Saturday, 21 June 2014

Blood Family by Anne Fine

Does the past ever leave you?

Another Carnegie Award nominee and one that fits the criteria well, that is if the criteria is yet another depressing story. Possibly my mistake was going from The Bunker Diary to this story but I finished this one feeling disappointed.

The story focuses on Eddie, a young boy who at 7 years old is rescued from the home he has been imprisoned in with his mother by his evil stepfather Harris. Through first person accounts we learn how Eddie deals with discovering the world having been locked up for several years. Eddie appears to be a surprisingly well adjusted young man. However, after many years in his adopted family we watch Eddies struggles grow. He develops a strong anger towards his mother (Lucy) blaming her for not rescuing them. Adding to his troubles is a startling discover. On a school trip he is select for an age progression photograph and who Eddie sees starting back at him is the spitting image of his stepfather Harris. This sends Eddie down a bad path. He turns to drugs and drink and succumbs to the raging torment inside him.

I felt this story was engaging but I was disheartened by the negative direction the story took. I know it was part of Eddie’s character but to start with him seems to have survived the brutality and this is such an uplifting feeling however, once you get into the nitty gritty of the story you released he is far more damaged. I know that is probably the more realistic version but I think after the disturbing events in The Bunker Diary I could have used a more idyllic story. Personally I thought Fine could have done more to develop Eddie’s issue with his mother. I did not feel these were explored enough for me as I felt they were a fascinating incite to how a character may feel having had to deal with such an awful upbringing. 

This is a superbly written story that does lead you through a range of emotions. I get the impression it is well researched as well which is something I appreciate in authors. If you are a fan of other stories by Anne Fine such as Tulip Touch this is definitely going to be up your street.  I would advise some caution for younger readers as the subject matter is not pleasant. 

Worthy of it's nomination, just a bit sad for me.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Slated by Teri Terry

Slated by Teri Terry

Can you know the truth if your mind has been wiped?

I came across this series for the school library and new it was a must have and for me a must read.  The science fiction based plot really hooked me and although it was another dystopian story (seriously they are everywhere) the blurb suggested to me that it was not really the overriding feature. Thankfully the blurb was more than correct. This is definitely a thriller. I was hooked and devoured the book in an evening. 

The story starts with us meeting Kyla, she has been Slated, and therefore remembers nothing of who she is or in fact was. This Slated procedure is used to give criminals a second chance and as a part of their rehabilitation they cannot remember who they were so are theoretically less likely to follow the path they did before. They are fitted with a Levo device and their emotions are monitored to ensure they do not get angry, violent or even the slightest bit tense. If their levels drop too low they will be knocked out by the Levo to make sure they can cause no harm. The problem with Kyla is that she is different, she isn’t compliant and docile like the rest of the Slated and she has nightmares that seem to be memories from her past. No Slated should remember anything so why does Kyla, and what does it all mean? Well it basically means that Kyla is amazing. The more Kyla begins to see in her dreams the more he life begins to change. When she sees her face on a missing persons list she begins to question what she had actually done to deserve her Slating. The more she questions the more trouble follows.  There is a romance element to the storyline but I personally felt this was not really necessary and did not need to be ‘love’. I would have preferred if Kyla’s relationship with Ben had just been a particular strong friendship I think it would have added a different kind of maturity to the story and separated from the crowd of romance for romance sake plagued fiction.

The trouble with this story is it moves at such a pace that apart from Kyla I struggled to get to know many of the other characters and the language and writing style where slightly more juvenile and I think that meant some of the grittier aspects of the story were not as dark as they could have been. However, having said that I really felt the idea of Slating and the effect this had on Kyla was brilliant. The suspicious Dr Lysander was flawlessly written and her enigmatic personality meant I was constantly guessing about the motives of this character, even better these guessing where wrong.  This book is obviously an opener to a series and therefore the story ends on a very gripping cliff-hanger and I had to read the follow up as fast as I could.

  A pacey read that keeps you guessing. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Summer Read Liist

It has been a while since I joined in with Top Ten Tuesday, the weekly meme hosted by the lovely people at The Broke and the Bookish. I thought it would be a nice way to remind me to continue to blog more regularly. I have been reading and reviewing but I have failed miserably to get these reviews up on my blog. This week's post is about the books I am hoping to read over summer. Just having a list of 10 is really far to short for me as I have an ever growing pile of to-reads that is definitely not limited to 10. However, I have managed to narrow down to a list of several I want to make sure I finish.  I feel I did quite well with my list for Autumn reads so hopefully I will be able to complete this list.

1. Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon

I recently purchased this book from a supermarket for a rather cheap price because the cover and blurb jumped out at me. I am getting a bit tired of the black covers with a splash of colour on the front that are becoming a bit overdone in YA fiction, so this bright cover was a pleasant surprise. I was even more intrigued by the fact that Lucy Saxon penned this story when she was just 16, jealously aside I want to see what such a young writer has produced. On the face of it this looks like a fantasy/coming of age story. I am hoping it proves enjoyable as the cover suggest.

2.Reckoning by Kerry Wilkinson

I have been avoiding dystopian stories as I was getting bogged down in some of the similarities and implausibility of some of the stories. However, the blurb of this suggested this was more fantasy then dystopian and would offer me the best of both of those worlds. This is the start of a series and a move away from crime stories for this author.  I am excited to see what this one delivers. Another pretty fantastic cover as well.

3. Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

As I am a glutton for punishment there is another trilogy opener on my to reads list. This is a modern day myths and legends story and should be a change of pace from my usual array of fantasy stories. I have literally no clue what to expect but I am intrigued to see another author tackle a myths story line. I enjoyed Percy Jackson but wanted more from mythical side of the story so I hope this can live up to my expectations.

4. Summer's Child by Diane Chamberlain

Oh how I love thee Diane Chamberlain. You do not write for YA but you definitely write for me. I can read anything Chamberlain creates and love getting my nose into one of her books. I was fortunate to snap this up on my Kindle for the bargain price of £1. Chamberlain is often marketed to fans of Jodi Picoult, who although exceptionally talented does have a tendency to put enormous twists at the end of all her stories. I have found myself guessing what awful thing she is going to do and I am always quite disappointed when I am correct. Chamberlain is not in anyway like this. However, she does create the same dramatic aspects to her stories that make them gripping reads. 

5. Resist by Sarah Crossan

I loved the first in this two-part series and I really want to find out what is going to happen in the sequel. I really enjoyed the dystopian story that Crossan had weaved. It had the feisty main character I was hoping for so I am looking forward to seeing what Alina gets up too. 

6. Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavan

I have been eager to read the Traitor Spy Trilogy by Trudi Canavan for a while and whilst looking for this series I stumbled across a brand new world created by this talented fantasy author. I almost danced around the shop with this beautiful book. I can see myself getting completely hooked on this series starter. I hope it is as gripping and fantastical as her other books. 

7. Traitor Spy Trilogy by Trudi Canavan

As I just mentioned I have wanted to read this fantasy trilogy since I discovered it picked up with Canavan's lead character from The Black Magician's trilogy. Sonea was such a brilliant lead and I really enjoyed her first story. I hope we see her magic develop even more and I am looking forward to meeting her son.  If you like fantasy stories I recommend reading Trudi Canavan. I find she is a brilliant cross-over author in that her books work well for teenagers and adults alike. 

8. Fear, Nothing by Lisa Gardner

Another grown-up book that I have been desperate to get my hands on. I think a good murder-mystery can be such a good read and Gardner is by far my favourite crime author. Her newest instalment in the D.D. Warren series seems set to thrill and when it finally goes down in price I will be adding it to my bookshelves pronto.

9.All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

I loved the bright yellow of this cover and was instantly captured. I love the ability of covers to make you pick up a book and consider it a contender for reading. From the blurb I have established this looks like a thrilling tale. Em is imprisoned in a military base with nothing but a boy next to her and instructions to escape she has found in a drain. She is the key to the final instruction, she has failed many times before and each time ends up imprisoned. Are you intrigued, because I am!

10. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

I know it is shockingly sad really cool that I re-read Harry Potter every year and have done so since I was 11. I always read the book at the same time of year, on Harry's birthday to be precise (give yourself points if you knew this meant the 31st July). It is enormously geeky but it is now a tradition I just can not break. To be honest I love when the date finally roles around and I can settle into the comfortably familiarity of Harry's world and Hogwarts.

Monday, 16 June 2014

The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks

I though he was blind, that's how he got me. 

I honestly have no idea what I think of this story. From a literary point of view I think the writing is superb. The first person narrative is detailed, gripping and idiosyncratic giving insight into the main character of the story. The story itself however is just a bit unnerving for me.

The diary author is Linus. A 16 year old boy who finds himself abducted and imprisoned into a bunker with 6 rooms. As he writes the rooms slowly begin to fill. They are watched, punished, tested, rewarded and degraded whilst kept imprisoned. Linus’s diary records his ordeal and how he copes with the individuals around him and how they cope from his perspective. However, this is not a whodunit and if you are looking to read a story that ties up all the loose ends then this is not for you.

Without giving too much away I was left feeling all too flat when I finally finished this book. I need more of a happy ending or at least a climatic one whereas for me this story fizzled out. The main reason this tale earned 3 stars from me was that despite is all too gritty story line I was hooked and read the book in one sitting.  This book seems an interesting choice for the Carnegie shortlist this year. It is by far the most mature book on the list and I for one am not sure why it has been deemed a young adult read. I have found this year’s shortlist a tad too depressing for my tastes and this book fit right into that character. It is not uplifting, there is no morale and it leaves you a bit put out. Exquisitely written but too dark for me.

For those who like a clever story. 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott

What if fairy tales were real?

I recently discovered the author Zoe Marriott. I had not come across her writing before and The Swan Kingdom was my first of her fantasy stories. Firstly I have to highlight how utterly thrilled I was that this book was standalone. I love fantasy but often I am reluctant to read some of them as they require a certain amount of commitment to get through a whole series. It was easy to pick up The Swan Kingdom knowing I wouldn't have to read another epic series. 

This book was not quite what I was expecting it to be. Influenced tenuously by the six swans fairy-tale the story brings together magic and romance in a beguiling tale. The story focuses on Alexandra, the ugly-duckling of her family, much loved by her mother and brothers but forgotten and unloved by her father. Nurtured in her magical abilities by her mother she has a power connected with the earth and is able to use herbs and the Enaid to do minor spells. Unfortunately these abilities do not serve her well when her mother is murdered by a mysterious creature and her father is spell bound by a potentially dangerous woman called Zela. Her brothers missing and herself exiled she must find her way back to the Kingdom to save her home, land and family. On her way she meets Gabriel, the quintessential love interest who aids her in a her quest. 

Now the premise seems relatively straight forward but it is delivered in a rather convoluted way that made some parts quite difficult to follow. I personally found the start slow and it took me a while to really hit my reading stride in the story. Furthermore some parts are quite predictable and I found the author gave a little bit too much away in her hints so some mystery was removed. However, the plus side is that this story had some very well written parts that gave depth to the world and created some unique magical elements. I think in truth if the book had been longer and explained some bits a bit more clearly it would have been a superb read. I think Marriott wanted to get to the action in her story so fast she just forgot to explain things slowly so we really understood what she was trying to convey. 

Not a bad debut fantasy story and one for those whole love witches that stick to traditional folklore type magic. 

Spell-binding in places, just try not to loose your way. 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? 

I took the risk and went back into the Dystopian genre for a book that since it's re-cover has really intrigued me.

The story revolves around Tally. We meet her when she is still an Ugly, she is yet to have the operation that will turn her Pretty. I must admit the concept is a handful. Society has deemed that to ease violence and aggression they will perform an operation on teenagers at 16 which will turn them Pretty. The operation itself is pretty hard-going and sounds pretty ridiculous and would probably be more likely to kill a person then make them beautiful but the operation is just a means to an end in the story. Tally desperately wants to be Pretty. She has been dreaming of what she will look like for so long that when her new friend Shay tells her she is running away because she doesn't want to be a Pretty she is gob-smacked. Her sadness for the loss of her friends is huge but she doesn't realise that this could spell the end of her chances of becoming Pretty as well. Manipulated by the sinister Specials she is sent to follow Shay and help locate the other resistors. If she doesn't then she will never get the chance to become a Pretty. What she discovers however, may change her mind about something she has desired for so long.

It's another oppressive society and it is far-fetch one and I was not a huge fan of Tally as a character. For me she was very fickle and just seemed to flit from one dream to another without a lot of thought. However, I was intrigued by the idea of society dictating what is Pretty and what they really did to people through the Pretty operation. A science-fiction dystopian story that made me need to read the next in the series even though I wasn't sure if I liked the characters I did still enjoy the book. One thing that grated on me and might bug other readers was the use of 'slang' so constantly that it got to a point of annoyance. Referring to something as 'Bubbly' drove me a bit mad and it does get worse in the second book.

I would recommend this for readers who have struggled to get into the Hunger Games but really want some easy to read Dystopian fiction. If you get passed the little niggles with the characters and language then it has actually got some really good concepts and science fiction material in there you just have to brush off the other elements.

A younger reader dystopian story that has a unique concept

Monday, 5 May 2014

Half Bad by Sally Green

A fantasy coming-of age story that wraps itself around you and pulls you in. You have to be a fan of first person narrative to really get this book. Nathan delivers his tale in a punchy fashion flitting back and forth between past and present. It’s an off-beat story in style but I really enjoyed that aspect of it.

Nathan has lived in a cage since he was 14; he is there because of his parents. In a world full of witches and fains he is still unique. He is what the council fear because he could be good or evil. Does he take after his good White Witch mother or does he share the traits of his Black Witch father more. The council do not know, they cannot decide on his code but one thing they do know is they need him.  They need him to destroy the father he has never met. So they train him, push him and even brand him trying to turn him into that weapon. Yet he is not to be manipulated, he is strong, defiant and he must find who he is. So begins his journey of escape and discovery. He seeks out Mercury, the one who eats boys to give him three gifts, to help him discover what he is capable of.

For a debut novel I think its an ambitious plot and one that I have found some of my teen readers fail to grasp (hence 3 star rating). It’s not overly complicated it is just flits along a bit fast for some of the younger teens. However ambitious as it is Green delivers. Yes it is another set-up book and for me I did not feel like it finished due to this but at the same time I am intrigued to read the sequel.  Cleverly the main action of the story takes place in a few days the flashbacks to the past give insight into the character and make the plot much richer.

I personally loved the Hunters! One of the things I sometimes think is a bit soft in young adult fantasy is the bad guys. These Hunters however mean business they are brutal and actually pose a real threat and are not some easy push overs. For a gritty coming-of-age story that is set in a well crafted fantasy world this is must read. 

Impressive for a debut novel, hard to grasp in places but an gripping read.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Paper Towns by John Green

Margo always loved mysteries. And in everything that came afterward, I could never stop thinking that maybe she loved mysteries so much that she became one.

If you do NOT want to cry your eyes out but want to read something by the ever talented John Green then I would advise you to hastily go to your nearest library and borrow the thought-provokingly story of Paper Towns. This story was not what I was expecting after the tear-fest that was Fault in Our Stars. Instead this is a fast paced story with some very profound revelations.

The story is told from the point of view of Quentin who has known and loved the enigmatic Margo since he was a young. Their friendship has become distance until one night he sees her outside his bedroom window. From their Margo takes him through a hysterically written 11 set plan to enact revenge on several members of her social group. However, Margo does not turn up to school the next day, or the next and as her time away grows Quentin begins to follow a trail of clues desperately searching for her. As he searches he begins to learn more and more about Margo, who she is and who she pretends to be. He begins to fall deeper in love with her and becomes desperate to find her.

Quentin and Margo are incredibly different but in the first few chapters we get to know their individual idiosyncrasies really well.  I personally feel John Green writes really wonderful male characters. They have the right balance of personality, looks and wit that I love. I found myself laughing out loud at the way Quentin had phrased things and I loved pretty much all the scenes with him and his friends. However, I didn't like Margo and that was part of my issue with the story. I had kind of been hoping for a slightly less poignant more gritty ending then was delivered and for me I didn't really feel that Margo as a character made much sense, but I guess that may have been the point. Margo is quite egotistical but unsure all at the same time. At 18 she chooses a life that makes little sense for a vibrant outgoing individual. The total abandonment of her family and friends came far too naturally to her and for me I felt she manipulated Quentin throughout the book (even when she wasn't there). I know how Quentin felt; I believed he genuinely loved her. However, I am sceptical about how Margo truly felt for him. 

Having said all that I was gripped. Maybe that is because from start to finish the first person narrative is brilliant. So even though I was not a big fan of Margo the fact I loved listening to Quentin tell his story got me through this book in no time at all. The fast paced, quirky and pretty darn funny way that Quentin retold this tale was superb and demonstrates just what a masterpiece of a character he is. For me this story is not the story of Margo, she may drive the stories direction but for me we watch as Quentin discovers who he is and decides who he wants to be.

If you want to read John Green but don’t want to cry your eyes out then Paper Towns is for you!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Breathe by Sarah Crossan

In a world with no trees, no air and no truth there is no choice but to fight back.

I picked this book up a few trips ago in Hay-On-Wye and have had it on the shelf for a while. With my disappointing reads weighing on my mind I thought I would try this long listed Carnegie nominee. Thank goodness I did. I am well and truly a fan of this story and am hoping it is a sign of greater things to come.
Brilliantly written and exceptionally creative this Science Fiction/Dystopian story has a very strong concept, albeit a bit mind-boggling. Alina, Bea and Quinn live in a world where trees have been destroyed by years of pollution and carelessness. This has created an oxygen starved world and without the organisation Breathe people would die. Alina and Bea are auxiliaries which means they have a very limited air supply and cannot do many things that Quinn who is a premium has the luxury of doing such as running or dancing.  Bea has always followed the rules and tried to make the best of what the world has to offer. Alina on the other hand is part of the resistance. Breathe has convinced the people that there is no hope of returning to a normal world where people can survive without them. However, the resistance is sure they can grow trees and therefore re-inhabit the world.  

Alina finds herself on the wrong side of the law and must escape quickly. Rescued by a besotted Quinn they escape the pod and make the harrowing journey to the resistance headquarters, where Bea and Quinn discover far more about the world and themselves then they ever expected. They must make a choice, whether they will surrender or fight to breathe freely for the first time in their lives. 

Needless to say a world with limited Oxygen is quite a difficult concept to comprehend but Crossan does a superb job of conveying the world so matter-of-factly that you can grasp the idea behind it even if it does seem a bit far-fetched. One thing Crossan does in this story is to do the one thing I have been so desperately wanting from many of my recent dystopian reads and that is to provide an explanation. I have found in some other series starters that the author has been so desperate to maintain the secrecy and suspense that they give next to nothing away about the society and I struggle with this. I want a little information just so I can get my head around why the world has become that way. Crossan manages to give just enough information that you know why the world has fallen into this state but the intrigue is still maintained. Another huge plus for me in this story is that thankfully the romantic element is by no means the driving force of the plot and is much more a secondary element to the story providing insight into the characters. 

After the meh feeling Matched left me with I was in no way keen to read the rest of the series. However, I definitely want to see where the story of Breathe goes and if Crossan can continue on with the same momentum. 

A must for sci-fi/dystopian fans who want more action than slush!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

The best intentions expose the darkest secrets...

I have only read one other Diane Chamberlain book, Confessions of a Midwife, which I whole-heartedly recommend. For any fans of Kate Morton. She is a great alternative if you need a change of pace.Necessary Lies popped up on my Kindle recommendations at a sub £3 price so I snapped it up. I have a rule which is that I cannot buy books on Kindle that are over £3. It saves me money as when I first got it I went a bit click crazy. So this was a real find!

I knew I would enjoy this book from the first chapter. Told from the points of view of Ivy (a fifteen year old, impoverished girl) and Jane (a 22 year old, newly wed, eager social worker). Both characters are unbelievable engaging so I did not mind the back and forth between each characters perspective.  The story was built up slowly and the theme is clear throughout. There are many lies being told in this story, so we know immediately and some we do not figure out until the end. The story follows the two characters as they become more involved in one another’s lives.

Ivy Hart is a young girl whose bares far too much responsibility on her very young shoulders. She has to ensure her ailing grandmother, Nonnie, takes her medicines and monitors her sugars. She must be mindful of her absent-minded beautiful sister Mary-Ella who has already slipped up and has a young son. Finally she must look after Baby William when Mary-Ella goes off on one of her wanders. All the while she works long hard days on the tobacco farm, maintains a forbidden love with her bosses son and suffers fits. She has a tough and hard life and makes the best of the situation she is. However, things are about to get much more complicated fast. Jane is a newly wed who has decided to work, even though her husband could not be more unhappy with her choice. She sees the difference she can make as a social worker and is plunged into an entirely different world. The case that tugs her heart strings is that of the Hart family. The lies that have been told to the family by their former social worker eat away at Jane and she must reveal the truth to Mary-Ella. Unbeknownst to her she was sterilised after the birth of her son and can no longer bare children. This Eugenics program sickens Jane and she feels she must do everything in her power, even if it is illegal, to save Ivy from the same fate. 

The two main female characters are written amazingly well. Their personalities and plight leap of the page commanding your undivided attention. I personally felt a real emotional connection to the two women and read at a mile a minute just to find out their fate. Sadly the Eugenics Program was real and although this is a fictional account of the affects of the program these situations could have occurred. Chamberlain added some historical information about the program at the end of the book and they are devastatingly sad. Many women were robbed of the chance to have children due to prejudice and abuse. This story however fictional needed to be told to raise more understanding of the atrocities caused by this program. 

I really do not want to give much away in this review but I will say I cried through the entire last chapter, it was written so heart-wrenchingly well that I just bawled from the moment I realised what was about to happen. A perfectly in tune ending to a very bitter-sweet story.

Beautifully written for fans of Picoult, Morton and the like. 

*This is not a young adult or teenage fiction book. 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a graveyard. being raised and educated by ghosts. 

This book had all the components for a fantastic story. A gripping idea, unique characters and a wonderful illustrator. I should have loved it but I didn't.

I had not read anything by Neil Gaiman before and so was not aware of his unusual and quirky style of writing which I just can not decide about. I think his flighty style caused me to have real problems grasping the story fully as opposed to the actual plot. I had heard many people rave about this story so I think it may just be an acquired taste.

Nobody Owens was orphaned as a very young boy due to the brutal murder of his family by the man Jack. He survives purely by the lucky fact he toddled out of the doorway and made his way towards a graveyard. In this graveyard Nobody is adopted by ghosts and given the freedom of the Graveyard allowing him to see easier in the dark, fade to not being noticed and other ghost worthy tricks. However, Bod is still in danger. The man Jack is still after him intent on finishing what he started many years before.

This thrilling premise did not deliver as I expected. The story had far to many in-consequential chapters that had little impact on the actual storyline and for me were a waste of words. As a result the book does not pick up pace until the final chapter or two where events that actual have relevance begin to happen. Gaiman explained in far too much detail some unnecessary aspects of the story ( The Ghouls chapter was tedious) and yet does not go into more detail about the more intriguing aspects of the story ( I would like to have known more about the Jacks). For me I honestly spent half the time trying to figure out where on earth the story was heading which just led to it being a bit confusing for me. I know many others that have loved the story and they obviously did well with Gaiman's unusual style.

Definitely a fantasy story but a bit too obscure for me. I personally was disappointed with it as I expected  a much more riveting story for such a clever idea.

I just don't think I got this

I have linked this up with Catch a Single Thought's book love linky for March.


Monday, 24 March 2014

My Second Half

Yesterday I finally completed the second half marathon of my life. I wanted to do some last year but a combination of recurrent tonsillitis and laziness prevented me. So sat in McDonalds (of all places) me and some friends decided to spur of the moment sign up for the Loughborough half. We began training on the 31st December building back up from 0 miles. The day came around sooner than I expected but was another incredible experience.

 Saturday 22nd March

I woke up far calmer then I was for the last half. In fact although I felt nervous it was nothing compared to last year’s half marathon sock drama. I had my kit all ready and I packed by bag very slowly whilst watching an episode of Location, Location, Location (I am addicted to Kirsty and Phil).  As it got nearer to the time I would be leaving I took myself for a short walk to a cafĂ© and sat and read for a while as I was feeling jittery by not doing very much.  Alina, who was also running the half marathon with me and lived near to where we were running picked me up at 6 to stay at her parents’ house.  By this point it was really sinking in that we were running the next day. We knew we had trained well but the whole time I had been saying I didn't care if I beat my time but at this point a strong competitive feeling with my old time began to creep up on me.  We had a pretty early night so we didn't feel exhausted and I went to bed blissfully unaware of the route I was about to run.

 Sunday 23rd March

It is official the day has arrived and I wake up with the flip-floppy stomach churning feeling that is purely nerves. I am getting more and more worried about my time (deep down I knew I would be slower having taken a whole year off running before I started). We ate a nutritious if somewhat large breakfast of porridge and drove to a hotel near the Market Square were Alina used to work and they had generously offered to let us park there. We walked towards the square arriving when we thought the warm up started. It didn’t start so instead beat the queues to nip to the loos. For those thinking of running the Loughborough half the loos are fab proper toilets no porta-loos in sight.  We did a few walking laps of the square and attempted to join in the warm up. Sadly it was just too squashed to have room to move at all. For me personally I felt the start was a bit haphazard, it literally all of sudden happened. If there was an announcement I didn't hear it.
We were off; we knew we wouldn't be running together as Alina is much faster than me. It started well and I was running pretty fast and then the first of the many hills hit. I literally had no idea how hilly this route actually was. I am not a good hill runner, I dislike them truth be told and find them very difficult. After the second of the many hills I faced facts accepting that there was no way I would beat my time but as long as a ran the whole way that was good enough for me.  I had practiced running with energy gels this time and they definitely made a difference. I was expecting one from the Loughborough half team at 6 miles but they were nowhere to be seen so at 7 miles I gave in and ate one of the ones I had stashed away. I did stumble upon them at around 7.5 miles but just ran past at this point as I was already chowing down on the one I had.  I would recommend gels as they really do help. I didn't use them in the last one but with how hilly it was the glucose boosts were a life saver. I was not really aware of what my pace was as my watch was not picking up the miles the same as the distance makers so I ignored it and just tried to keep myself running a steady pace.
Around the 8.5 mile marker things became seriously tough. I have never turned a corner and actually wanted to cry. I think I actually said out loud ‘you are joking’ to no one in particular as I began to run up a steep, muddy hill that nearly finished me off.  I kept running though and the whole way up repeated the mantra that I wanted to run it all regardless of the time.  When I made it to the top a wonderful spectator congratulated me on running up the hill and that the hard part was over. At the time I felt blissful relief but of course she may not have known the rest of the route. There were more hills and it was not downhill the rest of the way but I managed it. This time I did not have the same loss of energy I had around mile 10 but I took on another energy gel at this point and they do really make the world of difference.  Mile 12-13.1 was by far the world’s longest mile. That final mile just dragged and I felt I was lugging my body towards the end.  The end was finally in sight and I dug deep and attempted to pelt towards the finish line to be met by Alina with the most delicious bottle of water I have ever seen in my life.  My official time hasn't come out yet but I think it was around the 2:29 mark.

Pretty amazing that we are in a photo on the Loughborough Echo website.  I am clearly smiling so I assume this was at the start. One of my reasons for running the half was to get back to running. Now with this distance under my belt again I do not want to stop running so I am already planning to sign up for the Leicester Half. I think that this beautifully flat course with only slight inclines here and there (and that last mile) will be the proper opportunity to beat my earlier time.
My legs ache and I have struggled to walk at work today but it has been so worth it. I am still raising money along with Alina for Mylo’s fund so please considering donating to this very worthy cause.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

Marcus Sedgwick wrote a book I read last year that I loved called Midwinterblood. I found his writing style effortless and the story uniquely brilliant.  So in my so called reading rut I chose to read another of his stories in the hope that it would be as captivating as the first.

Blood Red, Snow White is a very different story to Midwinterblood that clearly demonstrates Sedgwick’s remarkable versatility as a writer. This story is most certainly not fantasy fiction but more a historical story focusing on the era surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. The central character is the very real Arthur Ransome (the author of Swallows & Amazons). The story tells the tale of the almost spy like role that Ransome played in Russia during the uprising and subsequent takeover by the Bolsheviks.

The story is told in three separate parts, the first of which I found the most difficult to get into. It was just far too abstract for my very logical brain. I can cope with all sorts of mind up, imaginary creatures and worlds in fantasy fiction but when you try to use the analogy of a bear representing Russia you just lose me. I think this first part was the reason it took me a rather long time to get into the story. It is both a biographical and historical story which just didn't meet my expectations of Sedgwick. In truth I rather naively assumed he stuck to type and wrote mainly fantasy and supernatural fiction.

As always I find historical fiction a challenge to my history background (I have a degree in History). This story amplified this even more as I studied a few modules in Russian history as part of my degree. I always find myself distracted by what is historical fact and what is more artistic licence. I really wanted to pick up my copy of A History of Modern Russia by Robert Service just to check what Sedgwick had embellished.  Thankfully this proved unnecessary as Sedgwick uses the appendices of the book to highlight the areas that are not 100% factually correct and he stuck loyally to the dates that occurred in history.

The story itself I found dis-jointed. As a reader I felt hurled about through the plot at a bizarre and uneven pace that made it very difficult to understand where I was in the story. Ransome, an English writer, leaves his (possibly disturbed) wife in 1913 and young daughter to go to Russia.  He finds himself able to move safely in Bolshevik circles and this leads to a suspicion that he is a spy. Whilst in Russia, he also meets Evgenia (Trotsky’s secretary) who captivates his attentions and from there on out he basis many of his choices around being with her.  Now it is difficult as Ransome is a real man to separate him from the character that Sedgwick has created. From a fictional point of view Ransome seems a bit ignorant of the circumstances he puts himself in. I personally think it is pretty obvious why he is shrouded in suspicion as he very often does not seem to act like an innocent man. Furthermore, he seems to take no true thought in abandoning his daughter for the love of Russia and eventually for the love of Evgenia. As a character he did not garner my emotional support as I could not fathom the basis of his choices, they seemed very obscure. I do not know if this is how Ransome was in real life but the character version in this particular interpretation was not the most likeable. 

Not really what I was hoping for to bring back some excitement to my current reading list. However, it hasn't put me off Sedgwick completely and I might give another one of his books a try soon. 

Just not my style!

I have linked this up with Catch a Single Thought's book love for March :)


Saturday, 8 March 2014

Reading roulette

At the moment I am in a phase of playing reading roulette. I have so many books I can choose to read and I seem to be picking out my equivalent of the coffee flavoured revel most of the time. Take a look at this video for a visual of that analogy Revel Roulette . I just keep picking books that are not my cup if tea.

Therefore I have not been blogging as unfortunately not all of them are going to be positive. It's not that the books I have been reading are bad. They just are not my kind of books. My challenge to read different authors means I am out of my comfort zone in terms of exploring new styles of writing and new genres. This has been both good and bad.

It is not just the books by new authors I am struggling with. Thinking I needed to read something I would devour I read a book by a known author I had enjoyed in the past. Needless to say I was not hooked. I waded through what was a relatively short book in over a week. It didn't grip me the way I am so desperately wanting. This weekend I am attempting to read a book I have been thinking about reading for a while as it appeared on the Carnegie long list, Breathe by Sarah Crossan.  Hopefully it entertains me in a way I am so in need of in my reading time at the moment. I hate the idea of filling this blog with 1 star and 2 star reviews so I am holding off posting these consecutively.

I guess what I am trying to say is I am in a reading rut. Yes I am reading but I have not picked up many books this year that I am super enthusiastic about. Hopefully with Carnegie just around the corner I will find some brilliant young adult fiction to enthuse about. If any readers know of books they think I should try please post in a comment.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Librarian Lydia

I almost did not remember to make a huge change (for me) to this blog. When I started this blog I had just embarked on my career in librarianship. I had started a graduate trainee ship and a Post-grad Diploma in Information and Library management.

It was a bit of a risk to be honest. I quit a job that, although dull, was well paid. I chose to do a course that cost a substantial amount of money and a job that didn't pay a huge wage on the off chance I wanted to be a librarian. I was pretty confident it was the career for me. Within a few weeks of both the job and the course I discovered an emotion I had never known. That feeling of knowing I was doing exactly what I wanted for my job. I can honestly say this is the job for me and I love each day even with all its different challenges.

So what is the change I mentioned at the start. That change is to finally remove the (in training) from the title off the blog as I am officially qualified as a librarian! I currently do not know my exact passing mark but I do know that I am now a librarian in qualification as well as job role. I am so thrilled with this accomplishment and that even though it was a risk it really has paid off. Now I can focus on my new school library and making the most of being in a job I feel made for.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being A Blogger/Reader

I have really missed taking part in Top Ten Tuesday hosted by Broke and the Bookish. I have written up two different posts for previous entries and just haven't remembered to post them in time. This week the theme is the reason that I love being a blogger/reader and I think this is a fantastic introduction back into the weekly meme.

I love to blog because... 

1. It helps me read more

Blogging about what I read has encouraged me to read as many books as I can possibly manage so that I can keep my blog active and current. It keeps me reading different titles, genres and authors which is introducing to some books I would never have read and have really enjoyed. 

2. It makes me think

When I read books I know there is a chance I will review them. This makes me really think through my opinion of what I am reading. I don't think I really did this much before I blogged. I didn't decide on a rating or comment on how it was written or even if I enjoyed it, I simply moved it from the to-read pile to the read pile. Now I think about what I thought which makes me understand what I like to read more. 

3. It encourages me 

I appreciate when those that comment say they are going to read the books I have posted about. I think recommendations is one of the best ways to discover new authors and new books. Hopefully I can keep reviewing books that people are inspired to read.

4. It connects me 

I love the people that blogging connects you to. I have discovered some really amazing book blogs through my own blog and found some really interesting people who share the same reading tastes as me. I really enjoy reading the comments people make on the blog. As I have said before on my Gone review the author himself commented and I think that is so amazing that blogging makes reviews more accessible to readers and authors alike.

5. It allows me to share

I get to voice my opinion on all things book related (and other subjects) and it is so wonderful. It is very enjoyable to be able to talk openly about books I read. 

I love being a reader because...

1. It takes me away

I love the fact reading allows me to escape from the here and now and delve into an exciting an thrilling tale that gives me such joy. I can be the characters, experience their joys and tragedies and be completely removed from my life. If I want to be somewhere else a book can do that in only a few pages. 

2. It gives me time

Sometimes I just want to take a breath and pause. Reading is a great opportunity for this. It is such great me time. When I curl up on the sofa, in the bath or in my bed with a book I just feel the world slip away and my stress levels sink and *sigh* it is just bliss. 

3. It is my passion 

I love having something I am so passionate about. For some people it is sport, others music and for me it is books. I love the conversations being a bookworm can start. 

4. It is informative 

Ok so if I wasn't a little bit nerdy cool already I play scrabble as well as read. Reading introduces me to some seriously good words that once I learn can score me some serious scrabble points if they land on my tile rack. 

5. It is always available. 

Books are easy to access. I can read without subscribing, sometimes it can be free (borrow from your library), books do not need to be charged, they do not freeze and I do not need any technical know how to open a book and dive right in. I can read whenever, wherever and that freedom to do something I love so easily is brilliant. 

Friday, 14 February 2014

Book Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Watched by Society, Trapped by Rules, Freed by Love?

It might be that I have hit my limit of Dystopian fiction or that this story was just not my kind of book. Intrigued by the cover and the premise I wanted to give it a go. Matched is another romance driven story of a girl in an oppressed society discovering through forbidden love just how oppressive her society is and then as with many other Dystopian tales attempting to break free of the tyrannical rule. 
Cassia is the central character. She has many of the attributes we have come to know and in many cases love in our dystopian heroines.  However, she has a fatal flaw for me which is possible why this book has not gripped me in the way many others have. Cassia is so blah. No gumption whatsoever. I think Ally Condie wants us to see her as a character with serious backbone but her fickle heart betrays her. I hate this idea in young adult fiction that we can love so fast without really ever truly getting to know a person it is just so unrealistic and for me ruins the plot. Additionally this book has zero pace. I mean nada. It is one slowly unraveling tale that never really reaches a dramatic point it just rambles on until the end. 
The Society that Cassia lives in is not explained in much detail. This world decides everything for you. It matches you to your ideal partner, career and you carry around some pills for emergency use. Apparently there is a war on but we don't know who with or why.  We are not given much more information then that as the story begins to  unwind.  Cassia has been matched to Xander, her best friend. But the system has a supposed glitch and shows her the face of someone else she knows, Ky. From that moment on Cassia (to me) appears to almost be willing herself to fall in love with him. One moment she is over the moon to be matched to Xander then she is falling in love with Ky.  The only saving grace came in the last few chapters which redeemed the story some what by actually having something happen rather then teens wondering round on a hill learning to write. 
In truth I think that although a dystopian world this is essentially a teen romance book. The dystopian element is not explored in a way that makes it seem real.  Unlike Tris’s world in Divergent or Katniss's in The Hunger Games we do not see enough of The Society to make it understandable why it is so oppressive.  I don’t loathe romance fiction, in fact I read the very similar The Selection which is both dystopian and romance driven but was just a lot more believable and the characters and therefore more likeable. 
What I said to my husband when I finished reading sums it up quite thoroughly, I don’t think I want to read the other two.  If you like romance with a faint trace of dystopian society then give Matched a whirl, you could like it a lot more than I did.  On an extra note I  am taking a break from the dystopian worlds for a bit just in case my view has become a little jaded! 
More romance then dystopia, worth a read for love story fans!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I have avoided reading this book for a while now. Not because I did not think I would enjoy it but because I was worried about how emotional the content would make me. I am a weeper. I am well aware I can cry at the drop of a hat and books are no exceptions. In fact as a student warned me that I would and I quote here, ‘cry my face off’.  This really put me off as I just hate it when I get so emotionally involved that I cannot compose myself after closing the book.However, with my new goal to read different genres and new authors I thought I would kill the proverbial bird with one stone and read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I have not read anything else by Green so the style was very new.  

I really got hooked by this book. The story is sad but handled in such a way that although I shed many a tear I was not as inconsolable as I had expected and there were many moments where I was laughing and cry such was the tone of the story.

The story centres on Hazel Grace who is fighting off cancer after unexpectedly beating it before. She has to have help to breathe constantly and as results is no longer in main stream education and is cared for by her mum. She is however living her life the best she can.  Hazels mother pushes her to attend a support group where she meets Augustus. A fellow cancer survivor, they bond over shared understanding and seem to be very much kindred spirits. Green creates a stunning romance between these characters that is not only believable but touching and sweet without being soppy and over-the-top. Augustus and Hazel find common ground after Hazel recommends the book An Imperial Affliction for Augustus to read. In a sweepingly romantic gesture Augustus manages to find the author of the story, a known recluse, and using his wish (a fictionalised version of the make a wish foundation) they travel to meet him and try find the answers they both now want, if not need.  

The story does have its complex moments that younger readers may find tough to get their heads around but as romance/tragedy fiction goes it is worthwhile contribution to the genre. Green has a way of writing that makes you feel the whole spectrum of emotions in short sharp bursts. 
I will not lie and say the book is not a sad one. It is without a doubt a tear-jerker but I do not believe Green has gone out of his way to make you cry. He has simply told the truth and sometimes the truth is unpleasantly sad. 
An emotional rollercoaster of a book

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn

There are two sides to every story...

As my regular readers will know my review posts are on the whole about young adult fiction. However, I treated myself to a few Kindle 99p treats and one of those was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

I am a big crime/murder mystery fan. I enjoy the slowly building suspense and trying to figure out what is going on before I get to the end.  Second guessing the author Flynn however, was harder than most crime novels. She really took me by surprise with the direction this story went. I spent the whole time I was reading it changing my mind about what on earth was going to happen. Flynn's writing style is very clever and predictive.

From the start Flynn manages to set the main male character, Nick up as a bad guy. I was filled with suspicion about him and listening to his wife Amy talk in her diary entries did nothing to eliminate this suspicion. Without giving too much away Flynn throws a serious spanner in the works that literally had me completely confused with how this story would conclude. The story is told in the first person point of view of both Nick and Amy and the chapters move between the two effortlessly.  The two characters are so complex but well written that you really get a sense of the two of them. Having said that I found neither of them particularly likable and I don't think I was really rooting for either character. I still can't decide if their personalities really exists in the general public, I certainly haven't met anyone like them (thankfully) that's for sure.

This is definitely a page turner, I found myself really hurrying towards the end. Sadly I was disappointed when I got there.  I felt the end lacked the intensity of the rest of the story. It felt really disconnected for me and completely obscure. I just couldn't get my head around the conclusion, it felt totally crazy but I wonder if that is what Flynn wanted to reflect the characters behaviour which was pretty crazy throughout the story.

This is most certainly NOT a book for young adults and is definitely for those who don't mind reasonably adult themes. However, for a crime story this is not particularly gruesome so is for those who enjoy suspense without the gore.  I may be willing to give some more of Flynn's books a go but I do hope the endings are better then this one.

Climatic build to a disappointing end