Friday, 28 February 2014

Thoughts on libraries and age rating and those sorts of things

Recently, there's been a bit of a debate online (due to some idiotic articles) about age rating Young Adult and Teen fiction and whether that is an idea that is viable, and if it is how the publishing industry should go about it.

I'd done my fair bit of reading the articles, commenting on it a bit on twitter, RT'ing authors when they make points I agree with, you know. However, last week something happened that made me view it all from a new light.

I was refused a book in a library. A public library. I had reserved Legacy by C.J. Daugherty, the second book in the Night School series. Is good, would recommend. I have lots of problems with the library service in this county compared to the one where I used to live, and quite high up on that list of issues is the matter of paying £1 per book to reserve them. But, the library here is tiny and the only way I get to read anything I want is to reserve them and pay the money and feel bitter for absolutely ages about it.

So on Tuesday I went to collect the book and the librarian serving me asked me my name then searched the books behind her. She looked at me. Then she searched it again. She looked at me again and tentatively pulled out a book. "Yep, just that one!" I said cheerily. She looked at the book and put it back on the shelf and said, "I don't think that's it. That book has a T+ sticker on it."

After a bit of insisting that yes I am twenty one and yes I do still want to read it, she handed the book over. Ironically, I think it's the only time I've ever looked too old for something.

It got me thinking. Age ratings are somewhat necessary in libraries - they tell the librarians where to place the book, readers where to find books they might like, parents where to direct their children to etc. However a goal of libraries and librarians is to promote reading, not prevent it.

I'm glad I'm an adult and I'm stubborn and I can decide for myself, but I hope no young readers get dissuaded from reading something due to lack of access. Read everything, that's what I was always told. It hasn't done me any harm. 

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** Blogger's Bookshelf are holding The Literary Oscars this month!! To vote click here. Remember to check Blogger's Bookshelf on the 15th March to see if your favourites won!**

Monday, 24 February 2014

Panic - Lauren Oliver | Review

Lauren Oliver, the author behind the popular Delirium trilogy and additional novellas, is back to the Young Adult fiction world with her latest offering Panic, released March the 6th.
Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But everyone has something to play for, and Panic brings unexpected revelations for all of them. 

Panic is a game, the stuff of legends in small-town Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere. It began one summer because there was nothing else to do. The graduating class see it as their only way to get out – pooling their money and giving it to the winner.

The opening couple of chapters of Panic really gripped me. The book starts with an action scene and is quickly vividly described, moving fast and taking the reader along for the ride. You then get introduced to the characters, who seem intriguing and make you want to know more about them. Heather and Dodge qualify for Panic, and the story begins.

The main characters have motivations for playing Panic which are discovered throughout the book. Dodge’s primary motivation for playing is revealed fairly early on, and while obviously sad was very one-dimensional in my opinion. I had much more appreciation for Heather’s motivations, which were multi-layered and developed throughout the story. 

My main issue with Panic is that there was very little world building. Lots of things were unrealistic and had me rolling my eyes. I’m sure that even small boring towns have a police force that would do more about loads of teenagers literally risking their life for a bit of cash then just complaining a bit and being a bit grumpy. There was literally no consequence of action for anyone. Also, as the book drilled into us, it takes place in a “small town” and yet no-one knows about Panic? Unless all the residents of Carp are ignorant as well as bored… Yeah, ok, you keep working on that plot hole. I mean, no-one wants to read a book where the main characters are in a various cycle of crime – arrest – repeat but let’s try to have a little bit of realism, shall we? 

However, every time something made me raise my eyebrows or roll my eyes I did read something that I really enjoyed. I could relate to the bond between Heather and her sister. Although Heather’s version of protecting her was a bit screwed I’m glad that relationship was focused on over the romantic relationship. Granted, it was building for the majority of the novel didn’t actually come into play until the latter end of the book. It made a nice change.

I’m torn. At times I thought it was exciting, and the themes of desperation and friendship were well written and developed. The beginning was fast paced and kept me reading, but it just got weaker. I couldn’t get fully attached to the plot because it was predictable and unrealistic. It’s so unusual to find a standalone not-dystopian young adult novel currently, and I commend Lauren Oliver for that. I honestly feel confused over how I feel about it, and have found it difficult to put into words – 3/5 stars.

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*review copy c/o netgalley
** Blogger's Bookshelf are holding The Literary Oscars this month!! To vote click here. Remember to check Blogger's Bookshelf on the 15th March to see if your favourites won!**

Monday, 17 February 2014

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life - Bryan Lee O'Malley | Review

Scott Pilgrim is a series of graphic novels which has been popular for quite some time. There was a (really quite good) movie adaptation, it got republished in colour, there has been six or something volumes... it's popular. However, it's taken me quite a few years to finally pick up the first volume, but because of it's popularity I was expecting good things.

For the most part, I enjoyed it. It's a fun and light read, although it took me a while to get invested in it. I disliked most of the characters, although I think to an extent that was intentional on O'Malley's part. It's very much the setting up of the world, and the story and nothing really 'big' happens until right until the end. However, those last few pages definitely made me want to read the next book in the series as soon as my library request comes through.

I do wish the library had the new colour version of the book though, just for my own selfish reading reasons!
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Sunday, 16 February 2014

Taylor Swift - The Red Tour - o2 Arena London 11/02/2014

Sorry I've been so absent this week but I have had THE most hectic week, thankfully for a very good reason! On Tuesday I headed down to London to see Taylor Swift on her last date of the Red Tour in London at the o2 arena. Taylor is my favourite female artist and I've loved her for years, but this was the first time I've been lucky enough to see her live.

After a bit of a battle with the UK transport system, I met Ria in London Waterloo and we headed off to our hotel - the ibis in Greenwich. We changed and got ready, swatching all of our red lipsticks to attempt to find the perfect shade, and headed off to the o2 arena!

We had a pit stop at GBK in Entertainment Avenue, which was both of our first times at GBK and we were both pretty impressed - the burgers were tasty!
Then we joined the massive queues to go inside. In retrospect we could have easily have arrived later because it was just a case of waiting around for over an hour, but honestly I think we both too excited to have been able to do that.

I knew very little about The Vamps (who were the supporting act) before the show, only really from their McFly covers on YouTube and the 'Can We Dance' single. However they were exceptionally good considering how quickly they've grown in success over the last year and I've now added all their songs to various spotify playlists. They're quite cute too.

Taylor was undeniably amazing. We were VERY high up (second row from the back, in fact) but it meant we could see absolutely everything with no difficulty, which was great to be honest. The whole production of the Red Tour was fantastic and she is amazing live and her 'surprise song' was my all-time favourite song of hers so that was a very special moment for me. I can't describe the night and give it justice though.  Here's a video I took of one of my favourite moments, Taylor talking about song writing before she played All Too Well.

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Eye of Minds - James Dashner | Review

In December I went along to the promotional event for The Eye of Minds at Forbidden Planet in London (you can read about that here). One of the morning of the event I hadn’t yet bought a copy of the book, and it was somewhere on my reading list but not particularly high up. That all changed after the event.

It was obvious how enthusiastic about this book James was, he was energetic in his answers to the questions we asked him and all too willing to talk about his inspirations (an ending to the Matrix that he thought would happen and never did, for one) and how the book has become what it is.  This enthusiasm pushed the book up my list and on his advice, I started reading it on the train home.
I think one of the things that was putting me off this book was how much I loved Ready Player One and I was worried that The Eye of Minds would be a less-interesting similar story. Man, I was stupid. Yes, they are both about worlds basically taken over by Virtual Reality games, but they are completely different stories. Beyond the premise of being about a Virtual Reality game they hardly match up. 

The story is based on three teens  - Michael, Bryson and Sarah, who spend all of their free time hooked up to tiny wires in a coffin-like structure that allow them to enter a virtual gaming world called VirtNet. In the VirtNet you feel everything (thanks to those tiny wires and that coffin), including pain. Michael, Bryson and Sarah have never met in real life, but spend all of their time together in the VirtNet. They are great at manipulating code and hacking and use it to advance in the game so that they can make it to the ultimate level – Lifeblood Deep. VirtNet security enlist Michael’s help and expertise in looking for cyber terrorist Kaine and the mysterious Mortality Doctrine, a serious threat to the VirtNet system. Michael agrees and he and his friends go on one adventure after another inside the VirtNet looking for the infamous Kaine.

Dashner is incredibly good at creating complicated, intricate well-developed worlds that I could imagine easily – the hall of bodies made me physically shiver more than once! The VirtNet was really well developed and I found myself getting lost in the nonstop action. Dashner creates complicated plots that seem so simple and easy to read – until you get to the end and flick back 100 pages to re-read the clue that you didn’t notice was a clue. There were so many twists and turns in The Eye of Minds and honestly each one surprised me, which happens so rarely and is so great when it happens. 

The Eye of Minds had a very good balance of adventure, action, suspense and subtle romance. The plot is refreshing and surprisingly original. I found that it was slow to start with. It got to chapter 11 (out of 25) before I was really into the story and from then I found it hard to put down. My only massive issue is what is with those mini chapters within the chapters after almost every paragraph? More than a little annoying. The ending is quite mind-blowing and in typical Dashner fashion, ends on a massive cliffhanger. 

Thankfully, the next one is out later this year so I don’t have to wait too long to find out the answer to some very important questions.

My verdict: 4/5 stars, brought down a star by the slow beginning and the weird mini chapters.
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Friday, 7 February 2014

I Won My First Goodreads Giveaway!

So this week I won my first Goodreads giveaway! I enter absolutely LOADS of giveaways on Goodreads, but so many other people do too that I never thought I'd be chosen.

But on Tuesday I got an email to tell me I had won a copy of Jodi Picoult's The Storyteller. They advise that books can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to arrive, but the distribution centre is very close to where I live and it was delivered the next day! Typically, I borrowed the same book from my library this month and finished it last week - but it's always great to have a copy of my own! (Plus, it's very good).

If you're on Goodreads, have you ever won anything from their giveaways?

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor | Review

It’s always so difficult to read a book that has so much hype surrounding it. I felt like I had to like this book otherwise the world and it’s mother would give me quizzical looks and be all like “really?”. Maybe this is the reason it took me a look time to like this book. Or maybe the first few chapters I sat there thinking “WHAT IS GOING ON?” for the most part. Maybe.

I probably started to get hooked about 45% of the way into the book. So not quite halfway, because I probably would have stopped reading if it had got that far, but man once I was hooked, was I hooked. Up until that point I found the main character Karou to be fascinating in a very-fascinating plot.  And then suddenly the plot was fascinating and there I was, hooked. If I had been hooked from the start I probably would have given it 4 stars but alas, I wasn’t.

The premise of the story is incredibly interesting and a take on many different aspects of traditional literature (ahem: bible) that I haven’t seen written before. Angels are finally described as having characteristics beyond their wings and demons are not quite what you would expect.

There is an undeniable amount of depth to this book. Karou’s thoughts and feelings come flooding out of the page and you can’t help but feel them all along with her. The main characters, the secondary characters and the settings in this book are so well-written and described that my imagination can conjure the worlds of this book perfectly and I could follow the (very varied at times) storyline without much difficulty.

Probably my only problem with the book is that although it was extremely well-written, sometimes I felt that the author used language which was not entirely necessary and interrupted the flow of the story. If you’ve read some of my other reviews, then you’ll know that I take an aversion to what I like to call ‘poncy’ language. However, it is likely that is Taylor’s writing style in the same way that it is not my reading style.

All in all, I’m definitely going to pick up the sequel to this asap! As I said, the latter half of the book enthralled me and now I absolutely must know what happens next.

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*Copy c/o netgalley

Monday, 3 February 2014

Literary Inspiration - Agatha Christie

When I moved to Wallingford, the only thing that I knew about it was that the 'Queen of Crime' Agatha Christie lived here from 1934 until her death in 1976, and many of her novels were written here.

She's buried in a local churchyard. Her old house is identified by the blue plaque which you can see from the street, and I pass it often on my walks along the River Thames. According to the local museum she shopped regularly in Wallingford town centre, and she was the President of the local theatre group at one point.

I often wonder about her, when I pass her house or I'm having a particularly speculative moment in my favourite chair at Costa overlooking the marketplace. I wonder what Wallingford was like in the 1930's, and if she ever took any inspiration from the river, or the bridge, or the market centre. I wonder if the same things that inspire my writing ever gave her a hint of promise when she was feeling a touch of writers block. It's over 35 years since her death and still her presence is felt here. She's an inspiration.
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