Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Review: The Boyfriend List, E. Lockhart

The Boyfriend List

E. Lockhart

Corgi, 2006 (2005)

"The Boyfriend List was a homework assignment for my mental health. Doctor Z, my shrink, told me to write down all the boyfriends, kind-of boyfriends, almost-boyfriends, rumoured boyfriends and wished-he-were boyfriends I've ever had. Plus, she recommended I take up knitting."

Ruby Oliver is fifteen and has a shrink. It might be unusual, but that's what happens when you lose your boyfriend and your best friends, become a social outcast at school and start have panic attacks. What else is there to do but skip school for the day, read mystery novels and eat spearmint jelly candies...?

Things that I like in books:
1. Maps
2. Lists (a la High Fidelity)
3. (Funny) footnotes (I get enough serious footnotes in real life)
4. Notes
5. Pictures (a la Amy & Roger's Epic Detour)

So when I opened up The Boyfriend List, I was excited to see a) a list (obviously), and b) footnotes. Two pages in and I had to put it down again, because one of the footnotes came after use of the word "debacle", to explain what it meant, and I wondered if I was going to end up throwing the whole thing out the window.

I was on the fence for a while with this book, actually. Ruby is s a likable narrator in the angsty-fifteen-year-old vein, but I felt like her whole personality was completely overshadowed by this litany of boys she'd been out with, or not been out with, or liked from afar. At one point she agonises over the fact that she didn't kiss a boy until she was 13. These kind of books freaked me out as a teenager: on the one hand, here were awkward, analytic teenage girls picking things apart and over-thinking every little thing, just like me, and not kissing boys and going to parties and whatever, just like me... But they were also STARTING to do all these things, and they gradually figured out that they were just like everyone else. Except I wasn't just like everyone else, because I still wasn't kissing boys and I didn't like the right kind of music or wear the right kind of clothes, right up until an age when I had stopped reading young adult books anyway. (Two out of three of those facts are still true, I'll leave you to decide.)

But, back to the book. As it went on, I started to appreciate it more: Ruby starts thinking about herself a little bit more (with the help of Dr. Z), and suffers some pretty brutal humiliations at the hands of her ex-friends. In between, she recounts all her romantic encounters thus far, none of which have been particularly edifying. The Boyfriend List is funny (maybe not "agonizingly funny", as the blurb states, but funny nonetheless) in a kind of Georgia Nicholson way, which I enjoyed. I liked Ruby a lot more as she started to realise who was really on her side and who wasn't. The ending, too, was abrupt but realistic: even though the whole book is about boys, the ending confirms that there are other important things too.

There was also a snippet of the sequel in the back of this paperback copy, The Boy Book, featuring the lovely Noel. Although we all know I would have picked Hutch. ;)

Overall rating: 7.5/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.

Cover watch: This is the UK paperback cover. Although the frog does have significance within the book, it makes it look like a completely different book from this, the US cover:

In this case I much prefer the US cover, even though it makes the think the narrator would be older than she actually is in the book. The frog and the pink splodges just aren't doing it for me...

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Spies, detectives and girls who kick butt: Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the rather excellent The Broke and the Bookish.

This week, the theme is Top Ten All Time Favourite Characters in Books.

1. Harriet M. Welsch (from Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh)
I wanted to be this kid so much when I was young. She had adventures, she writes everything down in that notebook, she wears that huge yellow coat, and she isn't afraid to say what she thinks. And, you know. SPY.

Michelle Trachtenberg as Harriet M. Welsch, via

(Also, the character of Harriet in The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, another novel I love, is apparently based on Harriet Welsch to some degree.)

2. Arya Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin)
For being the ultimate in spunky girl heroine, and for knowing how to swordfight instead of what dress would be the most appropriate at any given function.

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark, via 

(Arya beats out Jon, Ned, Tyrion and Daenerys in my Top ASOIAF characters. It's a tough list to top.)

3. Anna Madrigal (Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin)
Pot-smoking, free-living, transsexual landlady and all round awesome woman. For everything from her short-lived relationship with Edgar Halcyon to her adoption of the Barbary Lane misfits.

Olympia Dukakis as Anna Madrigal, via

4. Kinky Friedman (Kinky Friedman series by Kinky Friedman)
The fictional embodiment of the very real Kinky Friedman. Cowboy Kinky lives in a loft in Greenwich Village, solving mysteries with the Village Irregulars and smoking huge cigars.

The (real) Kinky Friedman, via

5. Hercule Poirot (Poirot stories by Agatha Christie)
My favourite Agatha Christie detective by a mile. Meticulous and methodical, I am always intrigued to see where his "little grey cells" will take me.

David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, via

6. Nina Geiger (Making Out series by Katherine Applegate)
Nina was the wise-cracking, cigarette-smoking (but not really, because she didn't light them) sidekick to the series' main protagonist, Zoey. While Zoey moped about and wrote romance novels in her diary, Nina told jokes and wound up her ice queen sister, and ended up with nice guy Ben.

7. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling)
There are a lot of characters I like in the HP books, but Hermione is still my favourite. She's smart and kind and isn't afraid to get dirty. And she gets all her homework in on time.

Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, via

8. Rob Fleming (High Fidelity by Nick Hornby)
Rob makes lists. Lots of them. He also bases most of his life on what he's learnt from pop records. "What came first, the music or the misery?"

John Cusack as Rob, via

9. Elizabeth Windsor (The Queen and I by Sue Townsend)
While no great fan of the actual Royals, the Queen as she appears in this book turns out to be a stoical, humorous woman who despairs at keeping the rest of her family in check.

10. Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger)
I wouldn't say that Holden was the most likable character, but he's still one of my favourites, with his musings about girls and life and his obsession with outing everything around him as "phony".

Sunday, 22 April 2012

In My Mailbox #6

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, and gives bloggers a chance to share what books they've purchased/received/unearthed as buried treasure.

Two books this week!

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

Source: Borrowed from my dad

The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

Source: Borrowed from the library

Reviews posted this week:
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Borkmann's Point by Håkan Nesser

What's in your mailbox this week?

Friday, 20 April 2012

Fangirl Five Friday #3: Flannel, fiddles and John Cusack

Fangirl Five Friday is an awesome weekly meme hosted by Evil Eva at Nancy Drew Is My Homegirl, in which bloggers list the five things they're fangirling over this week. 

I'm going old school this week with my first choice!

1. Gilmore Girls
I first started watching GG after The Boy convinced me to give it a go (it was his go-to Sunday morning programme, along with Veronica Mars, which I mocked him for until I got hooked on it myself). I am currently re-watching series 4, which makes me happy and sad at the same time, because it has the best ending of any of the series... but at the same time, I am getting closer to series six and beyond, which is where I like to pretend it went a completely different way.

But can we just pause for a minute, for the lovely Luke:

2. Sleep
I am all about sleep this week, mostly because I am not getting enough of it. I have a draft of a thesis chapter due on Monday, and have been glued to my computer for the last couple of weeks. When I finally do sleep, my brain is full of everything else I forgot to do while I was writing, as well as all the things I still have to write about. I am, however, getting close to perfecting the art of talking on the phone, cooking my tea, reading a book and tidying the kitchen, all at the same time. This time next week, I'll be spinning plates.

3. Katzenjammer
This Norwegian band are my current musical obsession. I just found out they're playing a gig in my city next month, too. Cue much excitement!

4. Eddie's been "Hey Girl"ed!
I've seen the Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl" meme around and about, and despite the fact that the girls I live with (A & C) have a poster of a shirtless Ryan Gosling up on our living room wall (to complement the JLS calendar I purchased A for Christmas), I've never been a fan. I like my boys hairy and flannel-clad. Hence my excitement at this: The Eddie Vedder edition of Hey Girl, as seen on the eddievedderhallpass tumblr.

I also discovered Eddie's version of one of my favourite Springsteen songs, Atlantic City. Awesome.

5. High Fidelity
This is one of my favourite films, adapted from a book I love a lot (Nick Hornby's High Fidelity). Apart from the fact that they inexplicably felt the need to move the setting from London to Chicago, I can never find anything wrong with this film. I watched it again the other night (while reading a translation of Freud's "Totem und Tabu"... go on, tell me you're jealous :| ), and in honour of the fact that this is a top 5 list, I thought it was only fair to include the film that spawned so many.


Thursday, 19 April 2012

Review: Borkmann's Point, Hakan Nesser

Borkmann's Point (Inspector Van Veeteren #2)

Håkan Nesser

trans. Laurie Thompson

Pan, 2006 (1994)

"Borkmann's rule was hardly a rule; in fact, it was more of a comment, a landmark for tricky cases..."
"In every investigation, he maintained, there comes a point beyond which we don't really need any more information. When we reach that point, we already know enough to solve the case by means of nothing more than some decent thinking."
A seedy ex-con and a wealthy real-estate mogul are brutally murdered with an axe in the quiet coastal town of Kaalbringen. Chief Inspector van Veeteren, bored of his holiday nearby, is summoned to assist the local authorities. But there seems to be nothing to link the victims. Another body is discovered, again with no obvious connection, and the pressure mounts. The local police chief, just days away from retirement, is determined to wrap things up before he goes. Then there's a fourth murder, and a brilliant young female detective goes missing - perhaps she has reached Borkmann's Point before anyone else...
This was the first Inspector Van Veeteren book I have read, thanks to a Waterstones promotion. In Borkmann's Point, Van Veeteren, a chess-obsessed, music-loving DCI, has his holiday cut short by the murders commited by the Axeman in Kaalbringen, a tiny town on the Swedish coast. The book follows Van Veeteren and the young detective Beate Moerk as they try and solve the case before the media and the town turns on them.
I liked Van Veeteren as a character, and there is a dry humour to Nesser's writing. His relationship with the almost-retired chief of police, Bausen, was a nice counterbalance to the plodding necessities of the investigation. The subplot, involving the ambitious Moerk and her desire to solve the case before anyone else, was slightly less developed, and at times relied upon the tired syndrome of the female detective wondering if she'll end up sacrificing her chance at marriage and kids in exchange for her job.
As crime novels go, it was solid and entertaining. The brief glimpses of things from the Axeman's point of view definitely added to it, and I wished there had been slightly more of that and slightly less sitting around in the police station thinking things over. The last third of the book, after Moerk goes missing, is, understandably, the most intriguing part, and I was compelled to keep reading "just one more chapter" until I found out the culprit.
The twist I honestly didn't see coming, and it made me want to go back through the book, as good twists are wont to do, to see if I could have worked it out myself. As a result, the book ends on a high note. However, the in-between was a little underwhelming at times. The characterisation was deft but ultimately underdeveloped, and though the various different suspects and details that crop up are necessary to keep the mystery going, I felt at times like I was wading through pointless chapters to get to the good bits.
A final word on the cover of my copy: this trend of rebranding all the Scandinavian crime fiction so they all look virtually interchangeable seems a little cynical and unnecessary to me. And although there is a female detective in the book, given the fact that these are the "Van Veeteren mysteries", and as far as I'm aware the detective is always wearing clothes in the book, the image on the cover is rather odd and reasonably misleading...
Overall rating: 6.5/10 (an extra 0.5 for the twist)
Book source: Bought from Waterstones, Birmingham.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Do you come here often? Top ten tips for new bloggers

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week, the theme is top tips for new book bloggers!

Let's start with the obvious: I am a new book blogger. I profess no expertise in this particular area, but I have been blogging in a personal capacity for almost eight years now, so I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring and get involved! Pinches of salt at the ready, and all that. :)

This is based mostly on things that I like to see from other bloggers, as well as my experience of blogging more generally. Leave me your lists in the comments!

1. Honesty
I like reading honest reviews, good or bad. I like to know why. Don't be afraid to put it out there.

2. Read what you like
I read a lot of YA book blogs in particular, but YA only makes up perhaps a third of what I read. Originally I wondered whether or not anyone would be interested in my hodge-podge of reviews, but in the end I decided I like the variety. I like seeing a variety of genres and authors on other blogs, too - quite often that's how I stumble across something awesome that I never would have known about otherwise.

3. Give a little
...of yourself, that is. I like catching glimpses of who bloggers "really" are, aside from their reading habits.

4. Pictures!
I personally love spying on other people's bookshelves, but pictures in general I enjoy because it breaks up chunks of text and makes things more interesting. Pictures of books, pictures of cats, pictures of hats... whatever floats your boat.

5. Enjoy yourself
I started up Bibliotekit, despite the fact that I have a personal blog where I braindump everything else, because I like wittering on about books, and I wanted to find some people who enjoyed it as much as I did. So have fun with it! I love hearing people's opinions on books and authors and that's what makes it interesting.

6. Learn to count to 10
Unlike me, who has failed miserably at this whole "top ten" malarkey this week.


Happy reading all!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Review: Where She Went, Gayle Forman

Where She Went

Gayle Forman

Doubleday, 2011

It's been three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life. And three years he's spent wondering why.

When their paths cross again in New York City, Adam and Mia are brought back together for one life-changing night.

Adam finally has the opportunity to ask Mia the questions that have been haunting him. But will a few hours in this magical city be enough to lay their past to rest, for good - or can you really have a second chance at first love?

Where She Went is the sequel to If I Stay, a book less than a month ago. It picks up three years after the last book ends, this time told from the point of view of Adam, whose band has achieved a phenomenal amount of success, at much personal expense. Mia, meanwhile, is on the brink of her own big break. A chance meeting between the two breaks three years of silence, and I honestly wasn't sure which way this was going to go. I felt the same about If I Stay, incidentally: Forman is good at not tipping her hand too soon, and this book had me hooked until the end.

Adam is an interesting character, and seeing things through his eyes gave a new perspective on the events of the previous book. His own spiralling breakdown gives Where She Went its backbone, and it is Mia that has the power to fix things this time around.

Having recently read Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, I was slightly sceptical of the whole one-magic-night-in-New-York thing, but it was less hipster cool and more incidental to Mia and Adam's gradual opening up to each other again. The ending comes fast, but Adam and Mia's relationship is explored and constructed in such a way that it is more believable that it could have been in the wrong hands.

A lot of the supporting characters blur into the background, and as a reader I sometimes wanted more than snippets of them, but in the end this is Adam and Mia's story. There is a hard edge of reality to it, which I appreciated: this is less a romance, and more a genuine love story.

Overall rating: 8/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

In My Mailbox #5

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, and gives bloggers a chance to share what books they've purchased/received/unearthed as buried treasure.

Just one this week, borrowed from my brother.

George R. R. Martin: A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire #4)

Having recently finished the second half of A Storm of Swords, I picked this up from my brother this weekend. He has just started reading the first half of A Dance With Dragons (#5), which has been split into two for the paperback release. After that, though, we are at the mercy of Martin's glacial writing pace... :)

Have you read any of A Song of Ice and Fire? What did you think?

Friday, 13 April 2012

Fangirl Five Friday (#2)

Fangirl Five Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Evil Eva at Nancy Drew Is My Homegirl, in which bloggers list the five things they're fangirling over this week.

So, here's this week's five:

1. Inside Nature's Giants

This is one of my favourite television shows. I've been watching it since it first started on Channel 4 in 2009, but the episodes are generally sporadic. This week, a new one was broadcast (The Hippo). The whole thing was fascinating, as usual, and I have nothing but love for the programme's comparative anatomist and all round brilliant woman, Joy Reidenberg. Science rocks. (Says the humanities researcher.)

2. It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

Okay, okay, another TV one. The boy and I spent the weekend together over Easter, and watched a whole lot of this programme. Danny DeVito as Frank is excellent.

3. Dark chocolate Kit Kats

As a kid I would only eat white chocolate. Then I decided milk chocolate was the best thing ever. My dad told me that old age would be signalled by an appreciation for two things: Steely Dan, and dark chocolate. The latter has begun. As for Steely Dan, well... She thinks I'm crazy, but I'm just growing old. Hey nineteen...

4. Mario Kart 7

A veritable marathon of Mario Kart on the 3DS this weekend just gone (yes, we're super rock n roll) has rekindled my love of all things Mario. There is nothing quite like dropping that banana in just the right spot...

5. The Coo Coo Birds Old Time String Band

I haven't seen my brother in a couple of months or more now, but this weekend I get to see his second band play live. (He plays banjo/guitar/harmonica in a bluegrass/Americana band, and is also in this duo as a guitarist/vocalist.) This is a video of when I saw them play last year (extremely poor picture quality, but the sound is okay). Allow me to be the obnoxiously proud big sister for just a moment. I'll stop now.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Review: How To Be A Woman, Caitlin Moran

How To Be A Woman

Caitlin Moran

Ebury, 2012 (2011)

It's a good time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven't been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain...

Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should we use Botox? Do men secretly hate us? And why does everyone ask you when you're going to have a baby?

You know those books that you read, and while you're reading them you want to read them out to everyone around you, including the slightly mental woman on the bus behind you? (I live in Birmingham, where there is always a slightly mental woman on the bus behind you.) This is one of those books. I laughed so hard at some points that my housemates thought I was losing my mind. I have promised to lend it to a whole host of people, with the caveat that if they hate it, they can't tell me, because I thought it was excellent and would thus be crushed if they didn't laugh every time the doleful dog makes an appearance.

The book is described as "part memoir, part rant". The chapters revolve different aspects of "being a woman" - from bras and periods to having children (or not) and getting married (or not). The first part of the book covers a lot of Moran's childhood growing up in Wolverhampton, which was possibly my favourite part, not least because the unadulterated joy of receiving your teenage library tickets (while your mental dog strangles themselves on their lead outside) is one I remember well, just like confessing to my friend behind the sofa that I was in love with Burt Ward (Moran makes a similar confession - thought not regarding Burt Ward - to her sister in the airing cupboard).

I could go on and on and on about how funny and smart this book is, and how many times I wanted to shout "YESSS!" out loud when I read a bit that made me realise there are other women out there who think an extra layer of eyeliner works as a night time look, or who question the absurdity of large (or indeed, any) weddings, or who have been asked one too many times "when" (and not "if") they're going to have children, and who have wondered about double standards and sneaky sexism and all those other pesky things. But I will stop there, and offer up two of my favourite quotes. (If I had had a highlighter and a flagrant disregard for the sanctity of the page, I would have highlighted a lot of quotes in this book, but I don't have either, so these are just two plucked at random.)

"I come from grunge, and then Britpop - scenes where you boast about how little you spent on an outfit... and taking pride in 'getting ready to go out' consists of little more than washing your face, putting on your Doc Martens/trainers, and applying black Barry M nail varnish, £1, on the bus into town." (p.198)

On finding a partner: "Speaking for all my lady friends, we all want some geeky, nerdy, polite and ridiculous mate who we can sit at home with, slagging off all the tossers, and waiting for our baked potatoes to be ready." (p.304)

I say "plucked at random", but that's pretty much my life right there.

Overall rating: 10/10

Book source: Bought from Waterstones in Birmingham.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Lies! Lies! Top Ten Deceptive Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week, the theme is books that have deceived you in some way.

Almost all of the books I chose this week are YA books. This wasn't a conscious decision, but maybe it says something about my feelings towards YA covers in particular! Some of these books were deceiving based on their descriptions, or the hype surrounding them, but overall I went for cover design.

Note: I know that the UK covers quite often differ from those in other locations, so I've included the ones I'm talking about in case anyone is interested in the differences.

1. I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls #1) by Ally Carter

I HATE the covers for these books. I first spotted one of these when in a bookshop with my brother, and we marvelled at how trashy and soft-porn-schoolgirl they were. I read a number of positive reviews, and eventually bought one on sale, but although I quite enjoyed the book, and wouldn't rule out reading the rest of the series, I still think the covers are hideous.

2. The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld

It's actually the title, more than anything, that I found deceptive here. I read Prep, and loved it, and picked this up in the library after some hesitation over the cheesy, romance novel title. I found the book a lot better than the title (and the cover) suggest.

3. The Princess Diaries (series) by Meg Cabot

Pink and sparkly and cartoony and, in the case of a couple I have borrowed from the library, plastered with competitions to win pink, sparkly things. I thought these were going to be juvenile and asinine, but after reading one while I was ill (and having watched the film, which I enjoyed), I promptly went back for more. A lot cleverer and enjoyable than the covers suggest.

4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I really, really disliked this book, but it came highly recommended and with great acclaim, so I picked it up and gave it a go. The description didn't give me any clue as to what the book would be like, and when it descended into some kind of mad fantasy I lost the will to live.

5. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The cover of this book has never fitted with the story, for me. I never imagined Rory to look like the girl on the cover, and I just feel like the story - ghosts! London! Jack the Ripper! - could have been better represented, instead of looking like a nondescript paranormal romance type thing. (I am not a huge fan of covers with people on them, though, so that might be it.)

6. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

It was the description of this book that deceived me completely. I was expecting one thing, and got something entirely - and wonderfully - different. (Review here.)

7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I picked up this book after reading endless five star reviews. This is a favourite book of mine, and I found it smart and funny and romantic in just the right way, but the cover has never really done it for me. To look at, it does the story a great injustice, by making it look a lot like a second rate romance, rather than much, much more!

8. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

So, forget what I said for a minute about not liking covers with people on them. The US cover for TSITP made it look intriguing and summery and I wanted to read it immediately. I requested this book from the library and was surprised to see the cover when I picked it up. Compared to the original cover, it just looks kind of tacky and cheap, and much more childish. Had I seen this on the shelf, I would never have picked it up. (Review here.)

9. Uglies / Pretties (Uglies #1 and #2) by Scott Westerfeld

After seeing the covers of these books, and reading the descriptions, I was expecting much more interrogation of the beauty standards propagated in the books. For me, this was what was lacking in this series - everyone wants to be pretty, but it just seems to be a backdrop to a lot of the action in the end. These covers suggested otherwise. (Reviews here and here.)

10. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Mostly for the red shoe. :) (Review here.)

Things have been pretty quiet in the last few days, mostly because of the Easter break and having the boy to visit :) There are a couple of reviews upcoming in the next few days, though, and I have a lot of blog reading to catch up on!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Review: If I Stay, Gayle Forman

If I Stay

Gayle Forman

Doubleday (2009)

Life can change in an instant.

A cold February morning... a snowy road... and suddenly all of Mia's choices are gone.

Except one.

As alone as she'll ever be, Mia must make the most difficult choice of all.

If I Stay came highly recommended, but even though I had seen a number of positive reviews, I had never actually realised what the book what about until I started reading. When I did start reading, I didn't stop until I got to the end.

If I Stay is a short book, but a powerful and compelling one. The concept -- that Mia is essentially debating a choice between life and death -- had me hooked from the get go. Often I find flashbacks frustrating, but in this case they made the book, creating a balance between the present, in which life is seemingly suspended, and the past, which is full of life and all those ordinary (and not so ordinary) moments that make it all worthwhile. I also thought that the indecision Mia is facing in the more recent flashbacks, regarding her future and her relationship with Adam, added another interesting layer to the whole book.

I liked that Mia's choice was never a straightforward one, and that Forman doesn't really tip her hand with regards to what the outcome will be. There were a couple of teary moments for me: the last few pages were certainly heartwrenching, but there's also a moment earlier on between Mia and her grandfather that pushed me over the edge, too. Yet I didn't spend the whole book crying, or feeling depressed. There is a lot of happiness and vivacity to the novel that balances out the heartbreaking decision at the centre of it. The writing was spot on -- poignant when it needed to be, without being overly sappy or dramatic -- and I look forward to reading more of Forman's novels in the future.

(However, although I have Where She Went on my bookshelf currently, after the emotional rollercoaster of If I Stay, I couldn't move straight on to it, and had to pick something else up instead...)

Overall rating: 8.5/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.

Although books don't normally remind me of songs, or vice versa, after finishing If I Stay I was reminded strongly of some of my favourite lyrics from one of my favourite Eddie Vedder songs, Guaranteed:

Don't come closer or I'll have to go
Holding me like gravity are places that pull
If ever there was someone to keep me at home
It would be you

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Ready, Steady, Read: Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is: Top Ten Books to Read in a Day.

When compiling this list, I first off all wrote down all the books that I have read in one day in the recent past, but then I realised that a lot of these books were simply short, rather than edge-of-your-seat page turners. So instead, this is a list of books that had me racing through the pages as fast as I possibly could. Some of them I did read in a day, others it took me a little longer (hello, real life), but all of them had me promising myself "just one more chapter before bed"!

1. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
I read this book this weekend, in the space of an evening. It was short, but it was also one that I couldn't tear myself away from until I found out what Mia would decide at the end. (Review forthcoming.)

2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
I waited a long time to read this book, and was prepared to be disappointed after reading all the five star reviews beforehand. But I was obsessed with this book as soon as I started it. I remember tweeting at the time that I was stuck between wanting to finish it, and not wanting to finish it so I could make it last longer. Stephanie Perkins replied that that was a pretty excellent dilemma to be faced with.

3. Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin
I received this book for Christmas a couple of years ago. As the long awaited addition to the Tales series, I had been waiting (im)patiently for MAiA for a long time, and devoured most of it in the time it took everyone else to eat the leftover turkey.

4. The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
I bought this huge book in a charity shop, took it home, and dove in. I didn't expect it to be so good, or so difficult to put down. The book is incredibly atmospheric, and those hours I spent with my head buried in it made me feel like I was almost there in the stifling heat of the Deep South with Harriet and her aunts.

5. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
A nice feel-good story about a group of high school kids falling in love and learning to express themselves. Boy Meets Boy is set in a small town where being gay (or being football captain and drag queen simultaneously) is ordinary, and so unremarkable compared to Paul's burgeoning relationship with new boy Noah, and all their ups and downs and their quest for a happy ending.

6. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
This took me a few evenings to read, but it was a struggle to put it down every time! This is one of my favourite reads of the year so far, and I was completely drawn in to Amy's cross-country adventure with Roger as they both try and sort out some pretty big events in their lives. (Plus: maps and pictures and track lists = extra slices of awesome.) (Review.)

7. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling
I don't recall which Harry Potter book I read the fastest, but I don't think you can ever quite beat the magic of the first one. That's not to say that it's necessarily my favourite, but that Harry finding out he's a wizard--and his escape from his horrible home life--is one of my favourite parts of the series, akin to the Narnia moment of finding the magic wardrobe and discovering a whole new world. Philosopher's Stone is the one that draws me in every time.

8. Looking For Alaska by John Green
The first John Green novel I read, and still my favourite. Another one that came highly recommended and more than lived up to its promise. There was something utterly compelling about this story, even as it hurtled towards the "after".

9. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Intricate and absorbing, American Wife had me hooked from start to finish. One of those books that as soon as you finish it, you want enough time to have elapsed that you can go back and read it all over again.

10. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
This was another Sunday afternoon blitz read. Not an instant favourite, but a book that appealed to my inner teenager, and took me back to being fourteen and reading for hours on end in my room as I sought out the ending I wanted. (Review.)

Special mention must go to my current read, How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, which I am speeding through and loving every minute of.

What's in your top ten? Have you read any of these? Leave me your links and let me know what you think!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Review: It's Kind of a Funny Story, Ned Vizzini

It's Kind of a Funny Story

Ned Vizzini

Hyperion, 2010 (2006)

Ambitious teen Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life--which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job. He accomplishes step one by getting into Manhattan's extremely selective Executive Pre-Professional High School. And that's when things start to get crazy.

At Craig's new school, the pressure is unbearable. There, he's just average, and maybe not even that. He sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. Craig stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig's suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and a recovering garbage-head named Bobby who needs his help. There, isolated from the crushing stresses of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

Craig is a teenage boy in the mould of the slightly uncool, unlucky with girls type who eventually wins out. Except Craig's life is in the process of unravelling, and the stresses of his high pressure new school, coupled with everything else, sees him checked into an adult psychiatric facility. The majority of the book deals with Craig's experience in the hospital, the people he meets, and how he slowly manages to piece things back together and figure out the path that's right for him.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Vizzini's own brief time in a psychiatric unit lends the story some authenticity, and Craig's spiralling anxieties were entirely believable. There are some dark moments, particularly when Craig decides he's going to kill himself, but for the most part I found the book to be overwhelmingly positive. Craig's small steps towards recovery--or rather, towards "managing" rather than "curing" his depression--came as a relief to Craig, but also to me as a reader, as the difference in tone starts to turn the story around.

However, although I liked the book, there was something missing in it for me. I can't quite put my finger on it, but perhaps I didn't quite connect with Craig, and once he is in the hospital a lot of the conflict goes away, or is easily solved. It's a nice tale about growing up and dealing with what life throws at you, but in the end it seemed a little bit too Hollywood and not enough real life (even given the experiences of the author). Enjoyable, but just not enough depth.

Overall rating: 6/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

In My Mailbox #4

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, and gives bloggers a chance to share what books they've purchased/received/dug up as buried treasure.

This week, I just have one new book:

Gayle Forman - If I Stay

A couple of weeks ago I posted about getting a copy of Forman's Where She Went from the library, and wondering whether it was okay to read it without reading If I Stay first. Thanks to some advice from Melissa and Hilda, I decided to hold off until I could get hold of If I Stay. I picked it up from the library today, and I'm excited to get started!

What's in your mailbox this week? Leave me your links!