Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Boys Don't Knit by T.S Easton

Title: Boys Don't Knit
Author: T.S Easton
Published by: Hot Key Books
Publication date: 1st January 2014
Pages: 277
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


After an unfortunate incident with a lollipop lady (it's a long story) Ben Fletcher narrowly avoids the Young Offenders Unit. Instead he is told to Give Something Back to the community and develop his Sense of Social Alignment...

Of course Ben does what most teenage boys would do: he takes up knitting. He's always had a Thing for the teacher and it would be a welcome change from endless conversations about Top Gear and Chelsea FC with his dad.

Obviously it doesn't quite go as he thought it would. There is a high risk of eternal HUMILIATION and becoming REPELLENT to all girls. But Ben's nothing if not a risk-taker.

Just ask the lollipop lady...

Ben is a normal teenage boy with normal teenage troubles. His friends are always getting him into tricky situations, and this time it's more serious. Having stolen a bottle of Martini Rosso whilst almost killing a lollipop lady, his parole officer asks him to start a journal which she will get to read when he's finished. Not too bad, right? But then she asks him to take up a new hobby, providing him with a list of available courses he can do at the local college. And that's when Ben starts knitting. Stir in girl problems, a dysfunctional family, a couple of bullies and an old lady, and you've got yourself a fantastic YA contemporary.

I was in hysterics on the first page. The first page. Now that is the sign of a good book! Boys Don't Knit is full of innuendos, euphemisms and witty one-liners, and if you properly know me then you will know that that is my humour down to a T. So what if it's immature? It makes for a hilarious book!

Then it started to drag a bit. I knew one of the main themes would be knitting - obviously, just read the title - but I didn't realise it would feature quite so much. I think sometimes it went into too much detail and, yes, that did make it more authentic, but I wasn't really interested in angora wool or how to knit a tank top. I just wanted to get to the action of the story. Boys Don't Knit is written in a diary format which greatly benefited the story and it helped the flow a bit, which was good! The protagonist, Ben, got into a lot of situations which were so cringe-worthy and fun to read, and I don't think there was any point during reading where I wasn't laughing.

I love how this book doesn't conform to gender stereotypes. It's a rare gem in today's YA market and society in general. Boys Don't Knit isn't that thrilling - in fact, it's fairly laid back - but it will have you in stitches! A thoroughly enjoyable YA contemporary, perfect for fans of David Walliams and Sue Limb.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

FREE BOOKS - FIRST COME/FIRST SERVED!

Last night I posted this on Twitter...


...and it caused a lot of interest. So, as the nice blogger I am, I thought I would give you guys first pick of the lot! All you need to do is pay for postage! All of these books are YA and in great condition unless otherwise stated.

FAQ:

- UK only (Scotland, Wales, England, Northern Ireland.)
- I'm charging a flat rate for all books to make things easier and quicker. If you're not happy to pay this, don't reserve a book. I would love to be able to send all of these without requiring postage money, but I can't afford to do that!
- Let me know that you want the book by tweeting me @MileLongBookS so I can cross it off the list. AFTER I have replied to your tweet, please pay for postage using the PayPal address I will send you via DM.
- Postage is £3 per package. Maximum of 2 books per package.

EDIT: Originally this post contained photos of the books I was giving away. These have since been deleted so avoid confusion. 

So, to recap. I'm charging £3 per package to cover postage, and there is a maximum of 2 books per package. This is for residents of the UK only. Please tweet me which book/s you would like, and wait for me to confirm it before you pay. Pay using the PayPal address I will give you. If your postal address is different to your address registered with PayPal, enter it in the 'Add Special Instructions to Seller' box, along with your Twitter handle.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Published by: Usborne
Publication date: 1st January 2014
Pages: 401
Genres: Young Adult/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Here is everything I know about France: Amélie and Moulin Rouge. The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe...And, I'm moving to Paris for a year. To boarding school. Alone.

Anna had everything figured out - she was about to start senior year with her best friend, she had a great weekend job, and her huge work crush looked as if it might finally be going somewhere... Until her dad decides to send her 4383 miles away to Paris. On her own.

But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna finds herself making new friends, including Étienne St. Clair, the smart, beautiful boy from the floor above. But he's taken - and Anna might be too. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss she's been waiting for?

Holy actual fudge. Sorry, but I'm trying not to descend into full fangirl mode. This book has been flying around the blogosphere as long as I have; I remember book bloggers going crazy over this just as I started my blog, but I never got to read it. Now, four years later, it has been re-published and I have finally read it. Wow, it was definitely worth the wait!

Anna was enjoying her normal life in the US, but suddenly her father decided to send her off to a boarding school in France, and her life was turned upside down. It was tough, but luckily a group of friends came to her rescue. Maybe she wouldn't find France to be so bad after all...

Firstly, Usborne sent me this book... WITH HOT CHOCOLATE. They sent me hot chocolate! And, I'm ashamed to say, it was the first hot chocolate I'd ever had! So, I settled down on the sofa on Christmas Eve with a mug of hot chocolate next to me, and I turned the first page of Anna and the French Kiss. Oh, what a roller coaster it was. For a few weeks I had been trying to decide which book was my favourite of 2013. I thought about City of Bones, I pondered over Ketchup Clouds...but even though I'd only just read it, I finally decided that the best book I read in 2013 was Anna and the French Kiss. 

Never has a book lingered on my mind for as long as this one has. Perhaps this book should have been a cliché - a girl and a boy in the city of love - but Perkins' beautiful descriptions, complex characters and action-packed plot twists kept it from being so. The characters - Anna and St Clair, especially - were just so human. Each person had his or her own voice, and as a book with so many characters in it, I appreciate that it must have been difficult to pull that off. I adored Anna's awkward yet realistic way of being, and St Clair's endearing tone, and  even Amanda's...erm...imaginative insults...but the reason I love this book so much is still a mystery to me. I suppose something deep within me just connected with the book.

I hardly ever enjoy reading about love triangles. However, this one was expertly done, and I was rooting for Anna and St Clair from start to finish! Throw in Anna's new friend Mer who also has a crush on St Clair, and Ellie, St Clair's actual girlfriend, and you've got yourself an interesting love...square?...which will definitely keep you on your toes!

The different friendships Anna experiences in this book are so sweet and really fascinating to read about, as they're all so different from each other. There was, of course, Anna's friends back in Atlanta, and also her new group of friends in Paris. It was fun to watch Anna become more comfortable in France, and it was all thanks to St Clair, Mer, Rashmi and Josh.

After four years of waiting, was this book what I expected? Yes, definitely. I stayed on the sofa all day to read it, and afterwards I found it difficult to speak and type in English, seeing as I had been fully immersed in Parisian life for the last eight hours. It re-fuelled my love of France and now I'm even more desperate to go there! Anna and the French Kiss is an international bestseller, and that doesn't surprise me at all. Every page, every sentence was full of wild adventure and the magic of possibility. Stephanie Perkins is definitely one to watch.

Monday, 20 January 2014

DISCUSSION: Why I Dislike 'Comment Swapping' or 'Comment Luv'

Please be aware that when I say 'comment luv', I'm not referring to the blog widget, I'm referring to when people ask for 'comment luv.'
Has anyone ever tweeted you with a link asking you to comment on their blog post?

Have you yourself asked for a comment and then been told that the other person will only do it if you comment on their blog first?

For most people the answer to those questions will probably be 'yes'. What I'm talking about here is a fairly new thing called 'comment trading/swapping' or 'comment luv', where you will be asked to comment on someone's blog post. You might ignore it, like I do. You might say yes. You might say yes, but only if they comment on your blog first.

It's spam! It's like when a salesman comes to your door asking if you want to buy a washing machine or some other random item - the answer is no, I would not. Wouldn't it be nicer if you got comments on your blog posts just because people wanted to, because they felt your content was so good?

Personally, I'll comment on a blog post if I think it is particularly good and/or if I have something to say. It also depends on how much time I have. Since when did it become acceptable to hassle other bloggers to comment? I'm pretty sure it wasn't a thing until recently. When people outright ask me to comment on their blog post, I ignore it - I'm not being mean, I just don't feel comfortable with it at all. People should comment on blog posts because they want to, not because they've been asked.

You could argue that 'comment swapping' or 'comment luv' helps new bloggers gain a following, but does it really? To me it just makes them look like their content isn't good enough to get comments on it's own, so they're having to spam people instead. A lot of us didn't get comments for months when we became book bloggers, but I'm pretty sure the majority of us didn't care because we were doing what we love and that's all that mattered. If you're having to ask people for comments, maybe you should think about what you may be doing wrong in that department.

Personally, I'm fine with:

  • Tweeting me your blog link if you've mentioned me or if you genuinely think I'll enjoy it.

What I'm not fine with:

  • Tweeting me asking to comment on your new post. 
  • I love it when people comment on my blog, but for them to then say 'can you comment on mine now?' That just makes me think you didn't even care about my post, you're just doing it for the comments.

Before I wrap up this post, I would just like to say that this post was not intended to offend anyone and if I have offended you then I'm truly sorry. This post isn't directed at any specific person and if you have asked me to comment on your blog before, it's okay. :)

As always when I write a rant-y blog post, have a photo of a kitten!



What do you think about comment swapping? Discuss!


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE COVER REVEALED


Wow. This is what we've all been waiting for. IT IS PERFECTION. I only became a fan of Cassandra Clare late last year but the series has become my favourite.

What do you guys think of the cover? Are you excited to read City of Heavenly Fire when it's published in May?

Monday, 13 January 2014

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

Title: Ketchup Clouds
Author: Annabel Pitcher
Published by: Indigo
Publication date: 1st July 2013
Pages: 305
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Mystery
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift.


"I've done something wrong. What I've done is awful. And do you want to know the worst thing? I've got away with it."

Zoe Collins has a dark and terrible secret that she dares confess to no one. But one day she hears of a criminal on death row who knows all about secrets. And lies. And betrayal. Desperate to confide in someone, Zoe picks up a pen.

These are the letters that she wrote.

Zoe is an ordinary teenage girl with an extraordinary secret - a secret that she is bursting to tell. With her mother constantly helping Zoe's deaf younger sister Dot and her father caught up in her grandfather's illness, she turns to the only person who might understand; a murderer on death row. Month by month her story unfolds in letters and we get to find out what really happened.

The first reason for me adoring this book is that it's gritty and realistic. Life wasn't glamourised and it tells it like it is. Zoe is funny and blunt and some of the things she said had me laughing out loud because she said things you just don't expect to read in YA books - that's a good thing though. I'm glad Pitcher seemed to take a risk with that because it definitely paid off.

Some people have commented on the 'childish' language but come on. They're letters written by a teenager, they're not going to be the next J.K Rowling novels. Zoe has her own vibrant, unique 'voice' and I think that is a great benefit to the story.

Honestly I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this book. I've wanted it for a very long time but I was apprehensive because I had never read a book written in this format before. However it was very quick and easy to get used to and it felt a lot more personal as if I actually knew Zoe and the other people in real life.

'Ketchup Clouds' has a lot of sub-plots but they were all tied up nicely by the end which I think makes this fantastic contemporary even better because I hate standalones where you're left wondering! I was slightly disappointed that we never got to know what Stuart Harris thought, though. Did he read the letters? Did he reply? I think a companion novel with his replies/thoughts would be perfect. Wishful thinking!

Overall I greatly enjoyed this book and it actually got me out of a reading slump so yay! *waves pom poms* 'Ketchup Clouds' is full of pain yet full of dry humour and I loved how Pitcher didn't shrink away from dealing with so many serious topics in one book. What a sensational concoction of words!

If you haven't read this book, well...you need to. It's so raw and heartbreaking and real and...just read it, okay? Please.
Thank you to my unicorn buddy Hawwa for sending me a signed copy for my birthday. What a fantabulous human being unicorn.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

My love/hate relationship with booktubing


I love booktubing. I've been standing (or sitting, if I'm feeling lazy) in front of a camera talking to myself since July 2013. Since then, I have gained 150 YouTube subscribers (or more. This is a scheduled post...), approximately 23% more confidence (pfft, that's a guess. Who listens in maths anyway?) and a lovely tripod so I don't have to balance my camera precariously on a pile of books and a shoe anymore. Actually, sometimes it was a pile of books, a shoe and a pack of printer paper, and occasionally a cardboard box and some DVDs, but that's besides the point.

Filming is fun. I spend a little while getting ready (HD picks up on everything...) and preparing the frame and the tripod and whatever, and then I film. In the first couple of months I felt really awkward about it, but I think I'm starting to be myself now. I used to be really careful about how I acted (my grandparents watch my vlogs, y'know), and I still am, but it's easier to be myself. People say I'm funny even when I'm not trying to be (hey, I'll take that as a compliment) and sometimes I probably come across as sarcastic but that's just me.

I've seen so many book bloggers say they want to try booktubing, but they lack the confidence and they wouldn't know what to vlog about. My advice? Just do it. Grab a camera, balance it somewhere, and talk. There's a saying that I live by, and that is, "If you don't ask, the answer will always be no." I don't know who said it but it's true for a lot of circumstances. If you don't try booktubing, you'll never know what it's like. You might enjoy it. You might become one of the popular booktubers. You could meet your soon-to-be best friends through it, and it could become your new favorite hobby.You could become open to exciting, new opportunities, but you'll never know any of this unless you try.

Your first videos are going to be awkward. They're going to be embarrassing, and they're going to make you cringe later on, but that's what the 'Set to private' button is for on YouTube, which you can click after about a month and no one will notice the video has gone... Booktubing is so liberating because you're in front of a camera showing who you are. People get to know you, your voice, your mannerisms, the way your eyes light up when you're excited about a book. 

I love it. But I hate it.

Editing is stressful, or it is for me, at least. I'll pop my SD card into the laptop and boom, files become corrupted, clips are lost in cyberspace, your voice loses sync with the footage and you realise that artificial lighting was so not the way to go. 

Somehow, you manage to edit your video so it's kind of presentable. Ish. You upload it to YouTube and, oh, look at that, it's made the video upside down. Oh well, nothing you can do about it now it's public and it's already had 38 views.

But practice makes perfect. Personally, after five months of booktubing, I'm still learning and experimenting. Some of my videos will be really orange *cough* bookshelf tour *cough* and some of them might be far from HD quality, but you'll have to bear with me. I'll get there in the end. And if you're a booktuber going through the same things, you'll get there too. And if you've never filmed a vlog but you want to, do it. I found another quote (this post is turning into utter cheese): "I'm not in the business of denying myself simple pleasures." Basically, if you want to vlog, do it. We're all supportive people and vlogging is actually really fun when you get into it. So what if you don't like your voice? Or if you don't like your face? Or if you don't get much natural lighting? I hate my voice and my face (I'm actually the most insecure person you'll ever meet) but you are your own worst critic and I guarantee lots of people will love your voice and your face (wow, that sentence sounded creepier than I meant it to...)

Booktubing is good because you actually learn things about yourself that you had never noticed before. For example, I never realised how British I sound until I watched my own video the other day. I also have a habit of bringing my hair forward and I stick my thumb-up a lot if I'm excited...or if I want you to click the little thumbs-up button under the video...

You can see I have a love/hate relationship with booktubing, but I love it more than I hate it... at least give vlogging a try! Upload it, get some opinions and go from there. It'll be worth it, trust me. :)

As you can probably tell, this blog post wasn't planned. It just kind of came out, which is why I rambled...but you get what I was trying to say, right?

Or if you're on a mobile device, click this: My YouTube channel.

What do you love about booktubing? If you've never filmed before, do you think you will? Let us know!


Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Storm and Stone by Joss Stirling

Title: Storm and Stone
Author: Joss Stirling
Published by: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 6th February 2014
Pages: 312
Genres: Young Adult/Romance/Suspense
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher


Secrets can be deadly...

Behind the ivy-clad walls of an English boarding school, lurks a sinister web of corruption, scandal, and conspiracy.

American student Raven Stone has noticed something is horribly wrong. First there were the unexplained disappearances. Then there were the teachers' lies. And now the death threats...

Also entangled in the disturbing turn of events is the enigmatic Kieran Storm - a fellow student with a killer intellect and a body to die for. He's heading for trouble and taking her with him. Raven can feel herself falling in love, but can she trust a boy she knows almost nothing about?

This is the first book I've read by Joss Stirling and to say that I'm impressed would be an understatement. I really wasn't sure what to think when I received this for review, but when I realised it's set in a boarding school I knew I was probably going to like it. When I was little I was obsessed with books set in boarding schools and I wanted to go to one (not now though. Not a chance.) This book was like going back to my childhood except with a YA book and I devoured it!

Raven Stone's parents died and so she had to move to England to live with her grandfather, the lowly caretaker (janitor) at the prestigious boarding school Westron. At the school with a scholarship, Raven is seen as inferior to the other students - royalty, celebrities or the children of famous people - who paid to get in. Because of this, they bully Raven. She can't help but feel exposed without her best friend Gina by her side, who mysteriously went missing in half-term. But then Joe and Kieran turn up and that is when things start to get really interesting.

Raven seriously reminded me of Maia from The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare; they were almost exactly the same. Raven has trust issues, she's sassy and she isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes in. Generally she's just really cool! I also liked Joe and Kieran. They both bought lots of humour to the book but in different ways; Joe with his charm and Kieran with his awkward but endearing personality.

'Storm and Stone' (what an awesome title, by the way) is fast-paced and action-packed. It's sure to be a hit when it's published! I was hooked until the very end but I would have loved to see more Raven and Kieran time! This is a fantastic book that will keep you guessing and you won't want to put it down.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Anything to Have You by Paige Harbison

Title: Anything to Have You
Author: Paige Harbison
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Publication date: 7th February 2014
Pages: 303
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Natalie and Brooke have had each other's backs forever. Natalie is the quiet one, college-bound and happy to stay home and watch old movies. Brooke is the movie - the life of every party, the girl everyone wants to be. Until one crazy night that Natalie can't remember and Brooke's boyfriend, Aiden, can't forget. Suddenly there's a question mark in Natalie and Brooke's friendship that tests everything they thought they knew about each other and has both girls discovering what true friendship really means.

Anything to Have You is a story of typical teenage life - arguments, parties, drinking, friendships and boys. Natalie and Brooke have been best friends for a long time, but they couldn't be more different. Natalie doesn't go to parties, while Brooke practically lives at them. She finally manages to persuade Natalie to come to a party - "Senior year and all that!" - but that's when everything starts to go wrong... Secrets are kept, lines are crossed and friendships start to unravel.

I was really excited to read this. I've been after a good contemporary for a while because I've been in a reading slump after reading a couple of rubbish books, and this sounded perfect! I loved Natalie and Aiden and I was rooting for them from the start, even though I shouldn't have been. They're both really likeable characters and they brought much-needed maturity to the book. Brooke was wild and she frequently went off-the-rails, and it was a bit ridiculous. However, she balanced nicely with Natalie and Aiden, and everything they dealt with was entirely realistic.

This story is focused on relationships, and because of that it was a slow-burner. I didn't properly get into the story until I was just over halfway through it, and then it really started getting interesting! There were quite a few surprises, but they didn't have the 'wow factor', and I'll tell you why; it's because the writing kept changing POVs. Anything to Have You starts with Natalie, and her POV went on for so long that I actually thought the whole book would be from her as I hadn't realised it was dual perspective. Then it flipped to Brooke's point of view (which, I'm sorry to say, was pretty boring), and then Natalie's, and then back to Brooke's... it really messed up the flow, and plot twists that should've been amazing just felt deflated. The book had been brilliant until the dual perspectives came in to play and I think the book could have been so much better had it just been from Natalie's point of view.

So, you can see I had mixed feelings about this book. It was very slow in places, but something kept me reading right into the early hours of the morning. It's just...nothing extraordinary happened, you know? I never thought I'd say this, but I think I'm going off the contemporary genre (don't hold me to that. It could just be a phase. *fingers crossed*)

I'll admit this book had a lot of promise, and the characters each had their own voice and personality which was great as this hasn't been the case in a lot of books I've read recently. I do recommend this because it's realistic, fun and has a darker side that made it much more interesting; the only main issue for me was the changing POVs. A good cop/bad cop contemporary with a dark side...

Thursday, 2 January 2014

A Boy Called Hope by Lara Williamson

Title: A Boy Called Hope
Author: Lara Williamson
Published by: Usborne
Publication date: 1st March 2014
Pages: 282
Genres: Children's/Young Adult/Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher


Dan Hope is an ordinary boy, in an ordinary home, in an ordinary town, but he has an extraordinary amount of hope in his heart. He has a list of things he wants to come true:

- For his sister Grace to go to university at the North Pole and only come back once a year, for twenty-four hours.
- He would like to help Sherlock Holmes solve his most daring mystery yet.
- To be the first eleven-year-old to land on the moon.
- For his dog to stop eating planets and throwing them up on the carpet.
- He would like his dad to love him.

After his dad ran off with the lady from the chip shop, everything got a bit topsy-turvy - from his sister acting strangely (and his mum's new boyfriend even more so) to his dad turning up as a local TV presenter. Now Dan is on a quest to make things right, starting with getting his dad back. But when Dan's dad doesn't reply to his emails, a class project to immortalize a hero seems like the perfect opportunity to impress him. When Dan's plan goes pear-shaped however, it's his mum's boyfriend who is there to help and comfort him. And Dan starts to realise that maybe you don't need to share a surname with someone for them to be part of your family.

Dan Hope is a hopeful eleven-year-old boy whose life is full of highs and lows, twists and turns. Still at that wonderful age where he thinks he can make everything right again with a couple of emails and a guitar, he tries desperately to get his Dad back and to make everyone happy again.

This is such a beautiful book inside and out. I truly empathised with Dan and his story really tugged at my heartstrings. I loved his family too, especially his sixteen-year-old sister 'Ninja Grace' (so called because her words are like venom.) Williamson has done a brilliant job at creating typical family dynamics and I really enjoyed reading about their day-to-day lives!

There were some really lovely moments in this book, like when Dan and his mum's boyfriend went out and flew a paper lantern, on which Dan had written his feelings about certain events that occurred in the story. I'm trying my hardest not to include spoilers so I suppose you'll just have to read the book for yourself!

The only things that irked me slightly was that Dan seemed much younger than eleven. Comparing him to the boys in my classes when I was Year 7 (that was 4 years ago...wow) he seemed more like eight or nine than eleven and his school seemed like a primary school, not a secondary school. On the other hand, I don't think the book would've been as good had Dan seemed older. There is something about his vulnerability and child-like ideas that make A Boy Called Hope such a sparkling debut. The other thing that irked me slightly was that this book is quite predictable - I'd figured out the main major plot twist before I'd even reached the middle of the book, but luckily that didn't stop me enjoying the book at all.

As well as being beautifully written, A Boy Called Hope is funny and thought-provoking. Williamson has brought warmth and familiarity to characters in such a way that only extremely skilled authors can. I am so glad to have discovered such a wonderful writer and I cannot wait for Lara's next book. Only two years to wait...ah, the pros and cons of reviewing ARCs!

A must-read for 2014! Warm characters, beautifully written and with a sprinkling of humour - what more does a good book need?