Monday, 25 July 2011

Review: Entangled by Cat Clarke

This is the first book I've read since starting this blog that has left me wanting to say more than my usual 140 character review!

The same questions whirl round and round in my head:
What does he want from me?
How could I have let this happen?

17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with a table, pens and paper - and no clue how she got here.

As Grace pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she's tried to forget. There's falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal. But there's something missing. As hard as she's trying to remember, is there something she just can't see?

Grace must face the most important question of all. Why is she here?

A story of dark secrets, intense friendship and electrifying attraction
summary taken from GoodReads

Entangled is Cat Clarke's first novel but her story telling skills are fantastic.

Grace might not seem like a particularly likable character, she does a lot that is less than wonderful, but you are completely on her side and dreading what  event is being built up to leading up to her being locked in this room.  It is all from her point of view as she is writing her memories down, so you can only imagine what is going on with the other characters when their life isn't revolving around Grace's.  She is a very self centred and demanding character but as you read more you can forgive her for that and wish her a lucky break.  The relationship with her Mum is very difficult and I would like to know what was going on in her Mother's mind.

A key feature in the story is Grace's cutting.  I know a lot of people are very against writing about 'issues' like this...and drug taking/drinking/s*x...for teenagers but I think, if done carefully, it can only be helpful for young people to read about these issues and their effects on individuals as well as families and friends.  Reading about characters that self harm will not cause teens to go out and try it but it might strike a chord with some of them that already think about it, and demonstrate that they are not the only one that ever feels that way.  This book definitely does not glamorise it.  In fact, I thought the descriptions of her feelings of guilt and self loathing were very moving and realistic (though obv. everyone that thinks about self harm will have their own motivation and reaction).

Although I thought some of the growing relationships were a bit of a cheat to give more hope than someone in this situation in real life might feel, I did think the ending was quite appropriate - not too Disney happy ending but not too depressing, I won't say any more because I don't want to spoil it!

All in all well worth a read, in fact School Librarians definitely read it before stocking it in your Library so that you can brace yourself for potential (but I honestly think unnecessary) parental concerns.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

My Top Ten Books that should be Required Reading for Teens

Thanks to SisterSpooky I have just discovered the Broke and the Bookish Top Ten Tuesday, and this week their top ten is of required reading for teens - what better for me to jump in on?!

I thought I'd give it a go but realised it is harder than it sounds, I have hundreds of books that I recommend to different teenagers for different reasons, depending on reading age/maturity/likes/dislikes.  I struggled to whittle it down to 10 but I like to think there's something here for everyone. I guess 'required reading' could be interpreted to mean 'worthy' books, but I like to think that reading for pleasure is reason here, in no particular order, are 10 that I have read and would blanket recommend to 13-18year olds...
  1. 1984 by George Orwell- a classic novel but still horribly believable future!  Even though it was written in 1948, before we used the internet daily, it is still relevant and will really make them think about censorship and government.
  2. Hero by Perry Moore - Thom has two secrets - he has special powers and he is gay - a really good story about family, friendship, and being happy with yourself.
  3. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathon Stroud - first of the Bartimaeus books, all hilarious.
  4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - the first of the trilogy is the best but they all left me speechless.  Very violent but excellent.
  5. Boys Don't Cry by Malorie Blackman - a young lad is literally left holding the baby as his ex-girlfriend decides she can't look after the child she hadn't told him she was expecting.  It also includes a carefully thought side story about homophobia and it's consequences.
  6. Three for the price of one here - The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness - awfully, epically depressing but fantastic.  Patrick Ness is currently one of my favourite people, having written some of my favourite books (I was tempted to include A Monster Calls because it is beautiful), and his inspiring CILIP Carnegie acceptance speech
  7. Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace - set in a Zimbabwean boarding school just as Robert Mugabe came into power after the war for independence, the story demonstrates racial tensions perfectly
  8. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater - the very best of all the paranormal romance type books (plus sequels).
  9. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve - the first novel of the Hungry City Chronicles is by far the best but I enjoyed the whole series.  Municiple Darwinism is a fantastic idea and the story and writing are excellent.
  10. The Declaration by Gemma Malley - the first in yet another trilogy but a chilling tale of a future where the Longevity drug has given everyone a long life at the expense of younger generations.
Man alive, with all the trilogies/series this is a lot more than 10 books, if you've not already read them then get a wriggle on!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Indigo event at Orion

Ok, small admission, I started my blog 2 weeks earlier than I had planned to because my good friend MattLibrarian told me if I had it up and running in time I could go with him to the Indigo Bloggers event at Orion Publishers on Tuesday 12th July...of course I couldn't resist that offer (and thanks to Nina at Orion for allowing me to tag along), and so turned up on the evening feeling like a total fraud!  Funnily enough though I recognised loads of the bloggers from author events that I've been invited to through being on the YLG London Committee, a number of them I follow and they follow my mini-reviews on twitter already, so they were very nice about my virgin status :-)

It was a fantastic evening, four authors with books due to be published on this new teen imprint were there to talk about their books, some of which I was really pleased to nab proof copies of:

Marcus Sedgwick kicked off talking about how he got the idea for his new book, Midwinter Blood:
Have you ever had the feeling that you've lived another life? Been somewhere that has felt totally familiar, even though you've never been there before, or felt that you know someone well, even though you are meeting them for the first time? It happens. In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumour has it that no one ages and no children are born, a visiting journalist, Eric Seven, and a young local woman known as Merle are ritually slain. Their deaths echo a moment ten centuries before, when, in the dark of the moon, a king was slain, tragically torn from his queen. Their souls search to be reunited, and as mother and son, artist and child, forbidden lovers, victims of a vampire they come close to finding what they've lost. In a novel comprising seven parts, each influenced by a moon - the flower moon, the harvest moon, the hunter's moon, the blood moon - this is the story of Eric and Merle whose souls have been searching for each other since their untimely parting. Beautifully imagined, intricately and cleverly structured, this is a heart-wrenching and breathtaking love story with the hallmark Sedgwick gothic touches of atmosphere, blood-spilling and sacrifice*
It sounds pretty immense, which is what you expect from Marcus so I hope it lives up to it!  While mingling on the terrace after the event I had a really nice chat with him about libraries and reading, such a nice man, and was ever so slightly gushy-fan when he signed my copy for me...

We then heard from Sara Grant who introduced us to her first YA novel, Dark Parties:
Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield "protects" them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there's nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says...
Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a "dark party" to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she's ever known, including the people she loves the most*
I really liked the sound of this book, and it was another I mananaged to get a copy of that she signed for me later on while chatting about meeting children and signing bookmarks...

Kate Harrison next told us a bit of her background as a journalist and her reasons for writing Soul Beach:
When Alice Forster receives an email from her dead sister she assumes it must be a sick practical joke. Then an invitation arrives to the virtual world of Soul Beach, an idyllic online paradise of sun, sea and sand where Alice can finally talk to her sister again - and discover a new world of friendships, secrets and maybe even love . . . . But why is Soul Beach only inhabited by the young, the beautiful and the dead? Who really murdered Megan Forster? And could Alice be next? The first book in an intriguing and compelling trilogy centred around the mystery of Megan Forster's death*
I didn't get a copy of this book but not because I don't think it sounds good, I'm sure it will go down really well at my school so I shall definitely be putting it on my next order...

Last but definitely not least, Sally Gardner teased us with the opening chapter to her new novel for older teens, The Double Shadow:
Arnold Ruben has created a memory machine, a utopia housed in a picture palace, where the happiest memories replay forever, a haven in which he and his precious daughter can shelter from the war-clouds gathering over 1937 Britain. But on the day of her seventeenth birthday Amaryllis leaves Warlock Hall and the world she has known and wakes to find herself in a desolate and disturbing place. Something has gone terribly wrong with her father's plan. Against the tense backdrop of the second World War Sally Gardner explores families and what binds them, fathers and daughters, past histories, passions and cruelty, love and devastation in a novel rich in character and beautifully crafted*
I loved listening to her read, so much so that I plucked up the courage afterwards to tell her that I think she should read her own audiobooks!  While she signed my copy we had a really interesting conversation, along with Matt, about children's and YA literature and the difference between being able to read a book and being ready to read about the subject covered, and how subject should or shouldn't be softened for a younger market.

We were also told about some other books in the pipeline for the Indigo imprint, some that have been published before but are being repackaged for the YA market but some completely new books, including:
Shelter by Harlan Coben - I picked up a copy because I always like to see how an 'adult' author manages the cross-over into YA
The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish - had to take this because I love Breathe and Savannah Gray
Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding - one I read a while ago and really enjoyed
An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons - no copies to run off with but one that I really want to read
Firespell by Chloe Neill - bought for my Library ages ago and it is in and out pretty regularly

Darkness Falls by Mia James - sequel to By Midnight, another that is popular with my girls
White Cat by Holly Black - I read it a while ago and I'm afraid I didn't like it much...can't remember why though, which probably says something!
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher - LOVED this book when I read it a few months ago - wasn't what I expected at all - they're planning a completely new look for the cover that wasn't ready to present yet so I will be interested to see how it turns out.

Next week is the last week of term for my school so I'm looking forward to being able to spend a bit more time doing reviews longer than 140characters, although I find it very difficult sometimes to get beyond 'I really liked it'...after spending so long encouraging children to write book reviews you'd think I'd be really good at it! Anyway, here goes...

*book summaries taken from Goodreads

Friday, 8 July 2011


I've been thinking about starting a blog for ages, those of you that follow me on twitter will be used to me tweeting my opinion of the book I've just read or sharing my opinion on various literacy and library related happenings, but every now and again I want to say a bit more than I can in 140 characters!

I promised myself, and some others, that I'd start it this summer so here we are, and I thought I'd start by linking to something I wrote for a colleague's online magazine about the pros and cons of School Librarianship: