear a good suit. Emma Stone is one of my absolute favourite celebrities when it comes to fashion. I was watching that HBO Vogue documentary the other day and the segment with Tonne Goodman touched upon what it means when we talk about American style and for me, when I think of modern American style, I think of Emma Stone. I love the simplicity of her style. She definitely needs to wear another Calvin Klein on the circuit. From my shores, I send (haha) good fashion tidings in the form of Keira, Felicity, Jack, Rosamund, and Benedict. I'm sure we'll also see the lovely Lupita back to hand over her crown and Amy Adams will most likely give it all another run again (poor lady must be exhausted). 

So, ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, are you ready? 

What's Occurring?

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Pages

  • I'm still kind of in a reading slump. I've read but not necessarily enjoyed a couple of books since the last update. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamine Alire Saenz was really good though.
  • I'm currently reading: Well, trying to read, Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. Parts of it are almost charming but then there are other parts that I wish I hadn't read. I don't think I'll finish it. 

Oh Mandy

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Last year I talked about how everybody loves Jennifer Lawrence and all the other Jens in Hollywood but didn't seem to be too keen on the Jessicas. I wondered if there were any other celebrities sharing the same first name and public perception, so I wanted to revisit the topic. If I were a pupil of Lainey's Faculty of Celebrity Studies, this would be my dissertation topic. 

Let's start with the Amandas. The Amandas of Hollywood seem to be quirky, kooky kinds of gals just walking to the beat of their own drum. Amanda Seyfried is known for giving some interesting interviews where she's not afraid to talk about her neuroses and issues; Amanda Peet is known for her unique sense of style; Mandy Moore has survived the music industry and Hollywood without seeming to succumb to scandal all whilst maintaining her integrity; and Amanda Bynes stood out from her other teen actor peers by taking on some truly hilarious roles and showing great range and promise. Hopefully she'll be back soon. 

Moving onto the Ems. Witty and sharp, effortlessly cool yet highly relatable, the Ems rival the Jennifers for the 'imaginary best friend' title. Emma Watson played our favourite heroine Hermione and like her character, Emma seems to go from strength to strength speaking out on important issues and impressing us with her sartorial skills also; however Emma Stone is the queen of twenty-something fashionistas with her enviable street style and easy humour - she always seems game when it comes to promoting her work yet knows how to kindly but firmly put journalists and the like in their place; Emily Blunt's dry British wit and charm help her stand out against the sunny Jen's, surely and heir to the crown held by the one and only Emma Thompson. Oh and we mustn't forget our Khaleesi - Emilia Clarke!

However, The Ashleys (no not those Ashleys) don't fare as well. Not overtly unlikeable but rather seen as interchangeable former teen actresses that like the Jessicas still seem to make it onto the Daily Mail at a rather alarming regularity. I can't tell you the last time I saw Ashley Greene, Ashley Tisdale, or Ashley Benson in anything (we don't get PLL over here) other than gym outfits. 

Similarly, the Nics get our backs up for one reason or the other. Prickly and aloof. Except maybe Nicole Kidman although she can be quite unreadable sometimes. Nicole Richie is a fashion queen but her acerbic wit doesn't always fly with everyone. Nicki Minaj is another whose words and actions divide and conquer. Nicole Scherzinger was all over the place during her tenure on the UK X Factor. Whilst she seems like a nice person, she often comes across as trying quite hard. Meanwhile Nikki Reed has always seemed more mature than her fellow former teen starlets but doesn't seem to generate the love.  

Finally, we have our Rachels. The girls next door, the sweethearts who for some reason just can't seem to crack the barrier like the Jen's and Em's. Our TV stars to their movie stars. Rachel Bilson has been a familiar face in our homes since the first time we first heard that opening piano riff and even though they threaten to cancel Hart of Dixie all the time, it is a testament to her likeability that her loyal fandom keep it going. Rachel McAdams is the modern rom-com princess. Had she come along in the nineties, I think we'd be saying 'Julia who?' Rachel Weisz is our classy friend from across the pond who can flip from rom-com to Oscar bait drama in the blink of an eyelid. 

Next time we'll look at our male actors who share names and perception along with those who are the one and only's - a law onto themselves. In the meantime, can you think of any ladies I've left off the list? I'll let Bazza play us out.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Publisher: Penguin
Format: Kindle e-book
Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer. Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts. Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts--from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a "pretend extrovert." This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.
I’ve wanted to read Quiet since its release, as I am an introvert. It was a truly enlightening read and I’ll take on board and remember parts for the rest of my life. I highlighted and made so many notes whilst reading, so I’ll have to just do my best at picking out the most important parts for me.

Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park

Monday, October 27, 2014

Publisher: Createspace
Format: Kindle e-book
Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

For high-school senior Celeste Watkins, every day is a brutal test of bravery. And Celeste is scared. Alienated because she’s too smart, her speech too affected, her social skills too far outside the norm, she seems to have no choice but to retreat into isolation. But college could set her free, right? If she can make it through this grueling senior year, then maybe. If she can just find that one person to throw her a lifeline, then maybe, just maybe. Justin Milano, a college sophomore with his own set of quirks, could be that person to pull her from a world of solitude. To rescue her—that is, if she’ll let him. Together, they may work. Together, they may save each other. And together they may also save another couple—two people Celeste knows are absolutely, positively flat-out in love. Whether you were charmed by Celeste in Flat-Out Love or are meeting her for the first time, this book is a joyous celebration of differences, about battling private wars that rage in our heads and in our hearts, and—very much so— this is a story about first love.
Flat-Out Love was such a pleasant surprise and Flat-Out Matt was so full of heart that I wished it had been a full length companion novel, so I had high expectations for Flat-Out Celeste. Celeste was a stand-out character in the other two books, in fact she was the hinge, so I was excited to read her story.  

NaNoWriMo2014: It Is Decided

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow NaNoers, good writerly folk, those who just stumbled across this by accident...I hereby announce my candidacy for Cook County State's Attorney. Sorry, I've been watching too much The Good Wife. Ahem, I hereby announce my intention to participate in National Novel Writing Month 2014. 

Last year I threw in the towel at the last minute. This year, I had a trial run with Camp NaNo and was pleased with the results but please, don't call it a comeback. Like David Rudisha, I will be slowly returning to form and I don't expect to win. However, I plan to give it my best shot and at the end of the day, what more can you ask for?

So, things will probably be even lighter than usual (meaning probably non-existent) but I'll try and update. I've never been good at discussing my work and I've never had a writing buddy but I did enjoy the cabin situation of Camp NaNo, so do feel free to just say hello either here on on Twitter (@SophSophiaaaa). 

Good luck to everyone taking part!