Save Cov Libraries

A couple of days ago I shared a tweet from the Save Cov Libraries twitter account with a link to a petition to save Coventry libraries (link here)

I’m sure any readers of my blog are probably library fans anyway, being book fans and all. So you can understand how upsetting it is that the council want to close a number of libraries across the city and replace them with self service ‘hubs’ instead. It’s a cost cutting exercise, but it’s the people of Coventry who are going to have to pay. As well as the obvious access to free books (which is amazing) the libraries provide computers and internet, DVDs and audio books, and lots of different groups where people can socialise and learn new skills.

Coventry has 17 libraries, which is a really wonderful thing as it brings books to everyone who wants to visit, and with so many in the city you don’t have to go far to get your books. My local is the Arena Park library and is only a twenty minute walk from my house. I love taking a stroll up there with Little Moore and getting books out for him – it’s because of the library that I started the Little Moore’s Books feature on my blog. We’ve discovered some really great books there: some I’m happy we’ve read, and others that I want to buy and reread again and again with him.

Unfortunately, the Arena library is closing on 27th August. I’m genuinely gutted we won’t be able to go there anymore and am already regretting not taking more advantage of it. I’m planning to use it as much as I can in this last month, including going to Rhyme Time, which I think Little Moore will really enjoy now he’s a bit older.

Our next closest library is about a 40 minute walk away, which isn’t impossible to do, but there and back with a fidgety baby might be too much for him. I’m measuring everything in walks as I can’t drive, which does limit a bit of what we can do together on maternity leave without spending a fortune on buses. Being able to walk to the library has been a great bonding thing for us to do together, independently, without having to ask Mr Moore for a lift anywhere.

It would mean a lot to me if you could sign the petition to save the libraries (link here again) Even if you’re not local to Coventry, I’m sure you have your own library that you love and can understand the position that so many of the people of Coventry face when their libraries close. Please share the petition, share this post or just keep the conversation going. We need to make our voices heard so council needs to know how we feel about these cuts and closures.

Book Review: This One Summer (Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki)

Publisher: First Second

Pages: 320

Release Date: May 6th 2014

Summary (from Goodreads):

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

Review:

This was a low key story with beautiful illustrations to match.

In This One Summer we follow Rose and her family, who spend every summer at a lake house in Awago Beach. Rose is a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, that uncomfortable stage when you’re not a kid anymore but not quite an adult either. This summer her parents are arguing and she escapes to hang out with her friend Windy, who is a year and a half younger.

The friendship between Rose and Windy is sweet, though you can see some tensions there as the age difference between them begins to matter. Windy is constantly looking to Rose for approval and reassurance, punctuating half her sentences with ‘kidding’ just to be on the safe side. At that age, a small age gap like that can make all the difference but the girls have summered together for years and their friendship stays strong through the difficulties. As they try to escape Rose’s parents arguments they find drama with the local teens instead.

I can see this book not being for everyone as it’s a bit laid back. It’s not full of action and suspense and big revelations: there’s just a lot of conversations and observations which give it a really chilled out feel to the read. The colour scheme adds to this too, as there’s a blue wash to the gorgeous graphics that adds to the summery feeling in a way I think a traditional black and white wouldn’t manage.

I found the story line between Rose’s parents really sad and think it was handled beautifully. It was interesting to see this from Rose’s point of view, in the selfish way that teens can have sometimes when they think everything should be about them. Rose sees her mother’s behaviour as selfish when really she’s just struggling through her own problems.

I really enjoyed this book as a relaxing read rather than some of the tense, fast paced stuff I’ve been reading lately. It’s also so beautiful I could just stare at the pictures for hours. A definite recommended summer read.

4

Book Review: The Special Ones (Em Bailey)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 336

Release Date: July 28th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Esther is one of the four Special Ones. They are chosen by him to live under his protection in a remote farmhouse, and they must always be ready to broadcast their lives to eager followers in the outside. But on renewal day when he decides that a new Esther, Harry, Lucille or Felicity must take their place, the old ones disappear – forever. The new ones don’t always want to come, but soon they realise.

Until one day Esther has a realisation of her own – and it changes everything.

Review:

When this was compared to Seed by Lisa Heathfield, I knew I had to request it on NetGalley. I adored Seed and it made me want to read more books about cults.

The book sucked me in within the first few pages with its subtle suggestions that all was not as it seemed – referring to people as ‘the Lucille’ or ‘the Esther’ rather than just their names, which immediately made me wonder what was going on.

The idea is really creepy and not something I’ve come across before. I liked the idea that Esther/Tess knew from the beginning that none of it was real, rather than believing it at first and realising throughout the book. I also liked that none of them knew who he was, that he watched them without interacting, which made things even creepier. The fact that one of them was a child was even worse. The introduction of a new Lucille was one of my favourite parts. It’s pretty brutal how they break her down and slowly convince her to comply with the way they live, and then how devoted she becomes afterwards.

Around halfway through the book changes dramatically, and although I was unsure about this at first, I grew to like the way events were unfurling and all the new information we received. The introduction of a new view point was a little jarring at first and I wanted more of a distinction between whose chapters were whose, but it was really fascinating to see his point of view and reasoning behind what he’s doing.

If you enjoyed Seed then I’d definitely give this a read. It’s creepy and dramatic and kept surprising me at each new reveal.

4

Book Review: Shift (Em Bailey)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 320

Release Date: July 28th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

There were two things everyone knew about Miranda Vaile. The first was that she had no parents – they were dead. And the second was that they were dead because Miranda had killed them.

Olive hasn’t always been a loner – she used to be the school queen-bee. But that was before her breakdown. Now she can only watch as new girl Miranda latches on to her ex-best friend Katie, talking like Katie, dressing like Katie and even going out with Katie’s boyfriend.

And then Katie dies. Everyone thinks it was a tragic accident. But Olive isn’t so sure. What if Miranda really is a killer . . ?

Review:

This was a creepy read that kept me on my toes throughout.

I was drawn in by the cover and description but the book went places that I didn’t expect. I’m still not entirely sure what really went on, and I kind of like that.

Our narrator, Olive, has had mental health problems in the past, and the events in this book make her question her own sanity again. It also makes you, as a reader, question her. Is she an unreliable narrator? Can we trust what she is saying? Is she just paranoid? It’s not really answered either, so you kind of have to draw your own conclusions. Olive is a really relatable character though and I really felt for her home situation and the way she blamed herself for things. I wasn’t too keen on the love story: it wasn’t bad or anything, it just didn’t feel essential and I could have done without it.

There was a plot twist part way through that I imagine was supposed to be a big thing but I caught on to it pretty quick so wasn’t very surprised at the big reveal. What I thought was going to be the whole plot of the novel ended about half way through, and then the same plot almost repeats again with another character (that might sound strange but you’ll see when you read it!) I found Olive’s sudden acceptance of Miranda a little hard to swallow at first but once you get over that it’s easy to see her getting sucked in.

It’s hard to write about this without spoilers so sorry if it all sounds a bit weird! I did enjoy this book though and am looking forward to reading more from Em Bailey.

4

My Breastfeeding Essentials

I’ll start with a disclaimer: how you feed your baby is up to you, and I would never try and say it’s wrong to formula feed. If that’s what you want or need to do then good for you.

But I have to admit, I am a big breastfeeding advocate. I feel it creates such a special bond between you and your baby, and I’m always amazed that I am able to make him grow so much by feeding him myself. I’ll admit it’s not been an easy journey for us – see my ‘Breastfeeding: It’s Not As Easy As It Looks’ post –  but I’m glad I’ve persevered. There’s also plenty of information out there about how breastfeeding is giving your baby the best start in life. I love this and believe the research, mainly because no one is profiting through it: formula makers can tell you they offer everything for your baby, but they’re trying to make you buy it and make  money for themselves.

One of my favourite things about breastfeeding is that it’s free – aside from your breast, you don’t really need anything else. Still, there’s accessory and things to go with everything, so I’ve done a post about my breastfeeding essentials.

Nursing Bras

So this is probably one of the obvious ones but a good nursing bra makes breastfeeding a lot easier. You know the deal: they unclip at the top so it’s super easy to get your breast out. There’s plenty everywhere but I got mine from Vertbaudet.co.uk – they’re comfy and supportive and come in a variety of colours.

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Breast Pads

Another fairly essential piece of equipment, especially in the beginning when your milk supplies are sorting themselves out and can be a bit all over the place! I’d recommend disposable ones to start with as I find them more absorbent – I used Boots own brand – and then washable ones when your flow has sorted – again, I use the Boots brand.

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Easy Access Clothes

It’s not easy to pop a breast out in a tight high necked dress, so getting the right clothes is important. While I was pregnant I bought a couple of nursing tops, but I’m not overly keen on these now. I prefer wearing normal loose tops or dresses, or a strap top with a loose t-shirt over the top – these provide a discreet way to feed and you can still look good too! I also bought a couple of nursing strap tops from H and M which are great to wear at night.

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Water Bottle

Breastfeeding makes me crazy thirsty – pretty much as soon as the let down starts I want to guzzle down a gallon! I struggled in the first few days trying to drink from glasses: once you’re settles in position it’s hard to reach out and grab things, especially if your glass is away from your free hand! I now have a Contigo water bottle with a safety clip to prevent leakages. Now before I feed I make sure I have a full bottle on the right side for drinking!

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Kindle App

This is an essential one for me! As an avid reader I knew my reading time would be cut down once Little Moore came along. Enter the Kindle reading app. I use it on my phone so I can hold it in one hand and read while I feed, which is great for those late night sleepy feeds! I get a lot of review e-books from NetGalley so I’ve been able to catch up on these while feeding.

These are some of my breastfeeding essentials – I’d love to hear if you have any to recommend!

Book Review: Red Queen (Victoria Aveyard)

Publisher: Orion

Pages: 383

Release Date: February 10th 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart…

Review:

I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews about this book but a close friend said it was awesome so I had to give it a go.

I did have my problems with it but I think overall I really enjoyed the read. I like the complicated relationships of the court and the backstabbing and double crossing.

In Red Queen the world is split into two types of people: the ordinary ones with red blood and the ones with silver blood and special powers. Except for Mare, who somehow has red blood and special powers. The idea made me think of a kind of reverse X-Men: in X-Men the people with special powers are feared and shunned, while in Red Queen they rule the world.

Mare was an interesting protagonist. Although she had that typical ‘special girl’ thing going on, which can be annoying, she also had flaws that made her more interesting. I love a character that isn’t always easy to like. Mare lied and used people to her advantage, and then seemed surprised when they were annoyed at her or that had repercussions. But I understood her motivations and I still found myself rooting for her.

There were a lot of plot twists, and I did guess a major one (that’s my book-psychicness coming through again) but there were plenty of surprises too. Although it’s obviously the start of a series, there’s a clear plot for this first book with a really dramatic conclusion that I loved.

I think my main problem with the book is it just seems to tick all the boxes of current YA trends:

  • Ordinary girl finds out she is special – check
  • Love triangle – check
  • Poor girl becomes a princess – check
  • Girl becomes face of a revolution – check

This post kind of summed things up well:

http://snarktheater.com/post/95555236954/ya-book-white-young-girl1-ya-book-she-is

It also felt like the book was just written to be quoted. So many lines came across as over dramatic and too self aware: the kind of statements that I can imagine being better placed in a review than said by the first person narrator. It was probably done to be dramatic but it just made those statements sound silly to me.

Despite my issues, I did really enjoy the book and am moving straight on to the sequel.

4

Book Review: Tell Us Something True (Dana Reinhardt)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Rock the Boat

Pages: 208

Release Date: July 20th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old River doesn’t know what to do with himself when Penny, the girl he adores, breaks up with him. He lives in LA, where nobody walks anywhere, and Penny was his ride; he never bothered getting a license. He’s stuck. He’s desperate. Okay . . . he’s got to learn to drive.

But first, he does the unthinkable—he starts walking. He stumbles upon a support group for teens with various addictions. He fakes his way into the meetings, and begins to connect with the other kids, especially an amazing girl. River wants to tell the truth, but he can’t stop lying, and his tangle of deception may unravel before he learns how to handle the most potent drug of all: true love.

Review:

I’ve not been reading as much lately but when I started this book I really didn’t want to put it down. The voice in it is spot on and you can’t help but fall in love a bit with River, even as he makes mistake after mistake.

The story starts when River is dumped by long term girlfriend Penny and he feels as if his life is over. When he sees a sign for a ‘Second Chance’ he jumps at it and finds himself in a support group for troubled teens. When he realises that these kids have real problems – eating disorders, drug addiction etc – he fakes a marijuana addiction, continues to go to the meetings and quickly falls in love with a girl there.

I was a bit torn on how I felt about River and his problems sometimes. Obviously when put up against the teens at the support group his problems seem like nothing. But I think things like this are relative – there’s always someone going through something worse than you, but your problem is always going to feel like the worst thing in the world, because you’re the one going through it.

River made a lot of mistakes as the book went along, and I cringed at each lie that made his story go deeper and that I knew would eventually have to be confessed in the end. That kind of thing actually makes me really anxious. I hate confrontation so I dread that bit when they get discovered! River managed to turn things around though, with a lot of apologising and making up, and I was glad things turned out okay for him. There was a bit of a twist, of kinds, which I saw coming miles away and kind of can’t believe River didn’t, but it’s all explained in his own kind of selfishness so I forgave that.

There’s a lot of YA around where the protagonist has serious problems, falls in love and that solves everything. I thought this book might be going the same way but it’s much more sensible than that, and I really appreciate it. River grows a lot in this short book and part of it is realising that he doesn’t need a girl to complete himself, that it’s okay to deal with your problems on your own and a partner isn’t going to solve everything for you.

This was a really fun read with such a great cast of characters. I had a real soft spot for River’s sister, who is just adorable. This is a definite must read and the perfect short book for a fun summer read.

4

Book Review: 13 Minutes (Sarah Pinborough)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Gollancz

Pages: 320

Release Date: July 14th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

I was dead for 13 minutes.

I don’t remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this – it wasn’t an accident and I wasn’t suicidal.

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you’re a teenage girl, it’s hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I’m sure of it. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to kill me. Does it?

Review:

This was one wild ride of a book that kept fooling me with each little red herring it threw.

I have to say, I got off to a rocky start with this one. It didn’t grab me from the beginning but I’m glad I persevered as it turned out to be amazing.

Sixth form student Natasha is found face down in a river and is technically dead for 13 minutes before being found and revived. Her best friends are acting suspicious and, with the help of an old friend, Natasha tries to find out what led her to her death.

The story is told in a really clever way so you don’t see the ending coming. It’s misleading at times and part way through I began to wonder what narration I could trust and what was leading me up the garden path. There are several different points of view in the book: first person from Natasha, third person POVs from her ex best friend Becca and Jamie, the man who found her in the woods, as well as transcripts from counselling sessions, extracts from Natasha’s diary, and texts between her best friends Hayley and Jenny. The story is pieced together in a way that worked brilliantly for building tension and mystery.

The characters in this book were all brilliantly thought out and well rounded. I enjoyed the narrative from Becca’s POV, although I sometimes disliked her personality: her naivety and jealousy regarding her boyfriend felt really childish and annoying – the kind of girl I’d avoid to be honest – but you have to love a character with flaws. I really loved Natasha: she was very clever in everything she did and the way her character evolved took me by surprise.

This is a thrilling story with lots of twists and turns that throw up something new each time. Whenever I thought I had the book sussed, something else came along and it turned out I was wrong – I really enjoyed this as I’ve been guessing twists in books a lot lately, so it’s good to read something that could surprise me! I think this book will appeal to adults as well as young adults as it’s so well crafted and clever. I really recommend this if you’re looking for something to keep you on your toes.

4

Book Review: Blame (Simon Mayo)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pages: 472

Release Date: July 7th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

What happens when society wants you banged up in prison for a crime your parents committed?

That’s the situation in which Ant finds herself – together with her little brother Mattie and their foster-parents, she’s locked up in a new kind of family prison. None of the inmates are themselves criminals, but wider society wants them to do time for the unpunished ‘heritage’ crimes of their parents.

Tensions are bubbling inside the London prison network Ant and Mattie call home – and when things finally erupt, they realize they’ve got one chance to break out. Everyone wants to see them punished for the sins of their mum and dad, but it’s time for Ant to show the world that they’re not to blame.

Review:

I love a good bit of dystopian fiction, and this one was a gem.

Blame is set in a world not too different from our own, where you can be imprisoned for crimes your parents committed – heritage crime. Being a child doesn’t save you from imprisonment either, as is the case with our protagonist Ant and her brother Mattie.

The idea of this book really grabbed me and the writing didn’t fail to keep me engaged. It’s fast paced and tense and sometimes I genuinely couldn’t put it down because I needed to know what was going to happen – pretty tricky when you have a baby to be looking after but I made it work 😉 Although it may sound a little far fetched initially I could see the almost logical thinking that could lead to this kind of law system. If your parents brought you up on stolen money, if you benefited from ill-gotten gains, are you complicit in their crime?

The idea of a blame culture is not new to us, although this is more extreme than anything we have today (yet!). In this book we see how easily the media can create and enforce a blame culture which targets and punishes innocent people. I think what makes this book so frightening is that it could so easily happen to us, especially with the power the media has today. Also the mention of the EU falling apart made me smirk as I was reading it just after the referendum results.

I really loved Ant and Mattie: sibling relationships are so much more interesting to me than romantic ones and it was great to see a YA mostly forgo the love interest in favour of a brother and sister relationship. The protection goes both ways between them: although Ant is older and protects him in a more physical sense, Mattie also protects her by calming her down and making her think things through a little more. I also liked how Mayo showed their Haitian background: rather than just telling us about them being biracial, he showed it through the language they used together.

There was an element of mystery in the book which was only resolved right at the very end, and had me on my toes wondering how they were going to survive everything. It was incredibly action packed and didn’t leave much time to catch a breather but that’s one of the things I loved about it. This is a really thought provoking book that will leave you musing on it for ages after.

Copy of an art exhibit

Writing an Adaptation

So, the secret project that I’ve hinted at in my last few writing posts was… an adaptation!

The reason it was a secret was I wanted it to be a present for Mr Moore – it ended up being a Father’s Day present, although I think it was originally intended for a birthday one but I didn’t finish in time…

And the reason it was a present is that the project was a short story adapted from a script which Nathan wrote. It’s a sci-fi short film he wrote when we were both in uni. I loved the story so much – something about it just captivated me and I was fascinated every time he spoke about it. I was desperate to be a part of the film but unfortunately it hasn’t been made yet (I’m still hoping!) so instead I decided to get involved in the story in another way.

I found it really interesting to work from a script. Normally with short stories I just run with an idea and see where it goes, while with longer projects I’ll work from a rough outline. Having a script to adapt felt like working from a really detailed plan: each line was like a mini idea I needed to expand upon. It made it super easy to write and I’ve decided to try a planning method like this next time I’m working on a novel. I never plan enough and it can make writing a real struggle, so I’m looking forward to experimenting with this.

Writing this short story also helped me with giving edit notes on the script for Nathan. I did a lot of ‘gap filling’ when translating this to a story, and that helped me to look at the script in another way and point out bits that didn’t make sense/needed tweaking that I hadn’t noticed before.

This was a really different way of working for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really hope Nathan enjoys the story and that the edit notes on the script help him out too. I’ll probably give the story another edit with his notes once he’s read it and then maybe be brave and think about sharing it with some other people… 🙂