My First Official Book Unhaul!

IMG_0037 I posted back in January about my book hoarding antics and, at that time, I had 80 books on my TBR pile after getting rid of a large box full of books. Since then, I have bought a few books and received a number more as proofs/ARCs. It seems that for every book I read I replace it with two more unread titles.

Books I have read:

1. The Maze Runner by James Dasher – I bought a second copy as part of a set and so I no longer need this.

2. Half Life by Roopa Farooki – I read this and liked it, but I hardly remember it and definitely won’t read it again so there’s no point keeping it.

3. Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevalier – another one I remember liking, but again I won’t reread it and can’t remember much about it.

4. Rhyme’s Reason by John Hollander – a quirky little book about poetry and language techniques. I bought it for my degree and it was semi-useful but I don’t need it anymore.

5. My Secret Sister by Helen Edwards and Jenny Lee Smith – a true story about two long-lost sisters. An impulse buy and an okay read, but it hasn’t stayed with me.

6. The New Poetry – I bought this for my degree and used it once, I think. I have read some of the poetry but didn’t particularly love any of it so it’s time for it to go!

I’m also getting rid of copies of Roxanna by Daniel Defoe (otherwise known as the most boring book ever), The Cloud of Unknowing and Other Works, and A Short Residence in Sweden/Memoirs of the Author of ‘Rights of Women’ which were all books I was forced to study for my degree and really didn’t like.

Books I have not read: These are books which interested me when I bought them but I probably won’t ever find time to read. All of these were bought for less than £1 each in various book sales so I don’t feel too bad about giving them up.

1. Brixton Beach by Roma Tearne – The blurb doesn’t really tell me anything about it and therefore doesn’t make me desperate to get stuck in.

2. The Way Things Look To Me by Roopa Farooki – I read Half Life and liked it, but didn’t love it and so I’m not too excited to read this.

3. A Taste For Green Tangerines by Barbara Bisco 4. Lucky by Alice Sebold – I didn’t realise this was an autobiography when I bought it, and I don’t really enjoy autobiographies.

4. Songs My Mother Never Taught Me by Selcuk Altun

5. The Music Room by William Fiennes

6. Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel – I bought this because I recognised the author, in all honestly. I read Life of Pi last year and didn’t actually like it. I’ll probably never read this.

I also have a few battered ex-library books I rescued from a library sale but am never going to read including: A Passage to India by E. M. Forster, My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurierand Free Falling by William Golding.


My current TBR pile stands at 81 titles, so I haven’t really made any progress there despite reading a number of books from the list. This wasn’t helped by having to read ebooks for two weeks last month, however, and so I’m still hopeful that I can half this list by the end of the year!

Top Ten Books I Recently Added to my TBR List

toptentuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme is the top ten books you recently added to your TBR list. I already talk quite frequently about my TBR list and a recent Top Ten Tuesday asked for the top ten books I plan to read in Spring 2015. This week, I’ll list the ten books that I added to my collection most recently.

10. The Establishment by Owen Jones – I picked up a copy of this during my work experience placement and am currently about 80 pages in. I am pretty slow at reading non-fiction, especially if it is academic in tone, and so I’m letting myself take my time because I want to continue enjoying it rather than it becoming a chore. I think that part of the reason why I struggle to read non-fiction is because of the pressure to skim-read articles and books at university. It’s a type of reading that’s going to take some time for my brain to relearn.

9. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – I don’t really know much about this, except that I was given it during my work experience because a colleague thought I would like it. It’s the first in series in which a woman is thrown back in time and meets her husband’s six-times great grandfather. From the blurb, this seems to be a bit too women’s fiction-y for my tastes, but I’ll keep it for a while and maybe give it a go.

8. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson – Yet another one I got during my work experience. It’s about a social worker who attempts to gain the trust of “an undernourished, nearly feral eleven-year-old boy living in the wilderness”. This was a Waterstones Book Club pick for March and I have heard great things about it so I’m looking forward to reading it at some point.

hawley book dead7. The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan – The final book I got during work experience (they were very generous with the books!) this is an intriguing fantasy novel with a touch of romance. The cover for this one is lovely, and I don’t normally like red/black colour schemes on covers.    I may actually pick this one up fairly soon.

6. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga – I actually requested this on bookbridgr a couple of months ago but never got sent a copy so was really pleased when we got sent a proof at work. I’ve heard good things about this book and am looking forward to reading it soon,

5. Hold Me Closer by David Levithan – This is a spin-off novel about Tiny from Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I haven’t actually read WGWG yet but want to read it before I get to this, so this one might have to wait a while. (I received this as a proof which is why I own this and not WGWG.)

finding aubrey

4. Finding Aubrey by Sophie Kinsella – I actually picked this proof up for my mum who likes women’s fiction before realising it is YA. It’s a contemporary novel about a girl called Aubrey who can’t leave the house – I’m assuming she suffers from Anxiety or a similar condition at this point, but that may not be the case. I’m mainly just curious about this because Kinsella is such a strong adult fiction writer. This will have strong crossover appeal, but will hopefully find its place with a YA audience.

3. The Boy in the Book by Nathan Penlington – I requested this on bookbridgr over a month ago and just assumed I was too late with my request as I didn’t receive anything within two weeks. Then this came through my letterbox last week. As far as I know, it’s a true story about a second-hand book with lots of annotations by its previous owner. The author tries to track down the boy and find out what happened to him, and this is the result. This sounds really meta and I love things about form and structure and the idea of annotations and people leaving their mark so this intrigues me.

2. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – This was found under some old boxes in the staff room at work and it has dragons in it. Enough said. I’m really feeling this kind of book right now, so it might jump up on my TBR priority list.

1. Stonebird by Mike Revell – This is about a boy whose Grandma has dementia and his family is basically falling apart. Then he finds an old gargoyle who starts telling him stories. It sounds quite similar to A Monster Calls and I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

These are the ten most recent additions to my shelves. Please let me know if you’ve read any of these – positive feedback might spur me on to read some of them sooner rather than later – and tell me your most recent TBR books in the comments.

Review: Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

simon vs

Publication date: 7/4/15
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780141356099
Source: proof copy

Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of the most talked about YA releases of the year so far, and with good reason.

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Funny, adorable, painfully awkward… this story perfectly captures the struggles of the modern teenager from blackmail and betrayal to a personal battle against a heteronormative society. Simon is a smart and engaging narrator and I really felt I could identify and empathise with him despite not having been in his situation myself. I enjoyed the readable tone of the novel; I’m always wary of letters/emails/text messages etc. in novels because it has become a very over-used trope, but I found the exchanges between Simon and Blue original and sweet and they really worked for this story.

In many ways, this book reminded me of John Green’s books, although Albertalli’s characters are more genuine and believable as teenagers. The mystery surrounding Blue’s identity is cleverly handled – every time I thought I knew who he was something happened to make me doubt myself. In the end, I was really pleased with his identity and it made a lot of sense without being hit-you-over-the-head obvious.

Simon is set to be one of the YA reads of the year and will appeal to fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and David Levithan. This is a fabulous debut and one of my favourite reads of the year so far.

March Wrap-up

I can’t believe it’s the end of the month again already. March seems to have flown past and this is reflected in my reading this month – I haven’t read nearly as much as I hoped to.

1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth – I can absolutely understand why so many people dislike this final book in the Divergent Trilogy. I have to say, I found the story predictable and boring and the ending was highly unsatisfying. I really wanted to like this because the idea behind the trilogy is great, but it just didn’t quite do it for me.

the catalyst

2. The Catalyst by Helena Coggan – I first saw this in the free paper I get on the bus every morning and was intrigued by the synopsis and by the fact that the author is only fifteen years old. I enjoyed the plot and the world is fascinating. I’m looking forward to the sequel as I still have so many questions about this world.

3. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – Adapted from ideas left by the late Siobhan Dowd, Ness tells a wonderful story about coming to terms with the loss of a loved one. A potent combination of the supernatural and human struggle, this book literally took my breath away.

the art of being normal

4. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson – I bought this while I was  in London a few weeks ago as I happened to see a table of signed copies in Waterstones Piccadilly. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer to read it. This is an insightful portrayal of two transgender teenagers who are trying to work through issues of coming out, navigating relationships, and dealing with family issues. I really liked that there was more to their stories than the issue of gender and the ending was absolutely perfect for me. A must-read!

5. Are We There Yet? by David Levithan  – I borrowed this as an ebook from my local library service. It is a story about two siblings who don’t get on but are tricked into going on holiday together by their parents. Whilst this isn’t my favourite Levithan book, it’s a enjoyable read and I liked the fact that it focuses so closely on a sibling relationship, particularly between two brothers. We often see books about sisters, but there aren’t so many which really explore the emotional bond between brothers.

6. The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett – This is a childhood classic that I somehow missed out on, so I downloaded it as a free ebook. It’s a charming story of kind and clever young girl who loses her devoted father. This is a little dated for today’s audience, but a sweet and moral read nonetheless.

half wild

7. Half Wild by Sally Green – I was so excited to read this! I was at work when we got our first batch of copies in and I fangirled a lot. In front of my boss. This is the second in a trilogy (you can read my review of the first book Half Bad here) and I actually thought it was even better than the first book. I’m hopefully going to do a full review for this soon so I’ll save my thoughts for that, but I LOVED IT and can’t believe I have to wait a whole year to finish Nathan’s story.

8. Half Lies by Sally Green – this technically doesn’t count as a separate book as it is a short story that was printed at the back of my copy of Half Wild. It was released as an ebook before this though, so I’m counting it anyway! It is told in the form of journal entries by Gabriel’s sister Michele and gives us some background for the character of Gabriel and some explanation of how he lost his Gift – something that is key to the plot of the second book. I am glad this was printed as extra content in my copy of Half Wild as I probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way to read it otherwise. (Note: this extra content is only printed in Waterstones exclusive copies of the paperback, to the best of my knowledge).

Despite not reading as much as I wanted to, I’m very pleased with my reading choices this month as I enjoyed pretty much everything I read and found a couple of new favourites. Next month, I would like to read more books from my current TBR pile as I didn’t do so well with that in March. I still hope to get my overall list down to 40 TBR by the end of the year so I have a way to go yet!

Let me know your thoughts on any of these titles, if you’ve read them or want to read them. I’m falling a little behind with reviews and I can’t possible review every book I read but I hope to review a couple of these in full over the next few weeks. If there’s any one you’d particularly like to read a full review of then let me know.

Friday Wishlist #3

I’m borrowing this idea from Jane Emily over at Beyond Seventeen Reviews. These are books I would not only love to read, but would also like to own at some point.

1. Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

everyday sexism

Are you #ShoutingBack? After experiencing a series of escalating sexist incidents, Laura Bates, a young journalist, started a project called ‘everyday sexism’ to raise the profile of these previously untold stories. Astounded by the response she received and the wide range of stories that came pouring in from all over the world, she quickly realised that the situation was far worse than she’d initially thought. Enough was enough. From being harassed and wolf-whistled at on the street, to discrimination in the workplace and serious sexual assault, it was clear that sexism had become normalised. Bates decided it was time for women to lead a real change. Bold, jaunty but always intelligent, everyday sexism is a protest against inequality that provides a unique window into the vibrant movement sparked by this juggernaut of stories – often shocking, sometimes amusing and always poignant. With an Introduction by Sarah Brown, this book is a manifesto for change; a ground breaking, anecdotal examination of sexism in modern day society. Welcome to the fourth wave of feminism.

I am a feminist and I love reading about and developing my understanding of feminism and the issues which affect women across the world. I follow @EverydaySexism on Twitter (you should too) and some of the anecdotes and stories of people’s experiences of gender inequality are shocking. I intend to read this soon.

2. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

house of leaves

Johnny Truant wild and troubled sometime employee in a LA tattoo parlour, finds a notebook kept by Zampano, a reclusive old man found dead in a cluttered apartment. Herein is the heavily annotated story of the Navidson Report. Will Navidson, a photojournalist, and his family move into a new house. What happens next is recorded on videotapes and in interviews. Now the Navidsons are household names. Zampano, writing on loose sheets, stained napkins, crammed notebooks, has compiled what must be the definitive work on the events on Ash Tree Lane. But Johnny Truant has never heard of the Navidson Record. Nor has anyone else he knows. And the more he reads about Will Navidson’s house, the more frightened he becomes. Paranoia besets him. The worst part is that he can’t just dismiss the notebook as the ramblings of a crazy old man. He’s starting to notice things changing around him …Immensely imaginative. Impossible to put down. Impossible to forget. House of Leaves is thrilling, terrifying and unlike anything you have ever read before.

This just intrigues me. I love stories that are told out of chronological order, or that are told in interesting ways. I would love to own a copy of this to spend hours deciphering.

Which books are on your wishlist at the moment?

My London Experience – Part 2

This is the second of two posts about my two week trip to London for work experience.

I was working almost every day of my trip and so I wanted to make the most of the weekend. In the morning, I visited the National Gallery which is an amazing building for a start. Even the floors and ceilings are beautiful to look at. I found the layout a little confusing so opted for as logical an approach as possible because I wanted to see as much as I could. There was an exhibition of works by an artist called Peder Balke which I loved. He paints a lot of seascapes and his use of colour and light creates an amazing depth. I have always felt at home near the sea and his paintings just resonate with me.

Peder Balke, Nordkapp image from wikipedia

Peder Balke, Nordkapp
image from wikipedia

There were other parts I enjoyed, particularly Turner and other more modern artists, but I find it very difficult to love paintings of people. I much prefer landscapes, particularly those which use colour and shadow to create emotion. A lot of the works in the National Gallery blended into one for me. I guess that’s the beauty of art though – people see and appreciate different qualities in paintings and art in general.

After embarrassing myself by walking into a Caffe Nero that wasn’t even open for business yet (the confused lady repeated ‘we open tomorrow’ at least three times before I understood my mistake) I managed to find myself some coffee and lunch before my real treat of the weekend: a matinee of Matilda. This was my planned theatre trip and I hadn’t counted on seeing Les Mis earlier in the week so I had a really good seat for this, only four rows from the front and surprisingly central. The set for this show is amazing and the young cast were so talented (the adults were too, of course, but for eight and nine year-olds to perform like that is incredible). The story is very different from the original story which took me by surprise, but the music is great and I really enjoyed the experience.

On Sunday I had plans to visit the Natural History Museum because I remember loving it when I went with my family a number of years ago. I was feeling unwell on the tube, however, so I got off two stops early and ended up walking through Green Park and then through Hyde Park for around an hour and a half. It was lovely just to walk and it always amazes me that there are so many green spaces in the centre of a busy city. I got in the way of a number of runners who were running a half marathon and spent a little time at the Princess Diana memorial which is a beautiful water feature. Everyone is so calm and quiet there that it was nice to be able to just breathe.

Then I made my way towards the museum. By that point the queue was pretty long and I was still feeling not so great so I decided to go across the road and visit the Victoria and Albert museum instead. This was something my mum wanted to do last time we visited London so I thought I would give it a go. There were parts of it that were really interesting such as the exhibition of fashion through history (I would have liked to have seen the wedding dresses as well, but there were charging extra for that – over £10 extra which didn’t seem worth it). I don’t know whether it was because I was unwell and was therefore finding it hard to concentrate on reading the little plaques etc. but I didn’t particularly enjoy the museum. There was a lot to see, however, so definitely worth a trip if that’s your kind of thing.

By mid-afternoon I was still feeling ill and was tired (it had been a very long week) so I jumped on the tube and headed back to my accommodation. I had an excellent time in London; my placement was a great help and I really tried to make the most out of my time doing all the touristy things. I hope to move to London as soon as I can and so this trip was wonderful motivation to sort my life out!

My London Experience – Part 1

A couple of weeks ago I got back from a two-week trip to London where I did a work experience placement. Whilst I was there, I had time to take in some culture as well, so I thought I’d share some of my trip with you now.

During my first hour in London I managed to get myself stuck in a tube barrier with my giant suitcase and annoy everyone on the escalator by forgetting to stand on the right. Not a great start, but I soon found myself falling into the rhythm of the city. As someone who lives in a small village in a rural area, the capital is so full of life and energy – it makes me feel alive, as cliched as that sounds.

I was working Monday and Tuesday but was told not to come in on Wednesday and Thursday as nobody would be in the office. I took this opportunity to do some touristy things. On Wednesday I managed to get a ticket for a matinee of Les Miserables which is my favourite musical. I had never seen it in person before and was really excited to get a ticket. I decided not to go for the most expensive seat and ended up in row G of the upper circle. It was a much better view than I expected, but I did feel a bit distant from the performance and would probably choose a better seat next time. Despite that, the show was amazing. The cast were brilliant and the music is always fantastic no matter how many times I’ve heard it.

On Thursday, I visited the Tate Modern. To get there, I had to cross the Millennium bridge which was pretty surreal for me as all I could think about was it’s appearance in the penultimate Harry Potter film and the amazing visual effects which were used. The gallery itself was good; I spent a good couple of hours wandering around and there was plenty to see. There were a couple of pieces I really liked, but on the whole I don’t think modern art is really my thing.

In the afternoon, I visited the Museum of London which was fantastic. There’s so much to see and read about and you could quite easily make a day of it. They had a really lovely Paddington Bear display which was probably my favourite bit, although it was right at the end and I was pretty tired by then so didn’t linger for too long. The great thing about both the Tate Modern and the Museum of London is that it’s free to visit – all they ask for is a small donation as you enter/leave.

The Victorian Walk at the Museum of London image from museumoflondon.org

The Victorian Walk at the Museum of London
image from museumoflondon.org

It was great having so many museums and galleries right on my doorstep and I could easily have spent a lot more time exploring them.

Part 2 of my adventures coming tomorrow…