Monday 30 November 2015

GoodRead - Year of Yes

One of my favourite storytellers is Shonda Rhimes. For those of you who aren't aware of her, Shonda is the creator of hit shows Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, Private Practice and is one of the executive producers of How To Get Away with Murder (which I am very obsessed with. If you follow my Twitter, you know how obsessed I am with that show!), so when I first heard that Shonda was writing a book (last year, maybe?), I got very excited. Shonda is writing a book! SHONDA RHIMES IS WRITING A BOOK! I didn't care what it was about, I WANTED/NEEDED IT!

So, a few weeks ago, I discovered that it was going to be published in the UK, I got excited. Then I discovered that there was an audiobook and, oh yeah, Shonda was reading it herself, I went from excited to "I AM GETTING THIS! GET OUT OF MY WAY, I AM BUYING THIS!!!". And because the lovely people at Midas PR gave me an extra credit for, I got this a few days after I finished After Alice by Gregory Maguire (review here) and started within ten minutes of downloading it.

Shonda Rhimes is a powerhouse of storytelling. Hugely successful TV shows, given a whole night of her shows (which is unheard of. Ever), a mother of three children, Shonda has a lot of reasons to say no to events. No to media appearances, no to speaking engagement, no to that huge Hollywood party, no no no.

One Thanksgiving (2013? Sorry, can't find my notes!), Shonda was telling her sister about these events, when her sister asked "Are you planning on going to any of these?", surprising Shonda. And when Shonda answers no, her sister mutters under her breath "You never say yes to anything."

Shonda realises that she is scared of saying yes. Nothing new to fear if you say yes. So, realising this, Shonda makes a challenge for herself. For one year, she has to say yes to everything that scares her. And soon, Shonda realises the power of the word Yes and how it changed her life...

I'm going to say this right here and now: I loved it. I'm going to be unashamed about that. I was sucked it and devoured the audiobook within 5 days (Started on the Sunday, finished on the Thursday - and that has NEVER EVER happened with me and an audiobook.).

What I found wonderful is that Shonda is very real. She speaks about her insecurities and how she overcame them, her realisations over her life and the people over her life and how she overcame them. She also wrote in a style I really liked - she was funny, truthful and she wrote in a "It's just you and me" style, which is refreshing in a non-fiction book. Plus, Shonda realised questions in me that made me go "She's speaking the truth here", "I need to say yes more", "I never thought of that before" and "Do I agree with this?"

From some of the reviews I have read, there might be one or two problems some readers might have. To some people, Shonda never really addressed why she said no - but I disagree. She admitted very early on that she's an introvert and she struggled with shyness all her life. Other people might find her "It's you and me" writing a tad grating but, listening to it via audiobook, I never had this problem. In some respect, having Shonda read it outlaid helped hugely, but I think if I had the book, I would have flown through it.

I think people who love Shonda's shows will love this. I devoured this and, hopefully, I will get a hardback copy of Year of Yes for Christmas. If not, I will be buying it in the sales...

Wednesday 25 November 2015

GoodRead - After Alice

I'm going through a bit of a reading slump. There, I said it. I seem to have hit a bit of a wall. I was meant to be reading Magnus Chase from my lovely pals from the Bookish Brits. I was so excited to read it - and 100 pages in, I hit a wall. I just went "Nope", put the book down and not touched it since. Which is sad.

In the mist of this, Midas PR asked if I wanted to review some audiobooks. They gave me one/two credits and I went looking for something to grab my attention. ANYTHING to grab my attention for longer than a few minutes. For a while, nothing grabbed me. Then I stumbled onto After Alice and went "Let's risk it.". It was this or Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen (which I have been approved to read via NetGalley hence why why After Alice won this contest).

If you have read my blog for a while, you would know I have had a real bad run of audiobooks of late. No idea why, but there we go. I just hoped I was going to make it to the end of chapter 15 without wanting to throw my iPod across the room.

What happened to Alice's family when she fell down that rabbit hole and into Wonderland? What happened to Alice's friend, Ada, who fell down that rabbit hole a moment too late?

There's not much else I can say on how to describe this book without fear of spoiling. But I feel the same way about this as I did when I read Gregory Maguire's Wicked (review for that here). It's a fickle thing, this story. I got to the end and there were moments in this audiobook I really liked. But there are moments when I found it hard work or grating.

I really enjoyed Gregory's take on Wonderland and the characters from Wonderland. And I liked the fact that he tried to show us what happened in Oxford when Alice and Ada was in Wonderland. How people worried. I like this as we haven't seen this happen in a Wonderland retelling before.

However, I didn't like any of the human characters. If they were human & from our world, I found them very selfish. No one was likeable. I believe I had this problem with Wicked. I never connected with anyone - maybe expect for, up to a point, Ada. How are we meant to root for characters if we can't connect with them?

Another problem I had with the audiobook is the writing style - Gregory Maguire tried to write this in a style that fitted with Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and, while it worked up to a point, it's didn't work completely. There would me words, phrases, even whole chapters, that were just jarring and threw me out of the story. There was one very short chapter that described Oxford, its sky and how it was slowly changing - why is that here? How does this effect the story? It doesn't so why is it here?

The narrator of this audiobook is Katherine Kellgren. While her voice fits the time period this story is set in, it comes across quite harsh at certain moments and that, too, would throw me out of the story.

I tried again with Gregory Maguire and again, this wasn't my cup of tea. I don't enjoy Gregory's writing style so, while I won't be reading any more of this works in future, at least I tried and, if you do like him, you might enjoy this take of Alice. But it wasn't for me.

Monday 16 November 2015

GoodRead - Mog's Christmas Calamity

Am going through a bit of a reading slump (I only realised this after I stopped reading Magnus Chase after a hundred pages, struggled through Playing with Fire which I got via NetGalley and even my beloved Harry Potter has failed me!).

So, you have to understand my hyper excitement when I saw this...


I adore Mog and another Judith Kerr classic, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, so when I saw this advert and discovered that this story was a story in book form (which you could only get from Sainsbury), I knew I had to get a copy. I HAD TO!!! For the children, of course. Not for me. Nope. Not for myself AT ALL!!!

Mog and the Thomas family is looking forward to Christmas. But when Mog wakes up, calamity strike! Can Mog and the Thomas family enjoy Christmas?

This book is nostalgia. Pure nostalgia. I want to read all the Mog books (I believe I have only read Mog the Forgetful Cat). Maybe not Goodbye Mog. I'm not sure if I am ready to have my childhood ruined just yet.

My only thing is that if you read the book and watch the TV advert, the story are different as whether Mog is to blame.

But I don't care. This Christmas advert is delightful (has it beaten John Lewis? Hell yeah!) and the story is wonderful. Plus, with at least £2 going to Save the Children to improve child literacy, not only do you get this wave of nostalgia but you're doing some good in the world.

Wanna see how the TV advert was made? TA-DAH!!!

Friday 13 November 2015

GoodRead - Half Truths

If you have been reading my blog since the beginning of this year, you know that I went through a bit of a blitz where I read Sally Green (the end of February and beginning of March, to be truthful) and, because of this, kinda fell into a reading slump (I say kinda, because I pulled myself out of it, but still!).

So yes, earlier this year, I became a little obsessed with this series. I admit it (Reactions to Half Bad, Half Wild and the eNovella prequel, Half Liesare on each title.), so when the news was revealed that there was going to be another eNovella, I preordered it without hesitation. I needed more from Sally Green.

Half Truths takes place just after Half Lies (so yes, this is another prequel) where we follow Gabriel from when he arrives in Switzerland, looking for help from the powerful Black Witch Mercury to when he meets Nathan in Half Bad (so it overlaps in a way).

Between Half Lies and Half Truths, I think I prefer Half Truths.

I'm not sure why. I don't think this novella really added anything to the series (but you never know - there was a character who I sense might pop up in Half Lost), expect it gives us an insight in what Gabriel was doing before he met Nathan and it shows that he had a life before Nathan. He met people and nearly fell in love with people before Nathan. It's nice to known stuff about Gabriel that Nathan doesn't know.

Half Truths didn't really add anything to the series, I think, but it's was a nice fast read that will tie me over till Half Lost...

Thursday 12 November 2015

GoodRead - Refuge

Refuge is a gentle retelling of the Christmas story. Of Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem. Of the birth of Jesus and how the three became refugees to escape King Harold.

Been trying to write this for the past hour and a half! HOUR AND A HALF! And I have no idea how to write this up. I just can't. There is something quite special about this.

Plus, with the publisher making no money for this (£5 is going to War Child), I highly recommend you go out and buy this.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

GoodRead - Carry On

Out of all of Rainbow Rowell's books, Carry On was the one I really wanted to read. The others caught my attention but Carry On catch it and held it. It's the one of the few reasons why I read Fangirl (review for that is here)- not only to see if it lives up to all the hype, but because I wanted to read this.

Simon Snow is the Chosen One. Here to save the World of Magicks. Only, he's probably the worst Chosen One ever. And all he wanted to do is enjoy his last year at Watford School of Magicks. Expect his girlfriend has broken up with him, his best friend is starting to get under his feet and his mentor wants to hide him, safe from the Insidious Humdrum. He can't even enjoy the fact that his don-partner and nemesis is missing because he can't help worrying about the slimy git.

So what is he going to do when ghost of his nemesis's mother wakes him up one night, desperate to pass her son a message...?

Where to begin?

If you have read Fangirl, you are kinda aware of Simon Snow because this is the Harry Potter-like series that Cath writes fan fiction for. And this is Rainbow Rowell's attempt of Simon Snow fan fiction. That's right, folks. Rainbow Rowell wrote fan fiction for a fantasy series that a main character in one of her other books reads and write about. Confusing? It's like Inception but with books!

This was a fun read. I had fun reading it, which surprised me a lot. I liked Fangirl (and I do have plans to reread Fangirl next year sometime) but I think I prefer Carry On more. I think it's because this felt like Harry Potter, and I LOVE Potter.

This book felt as if creators of Harry Potter and Grey's Anatomy/Scandal,  JK Rowling and Shonda Rhimes, sat down in a room together, merged story ideas together and then invited Rainbow to write the story. The three blended so well together.

It was fun. There's no other word for this book. It was fun. I really enjoyed the story and I really liked how the magic worked in this world (no latin! Instead, we had words and phrases - which is great as it shows the beauty of language). I liked the relationships (friendship and love - I think I started madly tweeting when there was kissing...) and how the story, while having a Harry Potter feel to it, stood on its own two feet.

But - yes, there is a but - this book is fan fiction. And readers might see a little too easily the possible Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy fanfic hidden underneath the words. While I have not read fan fiction (I wish I discovered fanfic in my teens. I would be all over it!), I did at one or two points go "Is this Rainbow's way of getting Harry and Draco together?" before dismissing it very quickly.

Another tiny problem I had was the mystery. I love a good mystery, but there was a few things I kinda guessed (and was frighteningly correct on). That's not a bad thing - but I just wished there was a twist, a moment where I would go "I didn't see that coming!".

While reading this, I was addicted to this book and I had such fun with this. I can imagine rereading this again in the near future. With a mug of hot chocolate and a copy of Fangirl nearby... and maybe a Harry Potter on standby, just in case...

Friday 6 November 2015

GoodRead - Welcome To Night Vale

If you know this blog for a while (or on Twitter), I am a huge fan of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. So when it was announced last year that the creators of the podcast, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, were going to write a novel set in this weird little town, I was really excited. But I was a little uncertain over if Night Vale would translate well into novel form...

Night Vale is a small town where every conspiracy is true, and people just have to live their lives. Pawnshop owner, Jackie, is nineteen and has been nineteen for a while. But one day, a Man in a Tan Jacket walks in and gives her a piece of paper. A piece of paper that she can't remove from her hand. The only clue she has to who or what this piece of paper is or who this Man in a Tan Jacket is what's written on the piece of paper - KING CITY.

Diana Clayton is worried about her teenage son, Josh. He's moody and distant. And a shapeshifter, but Diana's more worried about the distance between her son and her. And now, wherever she goes, she sees Josh's father. Looking the same as he did the day he left. And with Josh beginning to take an interest in who his father is, Diana can see disaster coming... and she can't stop it.

These two women's lives will intertwined and it looks like the answers both these women need might be at this mysterious KING CITY... if they can leave Night Vale, that is...

Now... this is a tough one. As a fan of the podcast, I feel that the story did work. Night Vale is just as well as it is on the show - maybe even more so. And, unlike the podcast, the book takes us away from the radio show and we go into town.

The story with Diana and her son, Josh, was something I enjoyed. The relationship between them and they trying to reconnect will strike chords with parents of teenagers everywhere.

However, I do have some issues with this. While it was Welcome to Night Vale, it wasn't at the same time. Some of the things that work on a 30 minute podcast didn't translate well in book form. It felt oddly flat at times.

Another problem that this book had was that, if you are not a fan of the podcast and you picked this up, you might find this book very surreal. If you are not aware of it, you might find this a bit too much.

Am very mixed on this. I think this is a nice add on to the world of Night Vale and fans will really enjoy it. However, I'm not entirely convinced that people who aren't aware of the podcast will find this book enjoyable.

Thursday 5 November 2015

If I Made The Movie Soundtrack Of... LIFE AND DEATH

While I was reading Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer, I was wondering. I was going "What if this was turned into a movie? What would the music be like?". Now, I know that this will NEVER happen  (am sure Stephenie has said in interviews that Life and Death isn't going to be turned into movie) but while I was reading this, I wondered...

And because I tried this with three different books at the beginning of the year - the Night School series by CJ Daugherty, Broken by AE Rought and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness - this was just a perfect idea. So, without spoiling the book, am going to pick a few songs that might be interesting picks for the imaginative movie in my head...

Now, if I was in charge of the music for the movie, I would want new music to keep it in the same style as the other Twilight Saga soundtracks. I like discovering new music and new songs and what is more perfect that a soundtrack with new songs?

I had two rules when I was picking songs (I've only picked a few, not many). The first (which I broke so quickly, it's a joke!) was I couldn't use songs from the Twilight movie. And the second was that I couldn't use Muse. I love Muse, but when I read Life and Death, I never heard them (whereas when I read Twilight, they were there very clearly in my head).

So, let's get started, shall we?

FULL MOON by The Black Ghosts
Told you I broke my first rule quickly. But this isn't the first song that popped into my head when I thought music. This came later. I have two reasons why I start with this song. First: I am selfish and I love this song. But second, and more importantly, I like symmetry. I feel that, as Life and Death is a reimagining of Twilight, it would be a small nod to the fans to say "Yes, this is a reimagining and the music is going to reflect this up to a point". Which is why I was curious over if this song could remixed in a style to reflect Beau moving to Forks (oh yeah, this would be the first song we hear. No changing that about!).

MONSTERS by Ruelle
Oh, foreshadowing! I love a bit of foreshadowing and I think this would be perfect when we meet Jules down on the beach and she's telling Beau her scary stories...

As soon as I read that Stephenie Meyer listened to this band while working on Life and Death, I knew instantly that this would be the song that Beau would be playing while researching vampires. I could even see Charlie doing that typical parent thing of banging on Beau's bedroom door or shouting up the stairs, telling Beau to turn it down! I saw it so clearly that I knew it would fit perfectly.

I'm torn over which song by Rae Morris fits better with Life and Death. Under the Shadows has lyrics which fit Life and Death but I discovered Closer when I was reading Life and Death so I have a fondness for this song as well. Now, where would they fit? I'm not sure, if I am toward honest with you. I think maybe it's more the artist I like - I discovered another song by her while finding the above two - Cold (featuring Fryars) - which I think works perfectly. So, I think I would like her on the soundtrack in one form or another...

Oh, a fun song, you guess are thinking. Where will this fit into the movie? This is my calm before the storm before Lauren, Victor and Joss. So, this I can see playing just before their arrival, during the baseball game. It's fun, rocky and will leave you all into a false sense of security... (PS - sorry for not being able to find the song in full. Instead, here are two promos that use the track. Hope that's ok!)

I broke my own rule again! I know, I know. But hear me out. I wanted that symmetry again. I wanted to tie Life and Death to Twilight. Now, I did consider very briefly tying this movie up with the last song played in Breaking Dawn: Part Two to bring closure. But I personally think this song fits Life and Death's epilogue much better (if you have read it, you know where I mean...)

I know my music choices are a little odd and believe me, if I had free reign, I would pick a real mix of artists to create new songs for the movie (Bright Light Bright Light, Greg Laswell, the list could go on!) but am curious over what songs/artists you would choose if you were in charge of the music for Life And Death movie. Leave your comments before as I always love hunting for new music! 

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Dementia in Fiction

A few months ago, I was given a copy of Unbecoming by Jenny Downham for review (still not read it. DON'T JUDGE ME!!! [For those curious, Unbecoming is out now and published by DFB in hardback]). I read a few pages and it made me think about dementia and my understanding of dementia. I realised that I know very little about it and I wanted to learn more. 

Luckily for me, I was chatting to Hayley from ED Public Relations and she knew a few people who could help. And even better, we had Faradane from Dementia UK who found time to send me the following gets blog post and managed to get Dr Karen Harrison Dening to share some thoughts about dementia in fiction. 

So, before I can it over, I must thank Dr Karen, Faradane and Hayley for making this guest blog post possible. And if you want to know more, you can go to Dementia UK's website ( or visit them on their Twitter (@DementiaUK). 

What is dementia?
Dementia is a broad umbrella term given to several conditions (syndromes) which describe brain damage that causes long term and often gradual decline in an individual’s ability to think and remember; to the degree that it affects their daily functioning. Symptoms may include problems with memory, concentration, problem-solving, mood, behaviour, communication, and perception. Dementia is a progressive condition, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse.
There are a number of forms of dementia with over 128 causes. Alzheimer’s and Vascular dementia are the two most common types of dementia.
Alzheimer’s: The most common form of dementia (about two-thirds of cases). It is thought that brain cells are damaged due to protein and abnormal ‘tangles’, leading to failure of the brains transport system. The cause is not yet fully understood.
Vascular dementia: is the second most common dementia. It can be caused if the brain is damaged due to the failure of its oxygen blood supply (the vascular system). This can be due to a stroke, or a series of small strokes over a period of time. Strokes are caused when the flow of blood is disrupted, for example by a clot, leading to the cell being starved of oxygen and dying. Strokes do not always lead to vascular dementia, but they increase the likelihood.
Dementia in under-65yrs of age is called young onset dementia. The condition often has a significant effect on a person’s family as they are often still income earners and have responsibility for children. It is important families seek specialist advice and support.
Every person with dementia is an individual. Everyone presents in a different way and everyone needs different sorts of interventions, but generally what people need is somebody that is a specialist who is able to work with them and their family to help them to live positively with dementia.
Dementia UK is the only UK charity to offer specialist one-to-one support and expert advice for people living with dementia. Our Admiral Nurses work hand in hand with families, helping them cope with the fear, uncertainty and difficult everyday reality of dementia.

Dementia in fiction
There is a growing body of fiction that has dementia as its focus.  Many portray the devastation the disease may impose through behaviours of the person with dementia perhaps giving a very negative perception of what it might be like. Alongside this, we are also seeing a growing body of first person accounts of what it’s really like to have dementia and these often give us a sense of the retention of positivity despite a diagnosis of dementia. However, dementia does not just affect the person with diagnosis but the whole family and can create wide ‘ripples’.
Families are very individual; my own is likely to be totally different in its membership, culture and how it interacts with the world than the next person’s. Of interest to me as a professional are the dynamics of any given family and especially, when a member is diagnosed with dementia, how that family is affected and adapts (or not) to this.  
Downham, in her novel ‘Unbecoming’, has given us an account of a family’s adaptation to the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in the grandmother, Mary. The narrative is largely from the perspective of Katie, a teenage girl, who is struggling with her own identity and sexuality. Katie develops a strong, and intuitive, caring bond with Mary who has come into her life only recently following a crisis. Mary’s long time partner died and this leads to Mary being admitted to hospital.  This is not too far from the truth as often when a carer of a person with dementia is ill or dies the ‘default’ position is to admit the person with dementia to hospital or institutional care. In Mary’s case it results in her moving to live with her estranged daughter, Caroline.  We see the past history of the family unfold and gain an understanding of the title of the book; Mary’s behaviour as a young woman being seen as ‘unbecoming’ and feckless and the reason for her giving her daughter away to be cared for by her sister and also the effect of dementia in unravelling the person – unbecoming.
This novel wonderfully captures the notion of relationships within families and helps us to see each as an individual yet also as part of a bigger whole.  Much of the early research on caring in dementia focused on its negative and burdensome nature, however, more recently attention has been paid to the positive aspects of caring. Downham’s story is life affirming and heart warming and shows us that families can be united and reunited following a diagnosis of dementia. In the end the family ‘become’ and it is dementia that brings that about.
Dr Karen Harrison Dening, Director of Admiral Nursing, Dementia UK

Tuesday 3 November 2015

GoodRead - Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

This book has one LONG title, doesn't it?

A friend of mine, Emily, and I have been chatting about this book on and off for the past few months and our excitement over the movie coming out next year (Tim Burton is directing it so it's going to be weird and slightly wonderful). So imagine my bookish pal's surprise when I admit that I have never read this.

It's one of those books that I know people love online, but there has always been something about this that has always made me be a little hesitant to pick it up. So when Emily asked if I wanted to borrow her copy, I went "Yes!". I mean, it's October - a time of year to read a creepy book and this fitted it perfectly. So, Emily, if you're reading this, thank you for letting me borrow your copy. I hope I took good care of it.

(EDIT: I moved dates for when this goes live on my blog. Reason? My reactions post to LIFE AND DEATH: TWILIGHT REIMAGINED by Stephenie Meyer.)

Jacob has always had a close relationship with his grandfather. His grandfather, who survived the Second World War and is proud of his Jewish roots, always tells Jacob stories. Stories of peculiar children in the photographs. Stories about the girl who has to wear leaden shoes otherwise she will fly away. The invisible boy who has to wear clothes. The boy who has a swarm of bees living inside of him. But they are stories.

And then Jacob's grandfather dies, believing the stories were real and that there were monsters after him. And the monsters weren't the Nazis. Jacob thinks he saw a monster standing close to where his grandfather died. But that was a trick of his mind, unable to cope with the horror of his grandfather's death... right?

Ok, I am going to be honest with you. I am not entirely certain how I feel about this book. I'm not certain on my feelings that I have been holding off over my thoughts and feelings on this for over a week, because I am just in the middle of it.

I see things that work wonderfully for the book - the creepy photographs and the ideas that Ransom Riggs put forward which lead the book forward and will lead the series forward.

But there are things that just didn't work for me. One of which was the writing style. I just couldn't get on board with it. A sixteen year old is meant to be telling the story, and yet... and yet, it didn't feel like a sixteen year old telling the story. It felt disjointed - the voice of the narrator and the age of the narrator.

Because I am so uncertain on my thoughts, I am going to leave this here. I just thought you ought to know that I have read it and I am... well...