Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Paperback, 230 pages


First Published 2007 by Andersen Press

My shelves: arc-or-review, awful-cover, better-than-expected, books-i-own, coming-up-next, contemporary, cultural, currently-reading, read-in-2012, realistic-fiction, really-good
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Alexie's YA debut, released in hardcover to instant success, recieving seven starred reviews, hitting numerous bestseller lists, and winning the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.
My thanks go to Andersen Press for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

I absolutely loved this book from the first page to the last! It took me a while to pick this up, considering it was published back in 2007, and all I can say is that I wish I had picked this up sooner. There have been a lot of positive reviews for this book, but until you read it for yourself, it's hard to see why - I think that it's something that you've got to experience for yourself. On the front of my copy, Neil Gaiman is quoted saying that the book will likely "win awards and be banned" - how appropriate! 


This book is about a teenager, Arnold (AKA Junior), his adolescence and his experience trying to break free of the Indian reservation where he lives in order to attend an all-white school. Junior isn't your average teenager and unlike the rest of the school, he is not white. Junior is a Native American who finds himself discriminated against not only because of his race but his appearance - he describes himself as geeky and with a lisp. He doesn't tell us this in a deeply depressed way though - just as a matter of a fact. Junior has a direct way of talking to us and he doesn't leave anything out. We get to hear about issues such as racism, alcoholism, poverty and death amongst other things but, somehow, Alexie always managed to weave in a sense of positivity and humour (a lot of humour!). There were a whole load of tragic events happening around Junior, but he always seemed to be able to make me laugh with his (often dirty, usually black humoured) jokes, his observations and the illustrations. 


The narration reminded me a lot of Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower in the sense that I could connect with him and found him very endearing. This is also a very quotable book! Junior is vulnerable, he is unsure, but he is courageous and determined. He talks about adult things with his own teenage understanding, yet also manages to come up with some profound sentiments. I love how he put his thoughts across in such a simple but sometimes meaningful way. I haven't experienced anything like the lifestyle that Junior has, but I could still relate to him - I think that everybody will be able to find a little piece of their teenage selves within these pages. 


As you can tell, I really enjoyed this book. I don't actually know what else to say about this book as it is something that you've got to connect with yourself. I am a big fan of contemporary YA and if you are too, then you should definitely check this one out! I haven't read anything else by Sherman Alexie, but I'll be sure to check out his other work! Young adult readers - Go, read this now if you haven't already! 

Giveaway & Blog Hop: Charity Hopping Around the World


Hi everyone! I'm proud to tell you all that I'm participating in Charity Hopping Around the World.

The purpose of this blog hop is to promote a charity that you're interested in, and for mine I have chosen is Time to Change!

Taken from the website:
Time to Change is England's biggest ever attempt to end the stigma and discrimination that faces people with mental health problems.
It is a campaign to change attitudes, and behaviour too. One in four of us will experience a mental health problem in our lifetime – and if we do, we are highly likely to face stigma and discrimination from others.
I think that the idea behind Time to Change is inspiring and although it is a UK based charity, it affects everyone, everywhere. One in four of us experience a mental health problem and so it's nearly impossible not to know someone who has had issues with their mental health or maybe you have had some issues yourself. Although you can't always see the effects of mental illness, they're every bit as important as physical problems and it's really important that we recognise it.

I think that Time to Change does an amazing job of helping people to open up about their problems and to educate others about mental illness. 

The charity is endorsed by several celebrities including Stephen Fry, Ruby Wax and Frank Bruno who have made a pledge to talk about their experiences. There is an option to make a pledge to be open about mental health issues, which I'd encourage you all to do. You can make your own pledge as well as check out more about the charity [here].

Books of Interest
As this is a book blog, I thought that you may be interested in some books that deal with mental illness. 
Here are some books that I've read and would recommend - check below the images for links of each book:



  


Giveaway 

I'm offering three of you the chance to win a Time to Change pack which includes an A3 poster, a set of postcards, five bookmarks, a badge and some leaflets about the charity. 

As this affects everyone, I'm opening this giveaway worldwide!
All you have to do is fill in this Rafflecopter form to enter:

All These Things I've Done (Birthright #1)

All These Things I've Done(Birthright #1) by Gabrielle Zevin
Paperback, 352 pages


Expected Publication: March 29th 2012 by Pan Macmillan
(First published September 6th 2011)

My shelves: arc-or-review, books-i-own, dystopian, read-in-2012, sci-fi, series-or-companions, title-appeal, young-adult
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
Sixteen year-old Anya becomes the head of a mafia family after her parents are both murdered by rival gangs. Although Anya is embrolied in the criminal world, she is determined to keep her brother and sister out of the mafia family, but her father's relatives aren't so keen to let them go. When Anya's violent ex-boyfriend is poisoned with contaminated chocolate – chocolate that is produced illegally by Anya's mafia family – she is arrested for attempted murder and sent to the notorious jail on Manhattan Island.

Eventually she is freed by the new D.A. in town, who believs she has been framed. But this D.A. is the father of Win, a boy at school to whom Anya feels irresistibly drawn, and her freedom comes with conditions. Win's father wants to be mayor, and he can't risk having his ambition jeopardised by rumours spreading that his son is seeing a member of a notorious crime family. Anya knows she risks the safety of her family by seeing Win again, but the feeling between them may be too strong to resist...
My thanks go to Pan Macmillan for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

I was so excited to get my hands on a copy of this book as the premise sounded very original. I've read two of Zevin's other books (Elsewhere and Margarettown) and enjoyed them. All These Things I've Done certainly has that unique edge that Zevin's writing usually has. If you have read and enjoyed her other works, then you'll probably like this. I'm always cautious about being critical of the first book in a trilogy or series, as there is potential to expand and develop later on, but I simply feel that there is something missing from this book. 


The idea of a future where substances such as caffeine and chocolate are illegal and things we often take for granted today, such as paper, are scarce, isn't impossible but it is very intriguing. I think that the idea is great, it's something that interests me and it could have been portrayed so well. I thought that the world building was very lacklustre though - there were little, if any explanations as to why things were the way they were and the policing was very poor so it almost didn't matter that things were classed as illegal. I think that this is the thing that disappointed me the most as I was so excited about the setting. I was lead to think that this would be dystopian, but it certainly didn't seem that way. 


This book does have a 'thriller' feel to it, centralising around our narrator, Anya (Annie) who is torn between the boy she loves and her birthright - this is especially difficult for her as she was born into a mafia-type family, her murdered father being the head of the organisation. I have already read one mafia based story this year (Arcadia Awakens) which I found surprisingly enjoyable. The mafia aspect of this book was effective and didn't feel too dominating or complex. It added a sense of mystery and intrigue to the book and made me rightly cautious of a lot of the characters including the bad guy, Jacks, and some of Anya's other family members. I am surprised that Anya wasn't more suspicious herself! Caught up in dealings with Jacks and some others is Leo, Anya's brother who had an accident which left him with the mental age of an eight year old. I found Leo to be a super interesting character who was formed very well. I found both him and Natty, Anya's younger sister, to be very endearing and I loved their relationship with Anya.


A huge aspect of this book is the romance between Anya and Win, a new boy at her school. Anya later finds out that Win's father is the District Attorney and although he doesn't think that it's a good idea for his son to be in a relationship with her, he doesn't completely forbid it, at least not at the beginning. If he had, then the forbidden relationship may have been more interesting. I did, however take to Win and found myself really liking him. I'm not entirely sure how I felt about Anya. I completely respected her family loyalty. I did, at times, find her to be a little frustrating and harsh - she didn't always think about what she was saying or doing.


Whilst this book did manage to hold my attention, I felt as though it dragged at points. I felt as though I was waiting for something huge to happen, but it never did.Of course things did happen, but nothing that excited me or made me desperate to read on. I thought the most exciting part was perhaps the time Anya spent at Liberty (a camp for children who had committed crimes), but just when it was getting interesting, she was released! 


I don't think that this was a bad book, it just lacked something which could have made it more compelling. I'm not overly eager to read the next book, but I hope that it will develop the world building and be a bit more captivating. There was a lot going on in this one, so perhaps some focus is needed. A reasonably easy, but somewhat slow, book which I'd recommend to those who are perhaps already fans of Zevin's books. 



Monday, 26 March 2012

Truth or Dare (You're Invited to a Creepover)

Truth or Dare (You're Invited to a Creepover) by P.J. Night
Paperback, 242 pages


Expected publication: April 5th 2012 by Atom
(First published June 7th 2011)

My shelves: arc-or-review, books-i-own, childrens, currently-reading, ghosts, read-in-2012, young-adult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
During a round of Truth or Dare, Abby Miller confesses her crush on Jake Chilson. The only people who know her secret are her friends at the sleepover - and whoever sent her a text message in the middle of the night warning her to stay away from Jake...or else! But Abby isn't going to stay away from Jake, especially not after he asks her to the school dance. As the night of the dance comes closer, some very creepy things start happening to Abby. Someone definitely wants to keep her away from Jake. Is it a jealous classmate or, as Abby begins to suspect, could it be a ghost?

My thanks go to Atom for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

If I was younger, I would have absolutely loved this book. Even though I'm not in the target age range for this books (probably 8-12 year olds), this was a guilty pleasure for me! This was a simple story with a hint of creepiness that would be fantastic for children, young teens or any reluctant readers.

When I was younger, I really enjoyed reading books such as The Sleepover Club and Goosebumps, and if the Creepover series was available then, it would've been a sure hit with me! Truth or Dare certainly reminded me of both of those fantastic series of my childhood. It felt like I was reading a combination of those books, but modernised. It had just the right amount of scariness - it wasn't horrifying, but there were small scares throughout which is enough to make you feel uneasy. There was also a realistic and fun friendship between the girls at the sleepover. The book is simple and easy to follow with a few mysteries to leave you wondering throughout. I read this book in a single sitting as it was so absorbing and well paced. It was certainly a page turner! I was eager to see what would happen with the ghost that our protagonist was seeing and I definitely didn't expect the ending - I'm glad that it wasn't predictable.

I think that this book would be an ideal starting point for any reluctant readers, children or otherwise. There is enough substance without anything becoming too complex and the writing style is simple but effective. I thought that the activities left for the reader to do after the story had finished were fantastic. I don't usually comment on additional content, but I thought that the invitation to write your own story was a wonderful idea and gave me yet another reason to  urge younger readers to pick up this book.

I didn't expect to enjoy this one as much as I did, simply because it's children's fiction, but it was actually a really enjoyable quick read. I enjoyed the paranormal aspect of it and it also reminded me a bit of Pretty Little Liars. This is definitely something I'd recommend to both reluctant and younger readers. If you're a parent or guardian, I'd certainly urge you to give this book to your child!


Giveaway Winners!

My International 500 Follower Giveaway ended yesterday and I'm very pleased to announce the lucky winners:

Melati (@ Call Me Imel)
Cayce (@ Nijiclovers)
Proserpine Craving (@ Proserpine Craving)

Congratulations to you all, your prizes will be making their way to you as soon as I receive a reply from you. Please check your e-mails for further details!

Thank you to everyone who entered and who supported the Giveaway by tweeting about it - stay tuned for more giveaways in due course!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Bunheads

Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Paperback, 294 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Atom
(First published October 10th 2011)

My shelves: arc-or-review, books-i-own, contemporary, 
cover-appeal, read-in-2012, realistic-fiction, young-adult 
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
As a dancer with the Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward is living her childhood dream. She gets to be up on stage in front of adoring crowds every night. And while she might not be a prima ballerina yet, she's moving up the ranks and surely if she works hard enough she can make it happen. 

But devoting her whole life to ballet leaves very little time for anything else: friends, family, school have all fallen by the wayside. Hannah doesn't mind, until a chance encounter in a restaurant brings Jacob into her life. He's cute, he plays guitar and he's offering a whole future that Hannah never considered. And now she must choose between her lifelong dream or what could be the love of her life...
My thanks go to Atom for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

I was eagerly anticipating this book being published in the UK after hearing rave reviews of it from many international reviewers. I've never been particularly interested in the ballet, but this book gave a very fascinating insight into the dancing world. This book will certainly appeal to anyone who has an interest in dance as well as fans of coming of age, contemporary novels. Apparently, this book also has a lot of likeness to Black Swan (though toned down), though I've never watched it - so if you liked that, check this out!

It is clear that Sophie Flack, the author, has an incredible knowledge of ballet and the inner workings of ballet groups. There is quite a lot of dance-related terminology used without any explanation but I don't think that it is at all necessary to know what all of the terms mean - it's easy to just get drawn into Hannah's world. Hannah is our protagonist who is completely devoted to her art . However, alongside her, we struggle to decide whether she is making the best choice for herself - can she be a ballerina and lead a 'normal' life? It's hard to say and even at the end, it's difficult to know if Hannah has made the right choice for herself or not. Hannah is a very down to earth and realistic character and it's understandable to see how and why she had issues with her options for the future.

I wouldn't say that there were many 'OMG' moments or huge plot twists, but there is a lot of underlying drama in Bunheads. The book is rather subdued and relaxed but it's certainly not boring - it's just subtle. There is the right amount of gritty and raw information about the strictness and mentality of some dancers. The details are quite constant and very realistic. The novel wasn't so much focused on the struggles of being a dancer but rather with how Hannah and her friends dealt with them and how they grew and developed in such a disciplined situation. 

I thought that the relationships in this book were very well written. Hannah's friendships are typical of an environment that's quite female dominated and very competitive. I found it difficult to trust some of Hannah's friends, just like she did. I did find them quite endearing in their own way though and everyone in the group had distinct personalities and attitudes. 
I really loved Hannah and Jacob's relationship. It took a while for chemistry to build up between them and I did feel sorry for both of them a lot of the time. I sympathised with Jacob for putting so much effort into trying to spend time with Hannah and I sympathised with Hannah for finding it difficult to find that time. I found their relationship to be very realistic, I just loved the development of it and that they worked together through the problems. I don't know what Hannah was doing with the other love interest, the balletomane Matt, but it was interesting to see the different kinds of people that dancers come across in their lives.

Overall, this was a very interesting book which taught me a lot about the backstage goings-on of ballet dancers and the hard work that they go through, both physically and mentally.  This was a relaxed but entertaining book that had me questioning to the end. I think that this one will appeal to a lot of young adult and adult readers alike.  


In My Mailbox (16)


In My Mailbox (IMM) is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren

In My Mailbox is a place to showcase your new books,
whether you obtained them through the post or otherwise.

I had a relatively slow week for books this week - which is probably a good thing as I have a whole load to catch up on! I received an ARC of Burn Mark this week which looks really interesting - I'm sure most of you will love the sound of it! I was confused when a copy of Fake Mustache came through the mail to me (complete with an actual fake mustache!) - it looks very peculiar but that makes me want to read it more! I was also kindly given a copy of FireSeed One from the author, Catherine Stine. The premise sounds amazing!   

I had yet another visit to Barter Books this week and traded in a few of my old books - meaning that I didn't have to pay a penny for any of these (and I still have about £40 to spend!). I picked up Bud, Not Buddy, Festival, Seeing Redd, Apples, The Lottery, The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World, Pictures of Lily, If You Come Softly, Disconnected and Crossing The Line. I also bought a copy of a book on my wish list this week and that was The Opposite of Amber. 


What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Hunger Games



I don't think I've actually mentioned it much on this blog before (I first read the books two years ago, pre-blog), but I absolutely love The Hunger Games and last night I went to see an advanced screening of the film. It was officially released in the UK today though and so I thought it was time for a Hunger Games post!

It was amazing - It wasn't as good as the book (I think that'd probably be impossible to achieve) but it was definitely very impressive and I am already counting down the days for Catching Fire to be released - it's safe to say that I wasn't disappointed! The cinematography was really different and edgy - I loved some of the effects, especially during the tracker jacker scene. It felt as though we were right there in the Games.

There were a few differences from the book which was to be expected - I was waiting for some things that didn't actually appear in the film and some things were slight altered (such as the mockingjay pin story), but that wasn't a massive problem. I think that having read the book gave me much better insight into the story and how the characters felt, but that's not to say that the actors didn't do them justice! 
I think that the whole cast was absolutely fantastic in both their appearances (the costumes and make-up were great) and their acting skills - Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss was incredible - she had just the right amount of raw emotion and attitude. I loved Haymitch, his humour was fantastic!

There were some really sad parts - especially during Rue's scene, but more so for me at the beginning. I found the first scenes to be heartbreaking (though this was probably a mixture of my excitement overwhelming me too!) - all of the characters connected so well together, just like in the book. I loved how Katniss and Peeta's relationship was portrayed on screen and I think that it made me like them together a lot more than I did at first, their chemistry was great.

Overall, it was really, really, really enjoyable and I urge you all to go and see it, but of course - read the book first! Here's the details of it:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Paperback 454 pages


Published January 5th 2009 by Scholastic
(First published September 14th 2008)

Description via Goodreads

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Book Trailer: The Intern

Hi everyone,

I thought that you may be interested in watching the new book trailer that's been produced for THE INTERN by Dillon Khan which will be published in the UK, by Puffin, on 5th April.

It's been called 'The Devil Wears Prada for the music TV industry' - sounds promising, right?

I'll also be reading and reviewing this book in due course, so keep an eye out for my review.
For now, here's a video to whet your appetite... Let me know what you think!



Find out more here on the official website:

Sunday, 18 March 2012

In My Mailbox (15) - Birthday Edition!

In My Mailbox (IMM) is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren

In My Mailbox is a place to showcase your new books,
whether you obtained them through the post or otherwise.

It was my Birthday this week, as some of you know (thanks to those who sent Birthday wishes!) and these are all of the books that I received on the day - they all look SO good! I received Waiting For You, Stealing Heaven, Tangled, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, Purple Heart, Pretty Dead, As You Wish, The Secret Life of Prince Charming, She Loves You, She Loves You Not and Clean!


 
 Some incredible ARCs came through my mailbox this week! I am SO excited to read A Million Suns, All These Things I've Done and Fever in particular. Whilst I'm a little disappointed with the UK cover of A Million Suns, I adore the cover of Fever! I also got Fated, The Intern and Truth or Dare which sound good too!


 Two swaps were made this week. In exchange for a couple of my books, I received After Obsession and Switched!

 
 You may have seen my earlier blog post this week that featured Barter Books - whilst there, I bought Skin - a book I hadn't heard of before but looks great - and Haunted. I bought new copies of Undone and Unknown by Rachel Caine from eBay and I found The Sealed Letter in a charity shop!

I also won a copy of Mister Creecher this week from Hooked on Books, received an amazing Hunger Games Gift Pack from Scholastic which included a big poster, a mockingjay pin and a mug, and a Poison Diaries Gift Pack of poppy seeds and a pen - Thanks all! 

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