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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'd Love to Read if I Had A Book Club

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is: Top Ten Books I'd Love to Read if I Had A Book Club. 

I've never really belonged to a book club, so I just chose books from my TBR list that would (hopefully) generate discussion.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Monday, January 26, 2015

Publisher: Dial
Format: Hardback
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A brilliant, luminous story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal for fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world. This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.
I won this book after taking part in the Class of 2014 YA Superlative Blogfest, so thank you once again KatyTraceyJessica and Alison!!!

This book was a huge breath of fresh air. A much needed breath of fresh air. I'll Give You the Sun is very different to a lot of contemporary YA out there even though the themes (self discovery, family problems, first loves, last loves, and so on) are typical, Jandy Nelson's unique voice really sets I'll Give You the Sun apart from the others. I'll Give You the Sun was just as magical as The Sky is Everywhere - magic is the key - so if you don't like a touch of whimsy, you probably won't like this one.

The story is told through alternating points of view - twins Noah and Jude at different points in their life. Eventually, the two points of view converge and we finally get the full story. However, you're never that concerned with where the story is going because the journeys experienced by Noah and Jude are captivating enough, proving that old 'it's not the destination' adage. Again, this is down to Jandy Nelson's writing. I'm not the quickest reader (at least not compared to those of you who can read a book in a day) but this one took even longer than usual as I truly took the time to read it.

As I said, the themes are universal but the characters were memorable. I loved Noah and Jude and Guillermo the most (did anyone else picture Benicio Del Toro as Guillermo? No. Just me then). I liked that they'd all done questionable things (like we all have) but their true natures were illuminated through their art and the way they loved so fiercely. There was definitely a lot on perception vs. reality, as can be seen in the descriptions of Noah's artwork, through the window of the art classroom, and also through Oscar's (Oscore!) camera lens.

The time span meant it was possible to see the twins being forced to grow up due to circumstances both within and beyond their control, whoever they both had a childlike streak that reared itself every now and then that was refreshing. For example, running through the woods or playing rock, paper, scissors. It was also interesting to explore the consequences of being a gifted child - and the sibling of a gifted child. Also, how should parents cope with raising a gifted child? It must be natural to be in awe of them so does this lead to unconscious favouring? In this respect, I felt for Mr and Mrs Sweetwine (great surname).

Finally, I loved the gorgeous, lyrical prose and the way the title came about through Noah and Jude's game. Also the interconnectedness of our lives - this kept cropping up. Ok, they might have lived in a small town so it's not unusual to see the same people, however in real life there are certain people who when you look back seem to just keep popping up. Without getting all Grandma Sweetwine on you, I think it's important to keep an eye out for these people. Anyway, as you can tell, I really enjoyed this marvellous and beautiful book. I hope you'll give it a go.

What's Occurring?

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Pages

  • The year has started off fairly well reading wise (as you'll see here). I've just finished Antigoddess by Kendare Blake, which was a fun read (just one of the many great books I found out about through the YA Superlative Blogfest!) and I immediately ordered the sequel Mortal Gods - in hardback no less, so it must have been alright, eh?! 
  • Currently, I'm reading The Ex-Games by Jennifer Echols for the YA Buccaneers Reading Mutiny Challenge. I am pleased to say, in true Jennifer Echols style, it is rather entertaining so far. 
  • Generally, I like to read one YA and one 'adult' fiction at the same time. So, queued up in the 'adult fiction' bookshelf of my Kindle: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick and After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I also STILL need to read The Goldfinch

Author Q&A: Shari Goldhagen on In Some Other World, Maybe

Monday, January 19, 2015

Last week I reviewed the darkly witty In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen (go on, take a look). After finishing the book, Shari very kindly answered some questions for me, so without further ado...

What inspired you to write In Some Other World, Maybe?

I’ve always been really interested in shared cultural experiences. There are the big ones, like where you were on 9/11, and then the smaller ones, like who you were with the first time you saw Star Wars.

And I had these different characters—in different parts of the country--kind of rattling around in my brain, and I was curious to see what experiences they shared and how they could be connected.

Which of the characters do you relate to the most?

Honestly there’s likely a lot of me in all of these people. On the surface, I have the most in common with Sharon—she’s from my hometown, she works at the kind of magazines where I’ve worked, and of course she’s a fangirl—but our minds are pretty different.

My worldview is probably most inline with Adam; I suspect that he would laugh at my jokes.

Did you put some of your own experience into Sharon's writing journey? Publishing a book is one of the few permanent ways to leave your mark on the world in this age of the disposable - how does it feel to know you'll always have a part of you somewhere out there?

It is weird to finally have the finished product after all the drafts and edits. I actually can’t read my finished books, because if I find a typo or some phrase that bothers me, I can’t do anything about it anymore. I read the galley instead. That way, if something makes me cringe, I try to convince myself it was fixed by the final version.

My publishing experience wasn't all that similar to Sharon’s (shout-out to my agent Alex Glass). But Sharon does have this sort of crazy, irrational anger at her boyfriend for killing it in his field while she’s struggling in her own, and I’ve definitely felt that. It’s awful to have that undercurrent of jealousy, even as you’re trying to be supportive.

What was your 'Eons and Empires' whilst growing up?

When I was a little kid, Superfriends on Saturday morning was the highlight of my week. And the first short stories I ever wrote were adventures of Batman and Batgirl that I dictated to my mom—apparently I was a very early adopter of fanfic.

But not a whole lot has changed, I unabashedly own a whole bookcase worth of comic books and all four seasons of Batman The Animated Series.

What music - if any - did you listen to and did you change it up depending on the year the characters were in at the time?

Great question! When I was writing the early sections, which take place in the mid 90s, I MAY have broken out some Pearl Jam and Nirvana CDs.

The chapters where Phoebe and Adam are living in their crappy LA apartment were very Ryan Adams, Codplay, and Sarah Harmer for me.

I played tons of Tom Petty for Oliver's parts. And, when writing Sharon's middle sections, I listened to a lot of Tori Amos--there's an iciness to some of those songs that seemed fitting for where she was at that point.

Quite a chunk of the story is centred in Hollywood. Which actors/actresses did you picture as the four main characters?

Hmm this is tricky, because the characters are teenagers when the book starts and in their thirties by the end. 

In my head, a grown-up Phoebe looks like Gemma Arterton or a young Jennifer Connelly or Rachel Weisz. Sharon’s a little trickier; she’s cute but not necessarily the first person you’d notice in a crowded room. Maybe Ellen Page or Thora Birch?

For Adam, I’d love to see Ryan Gosling, because, well, Ryan Gosling! But I’ve actually become a fan of Fox’s Gotham, (which is kind of like the TV show in the book) and I think that Ben McKenzie could be interesting in the role. And Eddie Redmayne would be a great Oliver.

Thanks for taking an interest!

In Some Other World, Maybe is out now - check it out!

Find it: Goodreads
Talk to Shari: Website|Twitter

Thanks to St. Martin's Press and Shari Goldhagen. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Mini-Reviews: Too Good to Be True?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I didn't have the full two weeks off over Christmas, however I still managed to fit in some quality reading time and I was blown away. I somehow managed to read four AMAZING YA books back to back. That's almost unheard of! I was scared such good literary-related fortune would prove too good to be true and I'd end up in a book slump...and I kind of have but we'll get on to the 2015 books in a few weeks. For now, here's a little round-up of those books that made me smile and shake my head in awe.

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
It took ages to finally get into this book but I was glad I gave it a chance. It's definitely the type of book that needs to be read over a weekend (if, like me, you don't really finish books in one day). I found the beginning to be a little too twee and cutesy but in hindsight I realise that's just Isla and Josh. They're both extremely melodramatic and over emotional (well, to someone like me who even when happy has to make a mental note to actually show this on my face). They both expected far too much of each other considering their age but that's easy to say when you're looking in, almost from a parental perspective. When you're young, that's just the way things are (for some people). I really liked all of the old characters making their cameos and quite liked the ending with Isla and Hattie - sister power! Overall, whilst it isn't my favourite of Stephanie Perkins' trio, I enjoyed it quite a bit. 

The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
Wow wow wow wow...I could go on. I don't really keep up to date with the book awards - only film - but I firmly believe this book should've won them all. It's such a brave book. The subject matter is far from nice yet I felt so happy reading it. Jude is such an unforgettable character - I just wanted to hug her! Another shout out to sister power too as she has three strong and interesting women for siblings who have the most beautiful names - I need to find a way to use the name Araceli. More than anything this is a big old love story - first loves, pet loves, and that magical, unexplainable kind of family love. A wonderful book, please read it if you haven't already (and if you have - did you love it too?!)

Breathe Annie Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
Anyone who has read this blog more than once will probably know by now I'm a fully fledged member of the Miranda Kenneally fan club. She has a way of taking characters with 'issues' and making them not seem like their 'issue' is the only thing about them. That's a really poorly written statement but I hope you catch my drift. Anyway, Annie was no different. This book was perfect for the new year, what with all the goal setting and marathon training but also because Annie has to learn to not necessarily forget the past but begin to move on and open her eyes to the things that are just passing by. I really liked that this book was set over the course of a year that saw Annie graduate and start college. It would be great to read more books that cover this period of life. I know we have 'New Adult' books but..well, this one was different. There was a romance but that wasn't the be all and end all, whereas most 'New Adult' books I've dabbled in seem to focus on the romance between a tattooed guy and a girl-next-door. Anyway, Breathe Annie Breathe was a great addition to the Hundred Oaks series and a breath of fresh air when it comes to college based books.

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson
Another powerful and moving read. I couldn't believe this was Corrine Jackson's debut novel! I thought it was so very well written and structured - it flowed in an almost military like precision, which perfectly echoed the setting, Sophie's life, and the tone. Like Jude from The Book of Broken Hearts, Sophie Quinn will stay with me for a long time. Such a strong and brave character - the only adult amongst a bunch of adults acting like stuck-up brats. Unlike The Book of Broken Hearts, there was no light to this book but it was a compelling read. It was heavy and cold, as we carried the secret along with Sophie. Even a sense of resolution is questionable and that was affecting because that's real life. Again, if you like contemporary and haven't read this one, I'd urge you to get a copy sharpish. 

In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen

Monday, January 12, 2015

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In December 1992, three groups of teenagers head to the theater to see the movie version of the famed Eons & Empires comic books. For Adam it's a last ditch effort to connect with something (actually, someone, the girl he's had a crush on for years) in his sleepy Florida town before he leaves for good. Passionate fan Sharon skips school in Cincinnati so she can fully appreciate the flick without interruption from her vapid almost-friends—a seemingly silly indiscretion with shocking consequences. And in suburban Chicago, Phoebe and Ollie simply want to have a nice first date and maybe fool around in the dark, if everyone they know could just stop getting in the way.Over the next two decades, these unforgettable characters criss-cross the globe, becoming entwined by friendship, sex, ambition, fame and tragedy. A razor-sharp, darkly comic page-turner, In Some Other World, Maybe sheds light on what it means to grow up in modern America.

I generally enjoy these stories with interconnected characters but most revolve around a tragedy, so it was nice that In Some Other World, Maybe was more of a romantic comedy. I also liked that it spanned 18 or so years. I always wonder ‘where are they now’ after reading a particularly good book, so it was a pleasure to journey with these characters for a decent period of time.

I’ll take character over plot all day, every day, so luckily In Some Other World, Maybe was a character driven piece. As it follows mainly four characters, there aren't many fast-paced, nail-biting scenes but the characters really do grow and mature and that's exciting in its own way. I loved Adam and Phoebe’s journey the most. Both ended up in a better place than they started – as you would hope – but it took a great deal of time, just like in real life. I especially loved Phoebe and all that she had to go through to become the glimmer of the person we get at the end of the novel. Somewhere towards the end, she talks about people sniffing their nose at so-called ‘privileged’ people going for counselling – after all, what do they have to be sad about? – but everyone has problems and a right to talk about those problems. Even though you hear it all the time, that even beautiful people have issues, Phoebe's story really hammers this point home in a most human way.

The only character I didn’t really connect with personally was Sharon. I’m not sure if more time was needed with her or if she’s just one of those unknowable types of character. It’s not that she was unlikeable (as we are constantly reminded, characters need not be likeable), I just didn’t get her. On the other hand, I wish more time had been spent on Oliver. I liked his family story and feel there was more to mine from adult Oliver but there are only so many pages.

The themes were universal and will resonate with many twenty-and-thirtysomethings. For example, chasing dreams – no matter how lofty they are – and also making the decision to re-evaluate those dreams. It takes a strong and mature person to look at where they are and admit things aren’t working out on this road; to realise perhaps there is a need to go backwards in order to move forward again. Again, that’s why I loved Phoebe the most. The choices made by our parents and how those choices influence our own patterns of behaviour was also an interesting aspect of In Some Other World, Maybe.

Overall, In Some Other World, Maybe was a nice and quick read with plenty of laughs and a couple of home truths thrown in for good measure. If you like interconnected character stories, definitely give this one a go.