Reading Round-up: August 2017 #MiniReviews

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Welcome to my monthly post where I discuss any books that I read during the month which for one reason or another didn’t get the full review treatment. This is a way for me to keep track of what I’ve read but without the pressure of having to write comprehensive reviews for every single book. 

There were three books that I read but didn’t get round to reviewing in August…

Spectacles ~ Sue Perkins

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When I began writing this book, I went home to see if my mum had kept some of my stuff. What I found was that she hadn’t kept some of it. She had kept all of it – every bus ticket, postcard, school report – from the moment I was born to the moment I finally had the confidence to turn round and say ‘Why is our house full of this shit?’

Sadly, a recycling ‘incident’ destroyed the bulk of this archive. This has meant two things: firstly, Dear Reader, you will never get to see countless drawings of wizards, read a poem about corn on the cob, or marvel at the kilos of brown flowers I so lovingly pressed as a child. Secondly, it’s left me with no choice but to actually write this thing myself.

This, my first ever book, will answer questions such as ‘Is Mary Berry real?’, ‘Is it true you wear a surgical truss?’ and ‘Is a non-spherically symmetric gravitational pull from outside the observable universe responsible for some of the observed motion of large objects such as galactic clusters in the universe?’

Most of this book is true. I have, of course, amplified my more positive characteristics in an effort to make you like me. 

Thank you for reading.

This book was a total shock for me. I picked it up on a whim. I used to love Light Lunch (showing my age there) and also loved Sue in the Supersizers Eat series but other than that I didn’t know much about her, so I totally wasn’t expecting to get so hooked on this book. I couldn’t put it down and read it in about two sittings.

The beginning had me in stitches when Sue was talking about her family’s reaction to her writing a memoir, and there were lots of things I was surprised by in it, all carried off with Sue’s slightly self-deprecating, intelligent humour.

unicorn rating 4

 

Klaus Vogel and the Bad Lads ~ David Almond

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Fleeing persecution in his homeland, German refugee Klaus Vogel arrives in a small English town where the local gang take him under their wing. They call themselves the Bad Lads, but it’s all mischief and harmless tricks, never any real trouble.

But then leader Joe starts to encourage increasingly hateful pranks and Klaus has to make a stand for what he thinks is right.

Poignant and powerful tale set in the wake of World War II.

This was another one I picked up on a whim. It’s a short easy-read book which is dyslexia friendly that I found in my library. I’ve enjoyed a few of David Almond’s books before so I read this over a lunch break. It’s a nice story with a good message about bullying, persecution, and standing up for yourself and others.

unicorn rating 4

 

The Way it Hurts ~ Patty Blount

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There may be two sides to every story, but sometimes there’s only one way to set things right…

Music is Elijah’s life. His band plays loud and hard, and he’ll do anything to get them a big break. He needs that success to help take care of his sister, who has special needs. So he’d rather be practicing when his friends drag him to a musical in the next town…until the lead starts to sing.

Kristen dreams of a career on stage like her grandmother’s. She knows she needs an edge to get into a competitive theater program—and being the star in her high school musical isn’t going to cut it. The applause and the attention only encourage her to work harder.

Elijah can’t take his eyes off of Kristen’s performance, and he snaps a photo of her in costume that he posts online with a comment that everybody misunderstands. It goes viral. Suddenly, Elijah and Kristen are in a new spotlight as the online backlash spins out of control. And the consequences are bigger than they both could have ever imagined because these threats don’t stay online…they follow them into real life.

I’m afraid I didn’t get very far into this one. It’s nothing personal, I think I just wasn’t in the mood for a contemporary YA. The writing seemed fine but I didn’t gel with either of the protagonists at all, and all the integrated tweets and social media put me off. I’m sure this will be a hit for contemporary fans, but it wasn’t for me.

AOB

{that’s any other business for those of you that’ve never had the misfortune of having a job where people say that all the time}

 

 

Well, that really is a wrap on August now!  How did you get on?

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This Week in Books 19.07.17 #TWIB

 

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next. 

Another busy week this week – I went back to work after a week and half off, and I’m off to a festival at the weekend. I did, however manage to get lots of reading done last weekend which was great. So I feel like I’ve caught up again. Go me!

Here’s what my week looked like…

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Now: Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention ~ Mindy Hardwick // The Hate U Give ~ Angie Thomas

Kids in Orange is a memoir from a teacher/writer who did poetry workshops in juvenile detention centres in the U.S; about her time with the troubled children she worked with, the work they produced, and reflection on her life on the whole. It’s really interesting and relevant to my job so I’m enjoying it, but it’s not the kind of book I could read all in one go!

So I also picked up The Hate U Give which I loved by proxy before I’d even started it, and love it even more already. Can’t put it down.

Then:  White Cat ~ Holly Black // Strawberries at Wimbledon ~ Nikki Moore

I loved White Cat and definitely want to read the next book now. I also enjoyed cute little read, Strawberries at Wimbledon. I’ll try and review both in the next week or so.

Next: ???

Probably (still) Retribution Rails which isn’t out until November but I’m really eager to read it.

New on the Shelves

Netgalley: The only new book I added was The Silent Companions which I got approved for. It was my WoW pick last week. Sounds amazing so I’m chuffed with that one.  It’s also out in October so I’ll probably save it for my annual Horror October!

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Inspired by the work of Shirley Jackson and Susan Hill and set in a crumbling country mansion, The Silent Companions is an unsettling gothic ghost story to send a shiver down the spine…

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.

With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. But inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself

 

I’m Waiting On…

…Artemis, because… I enjoyed The Martian (but didn’t LOVE it) and I’m intrigued by what Weir has come up with next.

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Jazz Bashara is a criminal. 

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

Expected Publication: November 14th 2017 by Crown 

 So that’s been my week in books, now why don’t you tell me about yours!?

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold #BookReview #Memoir

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Title: A Mother’s Reckoning
Author: Sue Klebold
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 296 pages
Publication Details: February 9th 2017 (reissue) by Ebury Publishing
Genre(s): Biography/ Memoir; True Crime
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.


For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?


These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In”A Mother s Reckoning,” she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.


Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, “A Mother s Reckoning”is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the recent Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.


“All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues.”

 

Review

I was interested in this book because I remember when I first heard about the Columbine shooting – the first of many tragic school shootings to come (in America), in 1999.

I was of similar age as the shooters and in my penultimate year of high school. I was going through my goth phase (Goths 4eva IDST – LOL!) and was big fan of Marilyn Manson at the time. The media was singling the band out as the reason for the shootings. Because we all know how damaging rock music is to impressionable teens don’t we!? Sigh.

Even back then I knew that was a load of bull, however the media spotlight was infuriating but also seen as some sort of badge of honour. Of course that sounds ridiculous and callous now but being full of teenage angst – it was “cool” to be a Marilyn Manson fan for a while because of that.

This book is the account of Dylan(one of the shooters)’s mother Sue. It’s a really interesting look at parenthood, adolescence, mental illness and tragedy but I can’t say I enjoyed it.

The first 20% of A Mother’s Reckoning seems to solely aim at frantically proving how normal the Klebold family were; what such good, normal parents Sue and her husband Tom were and how they couldn’t possibly understand how their nice, normal son could have killed so many people. The idea of normal really annoyed me throughout this part of the book – Sue of all people should understand that there’s no such thing as normal.

The disquieting reality is that behind this heinous atrocity was an easygoing, shy, likeable young man who came from a ‘good home’. Tom and I were hands-on parents who limited the intake of television and sugary cereals.

This was made even more frustrating by the next 20% of the book where Sue goes from describing Dylan’s perfect childhood and the morals and discipline (a ‘normal’ amount of course) they imparted on him, to all the worrying behavioural signs they missed. One minute he was perfect, the next he was a teenager who had made some worrying life choices.

And the more ‘normal’ and good at parenting she was trying to prove to be, the more strange she sounded; the type of parent I’m glad I didn’t have. A control freak…

I thought of all the times I’d called the mom hosting a sleepover to find out what movie she was planning to show. More than once, I’d asked for a less violent selection.

Now, I’m certainly not one of those people who blame the parents for everything, but don’t write 100 pages with your hands in the air saying ‘look at what good parents we werewe couldn’t possibly have known…he showed no signs,…we couldn’t have done anything’ etc and then tell us the exact opposite. Argh!

I was also not happy about the conclusion Sue came to about Dylan’s actions being caused by ‘depression or some other brain illness’. It is perfectly possible that Dylan was depressed – aren’t most teenagers!? but depression does not a murderer make!

In this book Sue Klebold researches what she calls ‘brain illnesses’ (she doesn’t believe the term mental illness is as accurate) and suicide, especially in teenagers. It is researched well and I found it interesting but it just felt like she was trying lay blame on anyone but herself or her troubled son.. I can’t blame her for trying to find a reason for her son’s actions, but I think it was a very one-sided view.

For me there was a huge elephant in the room the whole way through this book. I think working in a prison has given me a little insight into criminal behaviour and how people tick. And the one thing that people never want to believe is that humans are capable of hideous things, without making them evil.

Every single one of us has the occasional evil thought but thankfully most of us wouldn’t dream of acting upon them. Lots of things prevent us from doing so. But something didn’t stop Dylan from that terrible act. In fact it sounds like instead of him having lots of reasons to not act on those thoughts – he had lots of reasons to go through with it. School is hard, adolescence is hard, and his circumstances sound worse than most. As one of the survivors said at the time ‘I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner’.

Klebold does make some insightful psychological points which – although few and far between-  did make this book worth reading for me.

The expertise with which desperate people can mask their true feelings and intentions is the far more important message.

It’s nothing groundbreaking but was interesting enough to keep me reading and thinking. This is definitely a book worth reading for those interested in psychology, especially criminal psychology, but despite the fact that this whole book is Sue pouring her heart out, I couldn’t relate to her because I didn’t believe that she completely believed what she was saying. I think there is a huge element of denial here, and that she wrote this story to rid herself of guilt.

I’m not saying she has anything to feel guilty about – who am I to make that judgement – nor am I saying that she doesn’t deserve empathy or closure, but I just felt like she is masking something in this book, which is strangely something that the victims’ friends and family have said from the beginning. Maybe that’s the only reason I’m so suspicious, but maybe not…

unicorn rating 3

 

 

 

Sixteen, Sixty-One by Natalie Lucas

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Title: Sixteen, Sixty-One
Author: Natalie Lucas
Series: N/A
Edition: Kindle, 320 pages
Publication Details: June 6th 2013 by HarperCollins Publishers
Genre(s): Non-Fiction; Memoir
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.
Goodreads // Purchase.

Natalie Lucas was just 15 when she began a close relationship with a man in his early sixties. Matthew opened Natalie’s mind and heart to philosophy and literature. Within months they had entered into the intense, erotic affair that they would disguise as an innocent intergenerational friendship for several years. Together they mocked the small-town busybodies around them, laughing at plebs like her parents and his in-laws, who were all too blinkered by convention to live pure lives. Only Natalie and Matthew were truly free.

Or so she believed. But when Natalie left her hometown for university and decided she wanted to try to live a normal life, Matthew’s affection soon turned into a consuming obsession.

Written with remarkable candor and grace, Sixteen, Sixty-One is more than an account of suburban grooming: it is the gripping story of a young girl’s sexual awakening and journey into womanhood.

Review

It’s been a while since I finished this book, and I’m still not sure how much I enjoyed it.

I definitely did enjoy parts of it, and I liked Natalie’s voice in terms of the narration, but I found it all a bit odd.

A fifteen year old Natalie meets sixty year old Matthew – a friend of the family, and all of a sudden her eyes have been opened to a whole new world. Matthew draws her in with intellectual discussions regarding literature, art and philosophy, and Natalie is completely taken in. She’s thrilled to have someone in her life to inspire her and talk to her as an adult, as she doesn’t really feel connected with others her age, or her family.

By the time Natalie is sixteen, her and Matthew’s relationship has turned into more, with him making the first move, and her not objecting. Talk has turned from the arts to that of “Uncles”, people who are not bound by society’s rules – clearly all an elaborate grooming technique to make Natalie feel like all of this is special, but not wrong. It left a bad taste in my mouth, as you’d expect.

The book moves at a good pace and covers a lot of ground. Sometimes I couldn’t put it down, and at other times I just wanted it to end.

I really did feel for Natalie. She went through some really horrific times, but there are moments of joy and happiness too.

I think my main problem with it was that it read as fiction. Which is a good thing in terms of readability, but a curse in the sense that I wasn’t convinced by how real it all was. At times I was stunned by Natalie’s decisions, and it’s like she had to keep reminding the reader just how naive and young she still was to justify her actions.

But overall, I have nothing but respect for her in writing this book (if indeed it is all true – could this be another A Million Little Pieces?), as she has told the world about the most intimate details of her young life – even the things she lied to herself about for so many years – and she’s done it in a eloquent, interesting manner.

It certainly makes for a thought-provoking read if nothing else.

unicorn rating 3

Sixteen, Sixty One is available now in paperback from Waterstones.