Monday, 28 September 2015

Library Loot + Book Buying Ban

It wasn't all that long ago that I shared a haul of books, and since then I have put myself on a self imposed book buying ban - effective the start of September. So I'm already in to the thick of it and doing well.
Every now and then these kinds of posts crop up on book blogs, because y'know, reading isn't always the cheapest of hobbies, and the bans go one of two ways - really successfully, or failing miserably. Well, it isn't quite miserably, because books, hurrah!
This isn't my first book buying ban, and probably won't be my last, but in the past I have fallen in to the latter when it comes to results. I'm going in to this ban head strong and full of confidence. I have a reason to put myself on a book buying ban and that is to save in order to purchase my first DSLR.
If you're in to cameras and photography, you know DSLR's are a pretty penny and so this ban of mine is going to be lasting quite some time... At least that's the plan. I think going in to the ban with an end goal and time frame give me motivation to succeed, something I need in all honesty.
Hopefully I'll see you on the other side of this (April 2016) with a brand spanking new camera!
Because of this cut back on books, I'm going to be showing my local libraries a lot more love. We do go to the library every week, but for a large part that's for my toddler son, not myself, but I will be taking to browsing for myself here and there from now on in. I do also have a number of books on my TBR shelf to tackle too (which I think I'll do another post on in the very near future), so it's safe to say I won't be short on reading material!
Library books are likely to be featuring in my book choices a lot more often now and so I thought I'd share on the blog as and when I take a trip to the local library as well as the books I snagged.

What have you picked up from the library recently? 

Monday, 21 September 2015

In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll

In Darkling Wood is Emma Carroll's third middle grade novel, and it's just as good as the previous two I've read - Frost Hollow Hall and The Girl Who Walked On Air.
I discovered Emma Carroll's work back when I was previously in the book blogging community (just with a different name) and my finding her writing is one of the many reasons I love this community - discovering works to treasure from authors who know how to weave a story. I know many believe adults can't/shouldn't enjoy middle grade books, but honestly Emma Carroll's stories are what made me fall in love with them!
In Darkling Wood mingles two time periods - current and 1918 post WW1 - telling the tale of two young girls whose lives parallel in many ways, from the unknown circumstances of a brother to the appearance of fairies.
At the heart of In Darkling Wood is hope.
When Alice's brother is rushed to hospital with a heart transplant ready for him, she is unexpectedly shipped off to her estranged grandmother's house - Darkling Cottage. Surrounding the cottage is Darkling Wood, so old and also so large it is causing issues for Nell, the grandmother, and her home, resulting in Nell wanting to cut down the trees. Darkling Wood isn't just your average woodlands however; it holds many a story and ties to the community with citizens opposing the cutting down of the trees. There is also much talk of magic in the woods. With this being the circumstances, it's safe to say that all is not plain sailing, especially when Alice encounters Flo in the woods.
Running alongside the trials and tribulations of Alice's current goings on are letters from the 1918's, written from a girl to her brother, a soldier in the war. The letters give you a glimpse of life within that time period as well as Darkling Wood during said time. The inclusion of these letters really pulls the story together as a whole.
With good reason I've given In Darkling Wood five stars - as well as the plot unfolding perfectly, the characters are wonderfully well written and you get a good sense of their personalities and the dynamics between the many characters. I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of rocky relationship between Alice and her dad. The relationships between characters, whether it be school friend or long lost grandmother, feel true to life along with the actions and emotions felt by the characters - such as Alice's secret dash to London to visit her brother.
There are a couple of little things I'd like to mention that made the book even better for me, including research done by the author, the inclusion of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Emma seemingly drawing on her experience as a teacher to have made the school parts feel authentic, and the way in which every scene - big or small - is significant in some way or other to the progression of the story.
Being a middle grade book, of course there is likely to be a happy ending of sorts, but it's the perfect ending to a story that shows even through the tough there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
If you haven't yet checked out Emma Carroll's work, you really should! Emma holds your attention from start to finish, her stories are the kind you can cosy down with and her characters stay with you even after the book is complete.


Friday, 18 September 2015

The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am by Kjersti A. Skomsvold

As you'll have seen in my Summer Book Haul, I picked up The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am after hearing about it on Jen Campbell's Booktube Channel. Of course the plot intrigued me, but the fact that the book is translated fiction also attracted me because I have been making a conscious effort to read more translated fiction this year.

An elderly widow, Mathea Martinsen, is at a point in her life where she has lived a long life but has little to show for it. A lot of us have a notion of wanting to pass and leave something behind, a legacy if you will, and Mathea is seeking out what her legacy would be.

Lonely, wanting nothing but to be noticed, to leave her mark on someone, just one person, Mathea sets out on some adventures in order to do that. Essentially you're reading about the general day to day life of Mathea, except she isn't exactly your average citizen. She spends a lot of her time in her apartment, and when she does venture outdoors her outings aren't atypical - encountering the same man multiple times in order to eventually be able to tell him the time, purchasing jars of jam only for them to go to waste as she knows she cannot open them, burying a time capsule for it to be dug up days later as a flagpole is to be erected in the same place. Mathea's life isn't what you'd call 'normal', her narration is quirky and often times witty, and the every day detail that is weaved in to the narration feels true to life.

Mathea is the narrator of The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am, with the story unfolding in first person. I really enjoy Mathea as a narrator as she portrays daily life in an unusual manner and she holds your attention throughout - The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am is a relatively short book at just under 150 pages and can easily be read in one sitting, with the chapters being short and to the point. Whilst Mathea is sharing her current goings on with the readers, she also gives snapshots of her married life which are almost little explanations in to the person she is today.

Ultimately there is a huge focus on death within this book as Mathea is leading up to her own death, as well communicating with her deceased husband and often reading about the deaths of others. For that reason, The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am is somewhat of a gloomy read, but at the same time it feels fresh and opens your eyes to the lives of others.


Monday, 14 September 2015

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

I'm picky when it comes to YA reads, but particularly YA contemporary reads, because in my experience a lot of the time I find the characters themselves put me off the book. There are a number of reasons why I find certain characters off putting, but the big factor is the teenagers featured not feeling like true to life people, however that was definitely not the case with Extraordinary Means - the characters make this book!

Lane and Sadie are both residents at Latham House, a sanatorium for those infected with TB. Now you may be thinking TB does now have treatable drugs, and you'd be right, but author Robyn Schneider has created a new strain of TB known as TDR-TB - total drug resistant tuberculosis. So whilst Extraordinary Means is, for the most part, contemporary fiction, there are minimal dystopian elements to the plot. Lane and Sadie are the narrators of the book, with alternating chapters telling their story of Latham House and how it affects them personally.

Lane is the new guy at Latham house, and in comparison Sadie is a veteran of the facility. Despite not having seen each other for a number of years, the pair have history after one particular summer at camp and their story grows from there. If you've read the blurb of Extraordinary Means at all you'll know a love story is to ensue, with a relationship between Lane and Sadie developing. The relationship is not the be all and end all of the book but it does play an important part with a lot being learnt from it. The bond between the two characters is beautiful to watch unfold and the love between them feels very much like teenage love; it's fun and sweet and adorable to see. From that description you may be thinking it's that puppy dog, sugary sweet, teenage love that can be portrayed in YA stories, but Lane and Sadie's relationship is so much more than that.

As well as the relationship between Lane and Sadie, we also see friendship between the two of them and three other residents of Latham House - Nick, Charlie and Marina. When arriving at the sanatorium Lane is instantly intrigued by Sadie and her bunch of friend's, eventually inserting himself in to the group. Extraordinary Means is full of adventures undertaken by this group of five friends whilst quarantined inside a medical facility. The laughs they have, the trouble they cause, the tears shed; you're along for the ride.

There is a lot to admire about the narrative in Extraordinary Means but a big stand out for me is the wit entwined throughout. It's just wonderful and fitting and the teenagers own the sarcasm of their age. They also own being themselves... What I mean by that is even though they're in that awkward stage of life when you're just figuring out who you are, the characters aren't afraid to be themselves.

Lane is the kind of guy who has everything mapped out, everything he does is a conscious means to being one step closer to his future. Lane is taking a detour though and he is definitely finding himself at Latham House.

Sadie is the kind of girl you naturally gravitate towards, you notice her, she sets herself apart from others. Her personality is a favourite of mine from recent reads.

Nick seems to be just coasting along in life while simultaneously blocking it out with alcohol or prescribed drugs. He also has a thing for Sadie.

Charlie is a bit of a indie/hipster kid, skinny jean wearing, music making, you know the kind. He is also the sickest of the friends, with his TB being at a more advanced stage.

Marina is the character out of the five who kind of fades in to the background. When you're reading the book she is there, she's quirky, she has her place within the friendship group, but when you step back from the book she is the one you'll remember the least as she doesn't have as prominent a part in the plot.

What's amazing when reading Extraordinary Means is the attitude of these five children who are practically dying, they have an illness with no cure, and yet you forget that. Despite the seriousness of things tackled in the book, it feels light but with depth.

This review is getting longer and longer, because there is so much I want to say about this book, but I'm going to end it on the author's note. Often times in books there is an 'author's note' at the end, and we can easily just pass over it with the story being our main focus, but if you read Extraordinary Means then you have to read the author's note. Robyn Schneider gives a great little back story on how the book came about and evolved into its current state.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Summer Book Haul | Part Two

On Monday I shared the first lot of books I've bought over the summer months, and today I'm sharing the second. The books I'm sharing today were bought very late in August and feature some books I've heard a lot about recently, as well as some books that have been on my wishlist for a while.
(Not pictured | Landline by Rainbow Rowell - I didn't include this book in the picture as I have previously read Landline as a library borrow and just wanted to add it to my own collection of books)
Already Read | I have read one book from this haul so far and that is The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am. Originally written in Norwegian and translated to English, The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am is a really interesting book to read, but not your typical read, and a tad morbid with death being a focal topic. I will be sharing a full review in the future.
Most Excited To Read | Ah, there are so many books I want to delve in to from this particular purchase. Two stand outs for me though are Forbidden and In Darkling Wood. I'm intrigued to see how the subject matter at hand (love between a brother and sister) is handled in Forbidden, and with In Darkling Wood I'm just excited to discover new characters from Emma Carroll. Her writing as a whole is wonderful and you get enveloped in to her stories, but the characters and dynamics between them are always on point, well, based off of her first two books anyway.
What books have you purchased recently?

Monday, 7 September 2015

Summer Book Haul | Part One

Over the past couple of months I've been doing a little bit of book buying... And buy a little, I mean a lot. Today and Friday I'll be sharing a two part haul, with part one being books bought in July and part two being books bought in August. I've quite a mixed bag of books to share, so I'll just get on to it.

Already Read | Of the seven books purchased I've already read four; in order, Red Queen, Wonder, Extraordinary Means and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (DNF'ed).

Most Excited To Read | I'm really looking forward to reading This House is Haunted; I get a Jane Eyre / The Woman in Black vibe from it. I'll be saving this one to read October time, befitting of Halloween I think.
What books have you purchased recently?

Friday, 4 September 2015

August Reading Wrap Up

August has been a fairly decent month in terms of reading material, but I feel like the month has just flown by! I've read four books this month which is pretty typical for me so good going.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?
I didn't entirely know what to expect going in to Red Queen as dystopian YA can be quite hit or miss with me, often avoiding the genre. I thoroughly enjoyed Red Queen though and have a review up already if you're interested in reading my full thoughts.
You can't blend in when you were born to stand out.

My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside.

But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go.

Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?
Wonder is one of those books that had been on my wishlist for a considerable amount of time and when book buying I just passed over it... Well, I recently purchased it and knew I had to read it as soon as. Having now read Wonder, I do think perhaps my waiting paid off because if I had read the book when a lot of talk was about I don't know if I'd have loved it as much as I did. Much like Red Queen, I also have a review of Wonder on the blog.
A bitter-sweet, coming-of-age novel that's perfect for fans of John Green and Stephen Chbosky.

When he's sent to Latham House, a boarding school for sick teens, Lane thinks his life may as well be over.
But when he meets Sadie and her friends - a group of eccentric troublemakers - he realises that maybe getting sick is just the beginning. That illness doesn't have to define you, and that falling in love is its own cure.

Extraordinary Means is a darkly funny story about true friendships, ill-fated love and the rare miracle of second chances.
Extraordinary Means has had a lot of John Green comparisons thrown at it, and whilst I see where they are drawn from, Extraordinary Means and John Green's work (namely The Fault in our Stars) are quite different in terms of overall storyline. Extraordinary Means had a lot of great things going for it, in my opinion, but one of my favourite things was probably the wittiness that ran throughout. I have written a review of this book and I will be sharing it here soon.
Mathea Martinsen has never been good at dealing with other people. After a lifetime, her only real accomplishment is her longevity: everyone she reads about in the obituaries has died younger than she is now. Afraid that her life will be over before anyone knows that she lived, Mathea digs out her old wedding dress, bakes some sweet cakes, and heads out into the world—to make her mark. She buries a time capsule out in the yard. (It gets dug up to make room for a flagpole.) She wears her late husband’s watch and hopes people will ask her for the time. (They never do.) Is it really possible for a woman to disappear so completely that the world won’t notice her passing? The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am is a macabre twist on the notion that life “must be lived to the fullest.”  
The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am is one of the few translated fiction books I've read this year - I have been making a conscious effort to read more translated fiction, with it being one of my bookish goals for the year. Although I've only rated this book 3 stars on Goodreads, I did really enjoy the short read and found the book make me think quite a bit too. I love a thought provoking book. A review will be up in the coming weeks.
What books did you read in the month of August?

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