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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Audio Books: Hunger Games Book 2 and 3

Author: Suzanne Collins

Reader: Carolyn McCormick
Publisher: Scholastic Audio
Source: Borrowed from Essex Libraries

Over the past six weeks I've been listening to the audio books of Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I read The Hunger Games ages ago and I found it pretty grim. I wasn't inspired to read the following two books. But then I watched the first movie and wanted to know how it all ended. Now I know. The ending wasn't nearly as depressing as I expected it to be. 

Listening to the audio book was a really different experience to reading the book and I enjoyed it much more. Obviously when you're driving, you have to concentrate on the road which means you're not as focused on the grim-ness of the story line. Also, it was really cool to hear the different character voices. There were some annoying parts like when Katniss has her huge dramatic speeches. They came across as long monologues on the audio version. Sometimes I just wanted her to "get on with it already" but otherwise the audio books were highly enjoyable. 

I recommend trying out a different reading format now and then. 

Which audio books have you enjoyed recently?

Monday, 21 July 2014

Review: The Execution of Noa P Singleton

Author: Elizabeth Silver

Release date: Paperback January 2014
Genre: Modern Fiction
Target audience: Adult
Publisher: Headline

The Execution of Noa P Singleton is a story about a woman on death row, her crime and her conviction.

Noa is awaiting her death date. She is one of the few people in this world that knows exactly when she will die and by what means. It will be lethal injection on November 7th. It is ten years since she committed her crime. Noa is resigned to her death but yet another young lawyer believes he can win an appeal or at the very least get her clemency. You see the deceased’s mother has decided that the death penalty is wrong. But the relationship between Noa and the deceased’s mother is not what it first appears.

I won’t go into the plot anymore because this really is a novel with twists and turns and you need to read it without expectation to be drawn into Noa’s small cell and her mind. But I will say I never felt all that much sympathy for her character. For her predicament, yes. I do not believe in the death penalty. We abolished that in the UK years ago. Now I reflect on this book, I actually don’t think any of the characters are very likeable but of course, you see them all through Noa’s eyes.

Overall, The Execution of Noa P Singleton is a good, thrilling read. It’s full of ways that situations, actions, words can be manipulated. I got a little bored in the middle. After all, this is an account in retrospect. The action has already taken place. It’s really interested in the how and the why. But I’m glad I read it. A book which makes you think about life and death, crime and punishment, justice and injustice is always worth reading.

Source: Borrowed from the public library

Friday, 18 July 2014

Review: Deep Blue

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Release date: 1st May 2014
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: YA
Publisher: Hodder
Series: Waterfire Saga Book 1

Deep Blue is a mermaid adventure where a long forgotten evil begins to stir and a band of young woman must fulfil their destiny.

Seraphina is the heir to the throne of Miromara. At the beginning of the novel she is preparing for the ceremony which will declare her true of blood. And she will also be bethrothed to Madhi, heir to the kingdom of Matalis. As the ceremony approaches, Seraphina doubts her ability to live up to her mother’s expectations. But there are even greater trials ahead.

There were some things that I really enjoyed about this book. The dilemma of the duty one is born to fulfil and challenge of being a just leader were both interestingly explored. The love story between Seraphina and Madhi and the mystery of his strange change in character definitely captured my heart. And there were some elements of this book that reminded me of a Shakespeare play – Twelfth Night perhaps – the disguises, the secret longing, some of the character names, the courtly world of Miromara. These were all the things that I really enjoyed. Sometimes I found myself completely absorbed by the story.

But it was like I was reading two different books. Sometimes the dialogue of the mermaids was so contemporary and it seemed at odds with this magical watery setting. It just didn’t quite fit. The plot had several difficulties. Seraphina was never really leading the action. Events unfurled and she was subjected to action but never really took control which made the story less exciting.

There were also a few typos and that is a real shame in this book because it really looks like a work of art. The blue font is very attractive and so are the chapter headings and maps. I think this book wasn’t sure what it wanted to be. The plot seemed more of a middle grade read. The romance had the potential to make it fit the YA market and the complexity of the world building suggests it fits there too.

Overall, if I’m honest, I was a little disappointed in Deep Blue. I wanted to be swept away on a current into the realm of the mer and I think what I actually got was stuck like a beached whale on the shore. This was just not for me, you may find it reads swimmingly. Also if you love mermaid stories, then you definitely have to give it a go!

Source: Bought from WHSmith.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Bookette's Guide to... Popular Books this Term

This academic year has been so full on hence the lack of posts. Anyway, I made it to the Summer Holiday. Yee ha!

HHHHHhHmHere are the fiction books that topped the charts in my school library this term:

#1 being the most popular book in my school library since January this year
Boys 8 – 12
  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (the whole series)
  2. Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce (the whole series)
  3. Tom Gates by Liz Pichon (the whole series)
  4. Wonder by R J Palacio
  5. The Spider’s Lair by Guy Bass
  6. Cosmic Calamity by Guy Bass
  7. Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey (the whole series)
  8. Billionaire Boy by David Walliams
  9. Captain Valiant by Adam Britten (the whole series)
  10. The Ghost of Grania O’Malley by Michael Morpurgo

Girls 8 – 12
  1. Diamond by Jacqueline Wilson
  2. Dork Diaries (the whole series) by Renee Russell
  3. Ellie May is Totally Happy to Share her Place in the Spotlight by Marianne Levy
  4. Tom Gates by Liz Pichon (the whole series)
  5. Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell
  6. Shrinking Violet Definitely Needs a Dog by Lou Kuenzler
  7. Knife by R J Anderson (in fact the whole Faery series is very popular)
  8. Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler (the whole series)
  9. The Naughtiest Girl (the whole series) by Enid Blyton
  10. Demon Dentist by David Walliams

Wonder has been requested so many times this term after our fab Deputy Head spoke about reading it with his son in assembly. You can see that books in a series are still going strong. If you know you like an author, then of course you can’t wait for the next book.

In terms of non-fiction Minecraft has been crazy popular this year. But also the Truth or Busted: Fact or Fiction Behind... series has been going down a storm.

As expected, comics and graphic novels are borrowed lots too. DFC comics in particular as well as the Percy Jackson graphic versions.

We added Match magazines to the library too this year and they have been popular with children from Year 2 to Year 8. I’d like to add more magazines to our stock for next year. Suggestions most welcome.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Author Event: Meeting Simone Elkeles

Back in March I got to meet Simone Elkeles. One of my most favourite authors. What a treat!

I took the train into London and arrived at Bloomsbury's gorgeous offices in Bedford Square. Simone was over here for just a few days to work with the marketing team and her editor on the UK publication of Wild Cards.

The book will be published here under the name of Better Than Perfect and here is the cover. Do you like? It reminds me of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.

I began by asking Simone how much of a challenge it was to start writing a new series after the success of Perfect Chemistry and she said it was difficult but that she was ready for a change. She loved the Fuentes brothers as much as her many fans but she also needed a fresh writing project.

Better Than Perfect is the first novel in a new series. The first book told in a split narrative between Ashtyn and Derek. Simone said she was tapping into her own feelings of loss and regret when she was writing Derek. He lost his mum and Simone was open about losing her dad and wanting just one more chance to speak with him. I'm sure they'll be young people reading the book and understanding all of Derek's emotions.

In Ashtyn she was living a dream. She always wanted to try out for the American Football team when she was in high school but she never did because her friends wouldn't. She said it comes down to fear. I asked if she wanted to help break down barriers for young women in sport and she said she did. She says she's a guys’ girl and has many male friends. Like Ashtyn, she's always trying to one up guys.

Simone thinks Wild Cards will be a four book series but she also hinted that she might write another Perfect Chemistry novel in the middle. Great news for all her fans. Especially me.

I asked Simone if she had any burning writing ambitions still to fulfil and she said she'd like to write about a character with a serious mental health issue. She said it would be hard to write and hard to read. I can't help but agree. As readers, we want to like characters and if they exhibit unusual and dangerous behaviours we may find it hard to relate to them. But I also think that such a book needs to be written. Mental illness is still not spoken about enough. People are still not open about it and all the statistics say that one in four of us will suffer with some sort of mental illness in our lifetime. If it isn't us, it will be a member of our families. Reading about it will certainly help develop more awareness and also help people learn how to deal with it.

One of the things that struck me about Simone was how much she cares about her fans. Simone said she always writes for herself and not the reader. But now she's a YA mega star she has hundreds or thousands of fans and she often gets to know some of the really well. She spoke about Amber, a girl close to her heart who recently passed away. Simone wears her name on a bracelet and talked about visiting Amber during her medical treatments. I can't imagine Simone would have ever expected this sort of relationship to develop when she wrote her first book but she is a very generous person with her time and money. She's a 21st century philanthropist. She said she embraces it all.

She even embraced the skittles challenge set by the Bloomsbury team. Ashtyn is allergic to the purple dye in skittles so she picks those ones out. Simone is super talented with a pair of chopsticks but me, not so much!  

After the challenge we celebrated Simone joining Bloomsbury UK with cake and fizz. What a fantastic day! Thanks Bloomsbury.

Better Than Perfect is out as an ebook today!