Reading Challenges

The 48 Hour Book Challenge : The Finish Line.

48hbc_new

It’s time to post my finish line for this week’s 48 Hour Book Challenge. I didn’t call an end after posting my last two reviews in case I found a bit more reading time but sadly I didn’t. So my totals were:

10 books
2,821 pages
16 hours 20 minutes logged
(14 hours 20 minutes reading, 2 hours blogging and networking)

The 10 books I read.
The 10 books I read.

Out of the 10 books I read I enjoyed most of them, there were a few I completely loved, and there was one I really didn’t like. I think that’s a pretty good result. I enjoyed the experience a lot, and I feel a real sense of achievement looking at my to be read shelves and seeing all the gaps I’ve created.

I’ve also raised £70 (£85 including giftaid) for the Hypermobility Syndrome Association so far, I know of at least one person who is still intending on sponsoring me, so it’s nice to feel that I’ve done a little bit of good whilst enjoying so many books. Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me, it really means a lot.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

48HBC – League of Strays by L B Schulman and Holes by Louis Sachar.

Another two books read bringing my totals to 10 books, 2,821 pages and 14 hours 15 minutes reading time.

League of Strays by L B Schulman. Amulet.
LeagueOfStraysWhen a mysterious note appears in Charlotte’s mailbox inviting her to join the League of Strays, she’s hopeful it will lead to making friends. What she discovers is a motley crew of loners and an alluring, manipulative ringleader named Kade. Kade convinces the group that they need one another both for friendship and to get back at the classmates and teachers who have betrayed them. But Kade has a bigger agenda. In addition to vandalizing their school and causing fights between other students, Kade’s real intention is a dangerous plot that will threaten lives and force Charlotte to choose between her loyalty to the League and her own conscience.

When I first saw the cover of this book I liked it, but as time went on and I thought longer about it I liked it less and less – particularly the rather sinister appearance of the hold the boy has the girl in. This turned out to pretty much mirror my reading experience, I started off thinking the book was okay but the more and more I read the less comfortable I was with what I was reading.

The theme of the plot is revenge, this group of outcasts are all drawn together to exact revenge on the individuals who have wronged them most. Unfortunately this means the group stoop to the level of, and generally even lower than, the bullies who they’re out to get. I’m completely uncomfortable with the suggestion this is an appropriate way to act, and then we come on to the characters.

The five central characters, these outcasts, are all sadly rather stereotyped. I found I couldn’t identify with them, and I certainly couldn’t support their actions. Kade, the ringleader and lead male character is deeply disturbing, even more disturbing is the way the three girls all accept his dangerous behaviour with two of them both developing feelings for him – not the kind of relationship I want to see in any book.

I did read to the end of the book, I needed to see how it ended and whether there was anything to redeem the book. By getting to the end I think I can see what the author was aiming for (and I’ve since read a few blog posts by her that back this up) but for me it just did not work. Not one I’ll be putting on my library shelves.

Holes by Louis Sachar. Bloomsbury.
HolesStanley Yelnat’s family has a history of bad luck, so he isn’t too surprised when a miscarriage of justice sends him to a boys’ juvenile detention centre. At Camp Green Lake the boys must dig a hole a day, five feet deep, five feet across, in the dried up lake bed. The Warden claims the labour is character building, but it is a lie. Stanley must dig up the truth.

Holes is one of those books that has lurked on my “so guilty I haven’t read it” list for far too long so I knew it was going to be one of my choices this weekend. Now I’ve read it, I only wish I’d read it sooner, and then re-read it and re-read it. What a pleasing read it is, looking at the long list of awards it won I can’t say I’m remotely surprised.

The main plot following Stanley and his trials and tribulations at the juvenile work camp combined with the minor historical plot featuring Kissing Kate Barlow work so well together. I was completely gripped and felt completely invested in what was happening.

I loved every minute of this reading experience, I’ll be urging anyone I know who hasn’t read this book to give it a go.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

48HBC: The Vandal by Ann Schlee and The Night Sky in my Head by Sarah Hammond.

Day 2 of the challenge has started well with two more excellent reads. I’m now up to 11 hours 20 reading time and 2,314 pages.

The Vandal by Ann Schlee. Catnip.
TheVandalPaul started a fire.

Tonight he will do as he always does: take the Drink and submit the day’s events to the MEMORY.

Tomorrow the MEMORY will remind him what happened today. Paul trusts the MEMORY.

But should he?

This book is a reissue by Catnip Publishing, it was originally published in 1979 and won the Guardian Prize for Children’s Fiction. I was told that you would have no idea it hadn’t been written recently, and I have to say that’s absolutely right. It feels fresh and current, it definitely doesn’t feel older than I am!

The book straddles the boundary between sci fi and dystopia nicely. It works so well because it’s not a big stretch of the imagination to see how this could be a potential future – the idea of this level government control is all too believable.

I loved the world building in this book, I found I could really imagine how it looked and functioned. I liked Paul a lot as a lead character, his spirit in particular had me hooked.

The Night Sky in my Head by Sarah Hammond. Oxford University Press.
NightSkyInMyHeadStep backwards. Witness the murder. Find the truth

Mikey Baxter isn’t like other fourteen year old boys. Not since the accident.

The world sees him as damaged. But Mikey has a remarkable gift: the ability to go backwards in time and witness things that hide in the shadows.

Now he must uncover the terrifying truth behind his dad’s disappearance. Before the past starts to repeat itself . . .

This book opens with an intriguing prologue and then gets going with the action right from chapter 1. We’re quickly introduced to Mikey, and to the fact that Mikey is able to see The Backwards – shadows and places offer up reruns of things that happened in the past for him to see. Of course the adults in his life don’t believe this, labeling it as delusions or just another facet of the brain damage he suffered when he was younger.

Mikey’s story has him piecing together the circumstances around his father’s disappearance. Everyone has kept many of the details from him and he doesn’t know why, but as he investigates and uses The Backwards to help him he starts to uncover things that maybe no one else know either. At the same time Mikey’s experiencing new things, making friends and finally starting to work out where he fits in the world and what he might like the future to hold.

This book has a lovely, warm feeling to it. I can understand the comparisons with both The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Skellig, I think for me it sits happily at the crossroads between the two books. I really enjoyed reading it, and have already got a couple of people in mind to recommend it to.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

48HBC: An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons and Hidden Among Us by Katy Moran.

Books 5 and 6 of this weekend are well and truly read, bringing me to a total of 1,798 pages read in 8 hours 55 minutes.

An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons. Indigo.
AnActOfLoveSeven-year-old Chris and Imran are sworn blood brothers.

Ten years on they are treading seperate paths. The spectre of terrorism has wrecked their friendship. It has changed their lives and could even end them.

A story of two ordinary boys growing up in an extraordinary time – our time. A time of terror, when atrocities don’t happen in the TV reports about people in far away places.

Rioting, fighting, maiming, and killing are happening here, on our doorstep.

Wow. What a book! It tackles a pretty big and tricky topic, and it does it so well. I paused a few times to marvel at how well balanced it was, you get to see both Chris and Imran’s sides of the story. The book’s written in such a way that you feel like you have an understanding of why they, Imran in particular, make the decisions that they do but whilst it tries to explain things it never tries to justify them.

Structurally this book’s quite complex, there’s the storyline of what’s happening the day the book is set and then there’s the storyline of what happened to the two boys from the time they were boys right up until the day the book is set. These two storylines are skilfully woven together, and told from both perspectives so the reader really gets a sense of the characters and their relationships.

There’s a real sense of peril throughout the book. The opening chapter sets up an end point for both storylines and I found as I got further and further through it my heart started racing a little faster, wondering how it was all going to resolve.

All in all, an impressive read, and one that’s made me determined to read more by Alan Gibbons.

Hidden Among Us by Katy Moran. Walker Books.
HiddenAmongUsWhen Lissy meets a mysterious and strangely beautiful boy on her way to Hopesay Edge, she is deeply unsettled by their encounter.

She discovers that the boy, Larkspur, is a member of the Hidden, an ancient group of elven people, whose secrets lie buried at Hopesay Reach. Before long, Lissy and her brother Rafe find themselves caught by a powerful magic and fighting to escape a bargain that can never be broken.

I’d read enough reviews of this book to know that it wasn’t going to be what I expected, and it certainly wasn’t. This is a fantasy book, with fae creatures and lore, and a great thriller sense running through it.

I did find it a little slow going initially, but I think that was a lot to do with my not quite working out how the various characters were linked to one another – I flicked back and forwards a few times trying to work out who was related to who. Once I got my head round this I found the book absolutely whipped by.

I liked that this book felt original, I think the characters really worked in this respect – they were well developed and felt like individuals. So much of the focus of this book was on the characters, what they’d done in the past, how they were acting now and I loved this.

I loved the dark and twisty nature of this book, whilst I was very satisfied by the conclusion I would welcome a follow up book so I could see what happens next.

This is the end of my first day of the 48 Hour Book Challenge. I’m thrilled with what I’ve achieved so far and looking forward to another good day of reading tomorrow. I’m also thrilled with how the total on my sponsorship page is slowly rising – there’s still time to sponsor me if you would like to, the link is here.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

48HBC: Skinny by Donna Cooner and Fracture by Megan Miranda.

I’ve finished reading my first two books for the 48 Hour Book Challenge. I’ve logged 2 hours 25 minutes reading, and have read a total of 560 pages.

Skinny by Donna Cooner. Electric Monkey.
SkinnyEver Davies is fifteen years old and dangerously overweight. She was named for the fairytales her mother loved so much, but feels sure that “happily ever after” was never written for her. Until, one day, she decides to take drastic action. Changing on the outside is one thing – but silencing Skinny is the hardest task of all.

Skinny is the story of Ever, a teenager who is massively overweight and emotionally vulnerable. Ever’s personal demons have taken on a being all of their own, Skinny is the voice inside her head, castigating her and putting into words what she imagines everyone is thinking about her. It’s when the abuse from Skinny gets to fever pitch that Ever takes the decision to have gastric band surgery, every diet and exercise plan she’s tried has failed, this seems like the only option.

The book is well researched, the author herself talks briefly in the acknowledgements at the end of the book about her own experience having gastric band surgery. This book is no endorsement for such major surgery, it tries hard to show it in a balanced way – it isn’t a magic wand, and there are downsides to it along with the benefits. The overall message of the book is positive and supportive, but it keeps away from turning into a fairytale like the ones that are talked about throughout the book.

I found I could really identify with Ever, as times she comes across in quite a challenging manner but I felt she was well created and I could completely understand why she behaved as she did. My favourite character though was Rat, he completely stole my heart.

Fracture by Megan Miranda. Bloomsbury.
FractureBy the time 17-year-old Delaney Maxwell is pulled out of the icy waters of a frozen lake, her heart has stopped beating. She is officially dead. Then Delaney starts breathing… The doctors are mystified. But Delaney knows something is very wrong, even though outwardly she has completely recovered.

Pulled by sensations she can’t control, Delaney now finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her brain predicting death or causing it? Then Delaney meets Troy Varga. Is Troy a kindred spirit who somehow understands her weird and frightening gift? Or are his motives chillingly more sinister…
This was such an interesting read, I don’t know that I could put a label onto it – it fits into so many different categories. At its very essence it’s a book about life and death, about what makes us human and about how we relate to one another. From the opening line “The first time I died, I didn’t see God.” it had me in its grips and I couldn’t read it fast enough (a good choice for this weekend’s challenge).

Delaney doesn’t really understand what’s happening to her. She understands that she fell through the ice, and that she died for 11 minutes. She understands that she shouldn’t have survived, and that she certainly should be as well as she is – she sees the images of her brain scan and how damaged it is. What she doesn’t understand is why shy didn’t die, and why she’s now feeling just that little bit disconnected from the world. This sense of unease and confusion works really well to bring the reader into the book, we’re as confused by what’s going on as she is, and we keep reading to find out the answers she’s looking for.

Meeting Troy and finding out that he too is drawn to the dying, and that he too was in a coma is an interesting development in the plot. I found I was uneasy about him from the very start, the creeping sense of dread his presence caused kept me on the edge of my seat and the conclusion of the story really made me stop and think.

In a similar way to Skinny I found that I liked Delaney but again it was her close friend Decker that I really loved. He provided some much needed stability in the story both for me as the reader and for Delaney.

I’ve discovered that there will be a companion novel / sequel to Vengeance out next year. I’m already looking forward to revisiting these characters.

Reading Challenges

The 48 Hour book Challenge : The Starting Line.

48hbc_new

It’s Saturday morning and time for me to start the 48 Hour Book Challenge. I have a pot of tea brewing, the coffee machine all ready to fill a bit later this morning and snacks ready and waiting.

My to be read bookshelves look like this:

photo

I also have a pile of newly arrived books to choose from – I’m really looking forward to some great reads. I’m going to blog my progress and reviews after every two books. I’m starting out with Skinny by Donna Cooper and Fracture by Megan Miranda, see you in a few hours with some reviews!

Personal

Hypermobility Syndrome and me.

In the lead up to this weekend’s 48 Hour Book Challenge I thought I would blog a bit about Hypermobility Syndrome, what it means to me and why I want to support the Hypermobility Syndrome Association through getting people to sponsor me.

I have always been clumsy, I could fall over in an empty room without even moving. I got a real reputation for picking up injuries in the stupidest ways – like damaging the ligaments in my wrist picking up a video cassette, that one took over 6 months to get to a basic level of healing. It was only a few years ago that I got an explanation for this, that it is Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (HMS).

The biggest effect HMS has on me is that it causes pain. Currently it affects my hands, arms, legs and feet. My legs are pretty equally affected, but I’m lucky that so far my left arm and hand are far less affected than my right. Every day is different, there’s little predicting with it – today for instance is a pretty good day and other than my right hand everything feels pretty good.

HMS does have some lesser effects too, it’s the reason I fall over – my joints are less stable than a normal person’s, making them wobbly. Even standing still takes effort, having to concentrate on keeping my hips, knees and ankles all cooperaing together. I also experience partial dislocations from time to time, though these feel weird rather than particularly painful. Finally it causes me fatigue – wobbly joints are less efficient joints making it more tiring to do things.

image

The Hypermobility Syndrome Association (HMSA) provides loads of help, support and information. Their website has become my first port of call when I want to know anything, they have answers to pretty much any question. They also have a forum which I have found invaluable – being able to search and find out how other people manage the effects of HMS is incredibly useful, and reassuring.

So this is why I’ve chosen HMSA as my charity to support for the 48 Hour Book Challenge, I know they’ll continue to support me for many years. I’ve already had a few sponsors, and I’m thoroughly grateful to each of them, but of course I’d love a few more so if you would like to help you can sponsor me here. Thank you.

Reading Challenges

Coming Up – The 48 Hour Book Challenge.

48hbc_new

This weekend I am going to be joining in with youth librarians and bloggers worldwide and taking part in the 48 Hour Book Challenge. The rules of the challenge are pretty straightforward:

“The idea is to read and blog for any continuous 48-hour period within the Friday to Monday morning window, starting no sooner then 7:00 a.m. on Friday and ending no later then 7:00 a.m. Monday.”

Originally started by Mother Reader this year’s challenge is being hosted by Ms. Yingling Reads with Abby the Librarian.

I’m really looking forward to this challenge, I’ve being looking at my bookcase that houses my unread books and can’t wait to get stuck in to some of them. I’m a pretty quick reader so I’m hoping to read at least 10 books during my 48 hour stretch. I’ll be blogging my reviews and progress as I go.

There is the option to link the 48 Hour Book Challenge to good causes and I’ve decided to do this. I’m going to be fundraising for the Hypermobility Syndrome Association (HMSA). After years of pain I was finally diagnosed with Joint Hypermobility Syndrome about 3 and a half years ago. It’s a genetic condition that affects the body’s connective tissues, for me it causes weakness and pain in the joints in my arms, legs, hands and feet. HMSA provide support and information about the syndrome. I’ve been helped so much by their services since being diagnosed so I’d love to be able to help them a little too.

If you’d like to sponsor me I would really appreciate it – I’m never going to be able to run marathons or climb mountains, but this is a challenge I can definitely do and hopefully help this charity close to me heart. I’ve set up a fundraising page here – all funds raised go directly to HMSA. Thank you.