Archive for November, 2017

#SchoolLibrarySanta

Are you passionate about sharing your love of reading?
Are you able to add another christmas gift to your festive shopping list?
Do you curate a school/class/ward library which could benefit for some new (to you) books?

After hearing about teachers and librarians funding their libraries with their own money, Caroline and Faye decided that we wanted to do something to help; making sure that every child has access to books. Inspired by the upcoming festive season and the many bookish Secret Santa’s going on which demonstrates the generosity of the book community, they have created a platform to connect libraries with potential Santas.

#SchoolLibrarySanta

Every library which signs up for the scheme will get an individual dedicated page which will list their wishlists. The Santas can then browse libraries by geographic location or specific titles by author. Once a Santa has selected a library, they can comment on the post with which book they would like to provide. #SchoolLibrarySanta will then contact the Santa and provide them with the library’s mailing address. Once a book has been pledged to the library, it will be removed from their wishlist to avoid duplicate copies being sent unnecessarily.

Books do not need to be new copies. Good quality second hand books from smoke free environments are also welcomed . Please no proof copies.

Visit www.schoollibrarysanta.wordpress.com for more information, to sign up a library or to gift a book or two.

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Two Ticks Tuesday; Am I Normal Yet?

Holly Bourne
All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…
But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

I love Holly’s writing. She deftly manages to combine the struggle of living with a long term condition, and a heartbreaking crisis with loveable characters and snort out loud humour.

Holly’s book deals with friendships and relationships like the older, wiser sister every woman wishes she had had to guide her through her teen years and young adulthood.

Really informative and thought provoking. A gripping first person insight in to OCD.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Usborne
Publication Date: August 2015
Format: ebook
Pages: 448
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own copy
Challenge: None
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Two Ticks Tuesday; It Only Happens in the Movies

Holly Bourne
Audrey is over romance. Since her parents’ relationship imploded her mother’s been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn’t mean things are easy. Because real love isn’t like the movies…
The greatest love story ever told doesn’t feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clichés. Oh, and zombies… YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel.

I would highly recommend this book! It was so, so good. Full of movie cliche’s, feminism, friendship, first loves, relationships, family life, etc. It was rich, raw and honest and I love how strong and vulnerable Holly made all of the characters. I especially loved Audrey’s support unit. This book is going on my favourites of the year shelf for sure!

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Usborne
Publication Date: October 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Challenge: None

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Two Ticks Tuesday; Witch Born

Nicholas Bowling
It’s 1577. Queen Elizabeth I has imprisoned scheming Mary Queen of Scots, and Alyce’s mother is burned at the stake for witchcraft. Alyce kills the witchfinder and flees to London – but the chase isn’t over yet. As she discovers her own dark magic, powerful political forces are on her trail. She can’t help but wonder: why is she so important? Soon she finds herself deep in a secret battle between rival queens, the fate of England resting on her shoulders…

This was a perfect autumnal read, sitting warm and cosy under a blanket while our protagonist, Alyce found herself in ever more uncomfortable (usually cold and wet) and dangerous situations.

I really enjoyed how Bowling played with history, taking a very real and very tense political situation and very recognizable historical figures and deftly overlaying the fantasy elements of his story.

While I did studying the period way back when I was in school, it is a time I have spent very little time exploring in literature. I came away with a better sense of the period, of its struggles and general unpleasantness. Though I enjoyed my time visiting Bowling’s Elizabethan England I am very glad I don’t live there!

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Chicken House
Publication Date: September 2017
Format: ARC
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical, Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut author

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Two Ticks Tuesday; Turtles All The Way Down

John Green
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

A lot of people are praising this book and I can definitely see why. I really did like this book but it was probably a 3.5/4 star book for me as opposed to a big 5 star read.

I liked a lot of the things that happened but I also really disliked a few things too. A bit swings and roundabouts!

What was good about the book is that it made me THINK and you can find more of my thoughts here.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: October 2017
Format: Hardback
Pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source:
Challenge: None
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Christmas at Woolworths

Elaine Everest
Even though there was a war on, the Woolworths girls brought Christmas cheer to their customers.
Best friends Sarah, Maisie and Freda are brought together by their jobs at Woolworths. With their loved ones away on the front line, their bonds of friendship strengthen each day. Betty Billington is the manager at Woolworths, and a rock for the girls, having given up on love . . . Until a mysterious stranger turns up one day – could he reignite a spark in Betty?
As the year draws to a close, and Christmas approaches, the girls must rely on each other to navigate the dark days that lie ahead . . .
With so much change, can their friendship survive the war?

Excerpt

June 1942

Sitting astride the powerful motorbike, Freda Smith removed a large leather gauntlet from her hand in order to pull tight-fitting goggles from her eyes. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand and yawned. Although only the first day of June, the air was sultry and not a day for being covered from head to toe in a heavyweight motorcycle uniform. Freda felt sweaty and would have loved nothing more than to pull off her jacket and feel the wind on her skin as she sped through Kent towards her destination. It had been a long day and no doubt many hours lay ahead before she would see her bed. Gazing towards an angry orange glow that could be seen even in the afternoon sky, she knew her journey was almost at an end. She was close to Canterbury.

Freda had always thought the notion of travelling to Canterbury appealing and she’d planned to visit this famous city just as the pilgrims had done centuries before her. Never in a million years did she believe her trip would be to carry important orders to the Fire Service when Canterbury was under threat from the Luftwaffe. Ahead of her now was a city decimated by enemy action. As a volunteer dispatch rider for the Aux¬iliary Fire Service Freda had longed for excitement, but she now realized that what lay ahead was death and destruction for this beautiful Kentish city and many of the people who lived there. After nearly three years would this terrible war never end?

Freda fervently wished she was back behind her coun¬ter at Erith Woolworths, selling the popular Mighty Midget books and Lumar jigsaws that not only enter¬tained the families but gave youngsters something to concentrate on during long nights when the country was under fire from the enemy. Life seemed so much easier then, even though she was often on fire-watch duties and had to sleep in her landlady’s Anderson shelter on many occasions. Knowing how lucky she was had made Freda yearn to do more to help this beastly war come to an end. She wondered what she’d discover when she reached the city walls. How would she find the fire sta¬tion, where she was supposed to report once she reached Canterbury? Fear urged Freda to turn back and not get any closer to the burning city.

The petite young woman gave herself a silent talking-to. Her job was important and lives depended on her handing over the instructions tucked safely inside the breast pocket of her uniform jacket. She was lucky to be able to work both at Woolies and be a volunteer in the Auxiliary Fire Service. Many people did not have a choice. Freda pulled the goggles back over her eyes and, slipping her small hand back into the gauntlet, she fired up the powerful Triumph motorbike. The bike had been assigned to her when she had completed her training only two weeks ago. Another fifteen minutes and she would reach her destination. Once her duties were com¬plete Freda could do something about the worry that had been nagging at the back of her mind since she left Erith fire station. She would be able to look for her friends. The best place to start her search would be Woolworths. Surely someone could point her in the right direction?

‘Thank you,’ Freda said, as she was handed a tin mug containing piping hot cocoa along with a sandwich by one of the WVS ladies who were dispensing refreshments from a large van to the fire fighters, soldiers and the many civilians valiantly working to find those injured in the destruction of a once noble city and to dampen down the flames from incendiary bombs. Try as she might, Freda couldn’t quite block out the sound of ambulance bells and the shouts for ‘quiet’ as men nearby dug with their bare hands, searching for people trapped in the rubble of what was until recently street upon street of fine shops.

‘You look exhausted, love. Can you find somewhere to put your head down for a while before you head off again?’ a WVS woman said as she wiped the counter.

Freda, who would have liked nothing more than to close her eyes and sleep for a few hours to ease her aching body after the long journey across Kent, smiled at the kindly woman. ‘No, thank you all the same; I need to find my friends and put my mind at rest. Once I know they are safe I can head back home to Erith. Would you happen to know the best way to reach Woolworths? I’m sure staff there will be on fire watch duties and hopefully they can tell me where my friends are.’

The woman stopped and thought for a moment. ‘I do believe that Woolworths is a couple of streets from here, but the road’s been blocked off as there’s an unexploded bomb. I doubt you’d get there anyway, what with so many shops and houses having been bombed. There’s nothing but rubble. Hang on, I’ll check with one of my ladies. She’s a local and may know more than I do.’

Freda nodded her thanks and bit hungrily into the Spam sandwich while she waited for the woman to return. It had been an age since she’d last eaten, but the grey National bread with its scraping of margarine and thin slice of Spam tasted like a feast fit for a king. Since arriving in Erith from the Midlands at the end of 1938, Freda had come to enjoy her food after most of her childhood was spent going without. Her landlady, and grandmother to her best friend Sarah Gilbert, was a wonderful cook and Freda reckoned her mutton stews, fluffy dumplings and steak and kidney puddings wouldn’t look out of place on the tables of any posh London hotel. Even with rationing taking a grip on the nation’s food supplies, Ruby Caselton could be relied upon to conjure up a tasty meal for any occasion.

Freda had just swallowed the last of the cocoa when the WVS lady reappeared.

‘I was right. You can’t get to where Woolies is as the street’s shut off. It seems the buildings down there have taken a bit of a bashing so I hope your friends are all right. Do they work there?’
Freda tried not to become alarmed. It wouldn’t help matters. She made herself think of everyone back home who would be relying on her to stay strong. ‘Er, no, but one of them is manager of the Erith branch and my other friend works with her. I just need to know they are not hurt. Would you know where I could possibly find them? That’s if they are not badly injured or . . .’

The kindly woman patted Freda on the shoulder. ‘Now, don’t go getting yourself upset. Why, you’re no more than a child yourself and riding that great big motorbike. You’re a brave one and no mistake.’

Freda took a deep breath and composed herself. ‘I’ll be twenty-one later this year. I’m just a bit on the small side for my age.’

‘Well, twenty-one or not, the world’s a bloody scary place right now and we are entitled to be afraid. Just don’t go bottling it all up. Scream and shout at the Hun if you want to. It does me the power of good, I can tell you.’ She placed a protective hand on Freda’s shoulder and pointed with the other. ‘Now, if you take yourself off down that road and turn left, you will come across a church hall. It’s being used as a rest centre as well as a first-aid post. I reckon you’ll get news of your friends down there. Leave your motorbike and helmet here. You can park up behind our van. They’ll come to no harm. I’ll keep an eye on them for you.’

Freda thanked the woman and, after securing her bike, she hurried up the small road to the hall. Struggling to gain entry as the hall was full of people, she pushed and shoved her way through the crowd. So many looked to be in shock, wandering aimlessly about, no doubt look-ing for loved ones just as Freda was trying to do. Spotting an officious-looking ARP warden with a clipboard, she elbowed through the crowd. ‘Excuse me, do you know if my friends, Miss Betty Billington and Mrs Maisie Carlisle, are here?’

The man ran his pencil down a list of names and turned a page. ‘Here they are, Billington and Carlisle. Hmm,’ he said, tapping the pencil on his teeth as he peered at the list. ‘They’ve been moved to hospital. I assume they must be injured, but details haven’t been noted. I do wish people would complete the forms prop¬erly,’ he huffed.

Freda tried to stand on tiptoes to look at the list, but the man was having none of it and held it close to his body. ‘What hospital would that be?’ she asked.

‘Margate General. It’s not too far from here. Local hospitals are overstretched at the moment. Here, take a look at the map.’ He pointed to a large map pinned to the wall.

Freda felt sick as she peered at it. Her head started to spin as she attempted to focus on where her friends had been taken and tried not to think too much about their injuries. They are still alive, she told herself as she thanked the man and rushed back to where she’d left her motorbike. Although now late afternoon, it was still warm and around her she could see men sweating as they pulled at bricks and masonry that had once been thriving businesses and family homes, seeking the living and the dead. Firing up the bike’s engine, she headed off to find Betty and Maisie.

About Elaine Everest

Elaine Everest, author of Bestselling novel The Woolworths Girls and The Butlins Girls was born and brought up in North West Kent, where many of her books are set. She has been a freelance writer for twenty years and has written widely for women’s magazines and national newspapers, with both short stories and features. Her non-fiction books for dog owners have been very popular and led to broadcasting on radio about our four legged friends. Elaine has been heard discussing many topics on radio from canine subjects to living with a husband under her feet when redundancy looms.
When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school at The Howard Venue in Hextable, Kent and has a long list of published students.
Elaine lives with her husband, Michael, and their Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry, in Swanley, Kent and is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Crime Writers Association, The Society of Women Writers & Journalists and The Society of Authors as well as Slimming World where she can been sitting in the naughty corner.

Publisher: Pan Mac
Publication Date: November 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 300
Genre: Historical Saga
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Challenge: None
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Turtles All the Way Down

John Green
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

*This is not a review so much as a reflection on the book*

I’ve been waiting for this book to be released for months, ever since I saw this video on youtube where John Green explains so well what having OCD is actually like. I knew that this book was going to be reflecting on his own experiences and would therefore be a good portrayal of this mental health illness – which I do also suffer with.

And it really, really was. I found myself taking photos of a lot of quotes in the book and just well and truly identifying with the main character. In this respect, this book was exactly what I had hoped it would be.

But it also really made me think. (The irony of this statement will not be lost on those who have read it.)

Everyone who suffers with OCD, suffers and deals with it in their own unique way. They have their own experiences, their own triggers, anxieties, routines, etc so it would be impossible for any one book on OCD to be the perfect OCD book for everyone who suffers with it. But what I found helpful with this book, and other books with OCD protagonists (listed below) is that I saw myself in some of the quotes, routines and actions of Aza, thus I was able to feel just a little less alone.

But on the flip side, it also made me question my own OCD. Yes, I did some of the things that Aza did but I also didn’t do other things or didn’t do things to such a bad extent and thus I felt like maybe I am just making a big deal of nothing. Maybe my OCD isn’t OCD at all, but just quirks. (I have been diagnosed by a health professional and even this line of thinking is part of my OCD at play) As you can see, I am aware that for me this is an irrational thought and not true. But I can’t help but wonder if, as a teenager, I would have felt the same way.

I have suffered with OCD – from my knowledge – ever since I was 14 years old. However at the time, I had no idea I had OCD. I barely even understood that I had anxieties. I just figured I was a teenager going through being a teenager – you know? So if I had read this and not felt that my actions were as bad then I may not have gone to a doctor. And I worry that this is also how some teenagers of today may feel about this book.

Obviously this is a difficult issue and I do not think Turtles All the Way Down is at fault here as it does show how serious and difficult OCD can be. But I feel that what I’m getting to is that we need more books which show OCD as manageable, hidden issues perhaps. Most of the OCD books I’ve read, the protagonists are aware of their health issue so I think I just want a book where someone is diagnosed as OCD.

SPOILER ADDITION
(Highlight to read)

On a similar note, while reading this book, I kept feeling like something wasn’t quite right. I could not figure out where this feeling was coming from but it was a niggling thought at the back of my mind. It was only upon reading a review of the book that I realised what my issue was; Aza does not seem to have any other personality trait. She has OCD and that is all she is. There is never mention to any films or books she loves, or any other activity that she really does except think. I do know that this may have been to show how all encompassing OCD can be but I also just feel that it made her character feel a little flat to me.

END OF SPOILER

What do you think? Have you read Turtles? Did you like it?

Other Books with OCD I highly recommend
Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13b by Teresa Toten
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
It’s All In Your Head by Rae Earl
(Non-Fiction)
Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon (Non-Fiction, Adult)

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: October 2017
Format: Hardback
Pages: 286
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Gifted
Challenge: None
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