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Friday, 23 December 2011

See you in the New Year

Hi Everyone,

That's it from The Bookette for 2011.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

See you in 2012!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Reading Challenges: Completed

The good news is I did complete two challenges. Horray!

2011 Debut Author Challenge
Books read:
  1. Entangled by Cat Clarke REVIEW
  2. Everybody Jam by Ali Lewis REVIEW
  3. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White REVIEW
  4. Hidden by Miriam Halahmy REVIEW
  5. Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson REVIEW
  6. The Memory Cage by Ruth Eastham REVIEW
  7. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand REVIEW
  8. Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien REVIEW
  9. Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard REVIEW
  10. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson REVIEW
  11. Divergent by Veronica Roth REVIEW
  12. Blood Red Road by Moira Young REVIEW
  13. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher REVIEW
Target 12 books.
13 books read and reviewed = CHALLENGE COMPLETE


2011 British Books Challenge
Books read:
  1. Candy by Kevin Brooks REVIEW
  2. Ravenwood by Andrew Peters REVIEW
  3. Waves by Sharon Dogar REVIEW
  4. Shadow Web by N.M. Browne REVIEW
  5. City of Masks by Mary Hoffman REVIEW
  6. The Returners by Gemma Malley REVIEW
  7. The Declaration by Gemma Malley REVIEW
  8. Everybody Jam by Ali Lewis REVIEW
  9. Entangled by Cat Clarke REVIEW
  10. The Island by Sarah Singleton REVIEW
  11. The Stranger by Sarah Singleton REVIEW
  12. The Secret Kingdom by Jenny Nimmo REVIEW
  13. Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson REVIEW
  14. The 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison REVIEW
  15. The 13 Curses by Michelle Harrison REVIEW
  16. The 13 Secrets by Michelle Harrison REVIEW
  17. The Memory Cage by Ruth Eastham REVIEW
  18. Exodus by Julie Bertagna REVIEW
  19. Paradise Barn by Victor Watson REVIEW
  20. My So Called Haunting by Tamsyn Murray REVIEW
  21. Immortal War by Justin Somper REVIEW
  22. The Case of the Deadly Desperados by Caroline Lawrence REVIEW
  23. David by mary Hoffman REVIEW
  24. Emerald by Karen Wallace REVIEW
  25. Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould REVIEW
  26. The Thief Taker's Apprentice by Stephen Deas REVIEW
  27. Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper REVIEW
  28. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher REVIEW
  29. Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick REVIEW
  30. When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman REVIEW
  31. Blood Red Road by Moira Young REVIEW
  32. Hidden by Miriam Halahmy REVIEW
  33. Bloodstone (Rebel Angels Book 2) by Gillian Philip REVIEW
  34. Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery by Keren David REVIEW

Target 12 books for a Home Grown blogger
34 books read and reviewed = CHALLENGE COMPLETE

Sadly, I didn't make the 50 books target which I'd set for any really keen British bloggers. But I'm really pleased that some of you wonderful people did make it. I haven't forgotten about your crowns but I haven't had time to think about it yet.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Reading Challenges: Failed

Oh dear...
I haven't made my targets on two challenges.

The 2011 Aussie YA Challenge
Books read: 
  1. The Dead of Night by John Marsden - REVIEW
  2. Becoming Bindy MacKenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty REVIEW
  3. Finding Cassie Crazy by Jaclyn Moriarty REVIEW
  4. TroubleTwisters by Garth Nix and Sean Williams REVIEW
  5. Stride's Summer by Jenni Overend REVIEW 
The target was 6 books! I was so close.




The Anne McCaffrey Reading Challenge 2011

Books read: 0
The target was 2 books! I read none. That is so terrible.



At least I gave the Aussie YA challenge a good shot. Next year I must be very selective about which challenges I sign up to.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

End of Year Survey: Part Two

Last year I participated in Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner's End of Year Survey. So this year I thought I'd answer the questions again. Swapping 2010 for 2011.  
Part Two:

1.  New favourite book blog you discovered in 2011?

My favourite new blog to follow this year is The Tales Compendium. I love Jess's reviews and finding out about Aussie fiction through her blog. I love her less is more method. Blogs which don't post for the sake of posting are my favourite kind. I want to be more like Jess.


2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2011?

Hmmm... I guess it was Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard. I love it when a book gives me food for thought and this was one of those situations. I wanted to write a review because I felt I had something to say. That hasn't always been the case this year. Some books I just felt indifferent about and so the reviews were a bit soulless.



3. Best discussion you had on your blog?

I didn't have any discussions this year. That kind of surprised me actually.



4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else's blog?
Caroline's Lesbian Teen Novels Week back in July was thought-provoking from start to finish. She showcased so many titles and I really admire her for putting so much of her soul into it.


5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I haven't been to many real life events this year. I found myself being overwhelmed by them. But I did invite authors to come into school and one of them was Ali Sparkes. Her workshops with my Year 3s and 4s were brilliant. I sold more books than ever at the signings and now nine months later her books are still racing off the library shelves. I love it when that happens.


6. Best moment of book blogging in 2011?

This year it's easy. My highlight has been working with Catnip Publishing on the new cover for Song Quest. We are weeks away from it's release now. I'm so delighted Catnip are bringing it back into print.




7. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.) ?
I guess this must be my kobo. I'm still not sold on  the whole ereader experience. But I love downloading the previews. Sometimes when you're in a bookshop you buy a book based on the blurb. Then when you get home you realise the style of writing is not your cup of tea. Well now I download lots of previews and read them in bed. Then I pick the books that hook me with their first few pages. It's a really great system!

Well that's it for the survey. My next posts will be for completed (or not) challenges!

Monday, 19 December 2011

End of Year Survey: Part 1

Last year I participated in Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner's End of Year Survey. So this year I thought I'd answer the questions again. Swapping 2010 for 2011.

Part One:
1. The Best Book of 2011?
I'm going to pick two. A UK one and a US one.

The Best UK YA book of 2011 is Everybody Jam by Ali Lewis.

The Best US YA book of 2011 is Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard.

Surprisingly they are both realism which is not my favourite genre. Both books are incredible!


2. Worst Book of 2011?
I'm picking a book that was actually published in hardback last year. But I got the paperback this year (thank goodness I didn't invest in the hardback). The award for one of the worst books ever penned goes to... I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (or a bunch of anonymous people). I didn't get beyond 30 pages. It was just awful. Present tense perhaps? Who knows... I genuinely believe it to be unreadable.

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2011?
The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern. Eek! A controversial choice I think. But it had so much hype and I found it really challenging to read. So many perspectives to follow and then the recounting of the circus, switching forward and back in time. Five people in the staff book group loved it. Three thought it was so-so. I'm in the latter category and seeming as it was my choice, I was left disappointed.



4. Most Surprising in a Good Way Book of 2011?
I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison. I did not expect to love this book as much as I did. It really charmed me.

5. Book You Recommended Most to People in 2011?

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. A complete surprise to me when I read it. I was on the edge of my seat. It was nice to read a book for the staff book group and find that not only did I enjoy it but I loved it. So now I recommend it to everyone. I lent it to my sister and now it's her favourite book.

6. Best Series You Discovered in 2011?

The Curse Workers by Holly Black. A series which I know everyone was raving about but frankly the US cover of White Cat was hideous. I didn't think I'd ever pick it up. But I had dinner at a conference with the lovely Nina Douglas of Orion and she promised me it was excellent. She also hooked me in when she explained about the gloves. I can't wait for Book 3 now.

7. Favourite New Authors Discovered in 2011?

Robin Wasserman - Hacking Harvard was brilliant. Stephen Deas - in my phase of reading as much Gollanzc YA as possible I stumbled upon The Thief Taker's Apprentice and thoroughly enjoyed it.

8. Most Hilarious Read of 2011?
Swim the Fly
by Don Calame. Totally had me laughing out loud so much that my husband kept moaning at me! And I was in the garden. He was inside the house.



9. Most Thrilling Unputdownable Book read in 2011?
Divergent by Veronica Roth. A total page-turner - lots of action but also great characterisation.

10. Book you most Anticipated in 2011?

Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles. It was a fun read. It didn't have the passion of Perfect Chemistry but it was still highly enjoyable.

 

11. Favourite Cover of a Book you Read in 2011?
Chain Reaction. So steamy!

12. Most Memorable Character in 2011?Katsa of Graceling! I can still picture her in my mind crossing those mountains.
13. Most Beautifully Written Book of 2011?
Paper Covers Rock
by Jenny Hubbard. Such poignant observations about life.


14. Book that had the greatest impact upon you in 2011?

So this is perhaps a strange choice but my pick is Hacking Harvard. Since September my health has not been good and I hardly felt like reading or really doing anything at all. So when I read Hacking Harvard and it was such a joy, I felt like I'd been reminded about why I love reading and why I love life and a book couldn't have given me a greater gift at that time.

 

15. Book that you can't believe you waited until 2011 to read?
Graceling
by Kristin Cashore. When I first started blogging everyone said it was amazing but I didn't believe them. More fool me. It was absolutely outstanding. I cannot wait for Bitterblue!


Part Two coming soon...

Friday, 16 December 2011

Review: Stride's Summer

Author: Jenni Overend

Release date: 2007 paperback
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Target audience: 10+
Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Review:

Stride’s Summer is a contemporary story set on the Australian coast. It is a touching story of loss, grief, family and friendship.

This novel opens as Stride is on his way to his father’s funeral. It follows Stride and his family as they come to terms with their grief. Stride’s mother shuts her children out as she struggles to cope with her loss. Stride is angry and they often argue over silly things like the chores around the house. Stride finds strength through his attachment to his late father’s cockatoo. Ferd is a great comfort to Stride and this book is in part about their growing relationship. Stride takes Ferd everywhere – for walks on the beach, for bike rides and even lets him sleep in his bedroom.

Stride meets a strange girl near the beach and he is unsettled by her and the way Ferd responds to her. Stride resents tourists who take over the beach which he has lived by his whole life. This story evokes the Australian setting wonderfully – the wildlife, the beach, the homes, the bush – the authenticity of the world was tangible.

There is a simple and gentle heart to this story. It is about Stride coming-of-age through his grief but also through his bravery. He has to find a way to become his own self and the man of the house. The book has a simple plot but it has a surprisingly fast pace with great action and it seems to race ahead. I think this novel will suit younger teens as it conveys the sadness of loss but also the comfort of friendship. There is no gritty edge but I’m sure there wasn’t meant to be. It is about a boy and his bird and their journey together to find a way forward after such a tragic loss. Stride’s Summer is a short, touching read.

Read for the Aussie YA Challenge 2011.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

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

The Christmas term is nearly finished. Horray!

So want to know which books topped the charts at school this term? Read on... I've highlighted the books that were on my 'If you like Wimpy Kid, try...' display. I do believe it worked.

#1 being the most popular book in my school library since September

Boys 8 - 12

  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (all of them) by Jeff Kinney
  2. The Donut Diaries by Dermot Milligan aka Anthony McGowan
  3. Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
  4. Theodore Boone: The Abduction by John Grisham
  5. Danny Baker Record Breaker: The World's Biggest Bogey by Steve Hartley
  6. Milo and the Restart Button by Alan Silberberg
  7. Scream Street: Fang of the Vampire by Tommy Donbavand
  8. Big Nate Out Loud by Lincoln Peirce
  9. Boys United (Football Academy) by Tom Palmer
  10. Into the Shadows (Nemesis #1) by Catherine MacPhail

Girls 8 - 12

  1. Dork Diaries: Pop Stars by Renee Russell
  2. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (all of them)
  4. How to Get What You Want by Peony Pinker by Jenny Alexander
  5. Candyfloss by Jacqueline Wilson
  6. Jane Eyre (abridged version)
  7. My Sister's A Vampire (all of them) by Sienna Mercer
  8. The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon
  9. Stars on Ice (Skate School #1) by Kay Woodward
  10. Best Friends by Jacqueline Wilson
Wimpy Kid Cabin Fever is the most reserved book in the library right now. I bought three copies. We have at least seven children waiting to read it. So I guess the reign of the wimpy kid will long continue. I expect half the school will have put it on their Christmas letter to Santa Claus.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Winner of the Ashes Giveaway

I'm pleased to announce that the winner of the Ashes Giveaway is Ryan. Thank you to everyone who entered. There will be more giveaways in the new year.

Ryan, Congratulations! Expect an email from The Bookette.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Irena's Review: Marcelo in the Real World

Author: Francisco X. Stork
Release date: 1st February 2011 UK
Genre: Realism
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Scholastic

Summary:
Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear--part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify--and he's always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm's mailroom in order to experience "the real world." There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm.

He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it's a picture he finds in a file -- a picture of a girl with half a face -- that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.

Reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in the intensity and purity of its voice, this extraordinary novel is a love story, a legal drama, and a celebration of the music each of us hears inside.

Irena’s Review:
Marcelo in the Real World is a heart-warming tale about self-discovery, personal growth and standing up for who you are.

Seventeen-year-old Marcelo Sandoval is different from his peers and not only that, but different from everyone else he knows: Marcelo has a condition no one has really been able to identify, but it is closest to Asperger's Syndrome. Marcelo doesn't see the world the way others see it, and he doesn't feel the same way, either. He has had to learn about feelings, jokes, double meanings and about what is expected from him in society. Marcelo has always been sheltered from the society of "normal" people, being allowed to live in his world, according to his own rules and likes. When his father wants him to work at his firm for a summer, Marcelo feels his world is about to collapse. He faces the "real" world bravely, but no matter how much he tries to avoid the changes - for Marcelo doesn't like changes - the real world begins to affect him.

The novel has been compared to Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and parallels can be drawn between the two novels, but Marcelo is a hero who stands out for his own merit and offers the reader an intriguing story that includes crime and romance. Marcelo's personal growth was my favourite part of the novel. While facing the so-called real world caused him to lose some of the things he cherished, they were replaced by new feelings and perceptions that he welcomed maturely. Although perceived by some (uninformed) people as retarted, Marcelo is far from it and he shows that being different is simply being yourself. Marcelo sticks to his principles and convictions, and surprised the reader with his great moral compass, strengthened by the doubt he has to surpass and the lies he has to face.

Marcelo is a memorable character that definitely makes the book what it is; heart-warming and thought-provoking. There is a bit of romance present and it was intriguing to witness Marcelo, who didn't really know what love was, experience it for the first time and I believe the author recorded his feelings - including his disappointment - beautifully. There is also a crime story that shows Marcelo's bravery, as he is able to stand his ground, even if it means hurting someone very close to him.

Marcelo in the Real World is a novel that can be enjoyed by anyone who has ever felt the slightest bit different, or simply by those enjoy a good story about real-life characters. The novel stayed with me after I turned the last page, and I hope you will experience a similar feeling.

Becky says: This book sounds stunning Irena. I think I’d love this. It sounds like it embodies so many different and yet complimentary themes. Thanks for the review.
Both our thanks go to Scholastic for sending the book to review.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Review: Hacking Harvard

Author: Robin Wasserman

Release date: 2007 US paperback
Genre: Contemporary YA Fiction
Target audience: 12+
Publisher: Simon Pulse

Review:

Hacking Harvard is a funny, contemporary teen novel set in Cambridge, Boston. Think: subversive techno spy novel meets a high school romance with a great big helping of humour thrown in!

The first time I tried to read this book my brain just didn’t get it. The opening scene sees the three main characters – Eric, Max and Schwarz – mid-action. They are undertaking a hack. But because we are also given their code names for the operation, it was all rather confusing. I bought this book when I was in Boston, specifically in the Harvard Coop – a book store that is actually mentioned in the book – so I really wanted to read and enjoy it. So I decided to come back to it another time when my brain was less tired and the second time, I did get it. Not only did I get it, but I found it to be absolutely brilliant. Hacking Harvard is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Eric, Max and Schwarz are self-proclaimed geeks. They wear their geekiness with pride. Eric is characterised with a very strong sense of right and wrong. His world is black and white and he doesn’t accept any middle ground. He’s a technological genius and he uses it to rebel against the system and the corporate machine. Max is more of an entrepreneur. He is motivated by money and is more of an ideas guy. Schwarz adores numbers. He is already a Harvard student and he is unable to say no to anyone so ends out getting into all kind of mischief. But the person who tells this story is Alexandra – Lex to her friends – and she is full of surprises.

There were so many fantastic things about this book. The characterisation was quirky and the dialogue had a funny and captivating spark. From the outset Eric, Max and Schwarz’s goal is clear: they will get a bona fide bum into Harvard. It will be the best hack of all time. Each character has his own reasons for taking on the challenge. I felt in very safe hands reading this book. The direction of the story was always clear. There were obstacles in the way of hacking into Harvard and our heroes had to find ways to overcome them. Then there is the love story. It was sweet and frustrating and charming but I want to keep you guessing about that. It is a joy to discover as part of the reading journey.  The stakes of the story kept being raised and so I really wanted the hack to come off. I was rooting for them.

Having visited Harvard and Cambridge, the setting felt very familiar to me and I had such a clear picture in my mind about how and where the action unfolded. But above all, this book was simply a joy to read. It was funny. It was tense. It was romantic. It was quirky. I cannot recommend it enough. For me, Hacking Harvard had everything a great teen book should have: great dialogue, fast pace, relatable characters, humour and a cracking plot. Robin Wasserman’s genius writing was an absolute pleasure to read and I am so happy that I brought this book all the way home from the USA.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

BBC: Link up your Completed Challenge posts

So you've finished the challenge?



Congratulations!

Please link up below your post listing all the books you reviewed. I would love to find out exactly how many British books we reviewed altogether.

You've still got time to get in a few more... Link up until the end of the year. And if you loved it this time, hop on over to Kirsty's blog The Overflowing Library and sign up for the 2012 CHALLENGE.

Oh and leave a comment with the title of your favourite British book that you read this year. I want to know what I've been missing out on. It might inspire me to sign up for next year too.

Thank you!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Irena's Review: Deception

Author: Lee Nichols

Release date: 5th September 2011 UK
Genre: Paranormal / YA
Target audience: 12+
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Summary:
When Emma Vaile's parents leave on a mysterious business trip, it gives her the perfect excuse to be a rebellious teen. Throw some parties, get a tattoo (or maybe just a piercing), and enjoy the first few weeks of her junior year. Then her best friend stops talking to her, the cops crash her party, and Emma finds herself in the hands of a new guardian-her college-age "knight in J.Crew armor," Bennett Stern-and on a plane to his museum-like mansion in New England.

After enrolling at Thatcher Academy, Emma settles in by making friends with the popular legacy crowd. But she can't shake the strange visions that are haunting her. She has memories of Thatcher she can't explain, as if she's returning home to a place she's never been. Emma doesn't trust anyone anymore-except maybe Bennett. But he's about to reveal a ghostly secret to Emma. One that will explain the visions . . . and make Emma fear for her life.

Irena’s Review:
Emma Vaile is not an ordinary teenager: her parents travel a lot, so she rarely sees them; she lives in a house that resembles a mausoleum, which has everything to do with her parents' profession of collecting and selling death-and-burial-related antiques; and recently, she has started seeing strange, frightening things that she cannot explain. In her desire to fit in, Emma throws a house party that changes her life. The social services discover she has been living on her own for too long, with no word from her parents who have disappeared, and she finds herself shipped to New England and into the hands of her handsome young guardian, Bennett Stern. Once in New England, Emma begins to discover the truth behind her strange visions - the truth of who Emma Vaile truly is.

Deception is a truly gripping and entertaining read, focusing on the ghostly world beyond death. As Emma begins to explore her amazing abilities, the reader learns through her about the intriguing world of ghosts that is presented in a new way, with some classical preconceptions about ghosts included into the story. The setting is perfect for this ghostly story because much of it takes place either in an old museum where Emma and Bennett live, or in Emma's old, Victorian-looking school (Thatcher Academy). The atmosphere is filled with mysteries, but there are also relaxing, humorous and dramatic moments. I liked the sense of tradition that was present throughout the novel, as was the sense of history. The suspense is subtle at first, but it gradually develops into a sinister plot, involving a truly powerful ghost that is dark and vicious. I confess that the hairs rose on my arms during those dark, dramatic moments.

The characters are enjoyable, although some of them tend to lean towards the typical, but especially the ghosts were interesting to read about, as ghosts always have a history. It is almost as if the ghosts are a nation with their own culture, and I liked that notion. I especially enjoyed reading about the human characters' abilities in relation to ghosts; that was a truly entertaining part of the novel. I must remain vague, however, as not to give out too much and thus spoil the fun for future readers of this delightful novel.

I must admit that I was not pleased with the writing style from the start. It struck me as faux teenage language that did not come off as very appealing, but I got used to it and it seems that, along with the story, it evolved and became better. Another aspect I didn't enjoy was the presence of a love triangle, as I am a bit against love triangles in YA fiction, but that is entirely my personal preference.

All in all, this was a delightful and truly enjoyable read, featuring drama and paranormal elements, and I recommend the novel to all who like these things.

Becky says: Thanks for the review Irena. I am also not a fan of the “faux teenage” style. But the reason this book didn’t appeal to me is the ghosts and otherworldliness. I just find that a bit creepy. I’m really glad you enjoyed the overall experience of reading Deception though.
Both our thanks go to Bloomsbury for sending the book to review.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

BBC: December Review Link Up

It's the last month of the challenge!

I can hardly believe it is 1st December. Last month I read one British book: Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery by Keren David. A funny and fabulous book!

The winner of November's prize -  a copy of Lifted by Hilary Freeman - is Laurie of In Laurie's Mind. Congrats! I will be sending you an email shortly.

December's prize is a copy of The Thief-Taker's Apprentice by Stephen Deas.

For anyone still looking for ideas for British books to read. Check out the books released this month over at Reading Teenage Fiction.

ANNOUNCEMENT: The British Books Challenge 2012 will be hosted by the lovely Kirsty @ The Overflowing Library. Be sure to sign up! The launch post can be found HERE. Thank you to Kirsty for taking the baton from me and waving the flag for British fiction.

Let's see those December reviews. A post coming soon for your links to your challenge completed posts.