Books from my Childhood: Jane Hissey

 I thought I would start a series where I run through some of my favourite books from when I was growing up, because I think that they’re often forgotten on the blogosphere in favour of a storm of new releases and adult classics and YA dystopia. All of the books in this series were really important to me between the ages of about 4 and 14 and in my opinion at least, they shaped who I am and helped to cultivate my love of reading. They are books that I’m just never going to throw away so, for a change, I thought I’d give the spotlight over the next few months to a few old favourites.

The first of these are the old bear books from Jane Hissey. These are children’s picture books, and I can remember my mother reading them to me and my sisters when we were toddlers/preschoolers. The amazing thing about them though, is they never get old – I will just as happily read them now as I would when I was a kid, to the extent that I actually bought three more at a book sale recently in order to start a collection for my own children, although obviously I’m going to read them myself too.

The books themselves centre around a group of old fashioned toys, who all live in the playroom together and get up to various heartwarming escapades. There’s Old Bear who they have to rescue from,the attic with a makeshift parachute. Hoot, an owl who lives on the wardrobe and steals socks. Jolly tall, the cuddly giraffe who needs a really long scarf. Each character is so loveable and the books really emphasise the importance of friendship and teamwork and having faith in yourself. I think that’s something that’s really important in a children’s book. although I’ve also read a lot of the standard brightly coloured picture books as well, the likes of Julia Donaldson and Eric Carle, which are great in their own way, it’s books like Jane Hissey’s, with their sweet illustrations and gentle narratives, which have really stuck with me. They’re the kind of books you get super excited over when you meet someone else who also read them as a child.

I have a lot of posts for this series which I’ll be posting over the next few months, so I hope you enjoy them! Sometimes I think its important to look back as well as get excited for new releases :) What did you enjoy reading when you were a kid?

~ Becca x

The School for Good and Evil – Soman Chainani

Heads up to The Writing Hufflepuff for recommending me this book. I actually got it out of the library a few weeks ago, and finally got around to reading it. I actually really enjoyed this book. It was fun, and frivolous and fast paced and the character development was really good. I did however, have a few problems with it, at the beginning at least.

At the beginning I found that the writing was quite clunky, the story a bit slow and the characters a bit cartoonish. I wondered if it was because it’s aimed more at Middle Grade and I’m used to reading YA, but I think it’s just the authors style, as I’ve read a fair amount of Middle Grade which have fluider approaches to narrative. I just couldn’t see any of the characters as real people – they felt contrived and stereotypical and I couldn’t connect with anyone. A lot of characters kept being thrown in as well but with no real characteristics of their own and the whole thing felt a bit bland. The story line was formulaic and I didn’t fell like it flowed as much as I wanted it to. For the first quarter of the book I will admit that I struggled.

After the first quarter however, I really started to get into it. The character development with Sophie and Agatha started to become visible, and I really liked how, as the book progressed, their development and their friendship didn’t just move in a straight line. There were up and downs, with Agatha doubting herself and doubting Sophie, interspersed with periods of self confidence, and Sophie becoming more Evil, but it never being as clear cut as she was just turning into a witch. There were always things holding her back and influencing her actions and even though over-all she was a pretty nasty character, to me she fell more into the angry mean girl category than the actually evil one. Which brings me on to the two underlying morals of the book – granted they were both fairly obvious from the start, but I enjoyed the way they were woven throughout the story and then came together at the end: Friendship, and True Self. Friendship in that, despite all the talk of true love, it was ultimately the girl’s friendship that drove the narrative, with romance just being the fairy tale stereotype that they felt they needed to live up to, when in reality it wasn’t actually true. True Self, in that, neither girl, nor any of the other characters, where truly 100% Good or Evil, no matter what they had been told. They all had aspects of both, and we saw those different aspects come out as the book developed. Hester, Anadil and Dot’s soft sides become visible, and we see the cruelty of Beatrix and the Everboys even though they are supposedly good. It also emphasised how looks don’t define who we are. And I liked that.

Another aspect I was a big fan of was the world development. You get a really good idea of the schools from the descriptions and the contrast between the two, but those descriptions aren’t just thrown at you in big long chunks, but rather interwoven with the action. A lot became visible through the reactions of the main characters. I also liked the pictures at the start of each chapter – while not essential, I am of the opinion that everything can be made better with pictures. I enjoyed how we actually got to see them at school and in class too. Those more mundane bits really made the action stand out.

School of Good and EvilThe clunky writing style from the beginning, which was very episodic, like jump cuts in a cartoon, did continue throughout the book, but once I got used to it I found it a lot easier to read and cope with. It definitely added to the whole fairy-tale-esque vibe of the story, which I think was a nice touch, even if it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. And once you get into the story, the pace picked up a lot. There is an absolutely ridiculous amount crammed into this book. Loads happens. And the end was very dramatic. The pace just gets faster and faster through the book until the big action at the end, and I found that where it would take me quite a long time to read through a chapter at the start, by the end I was churning through them at rapid speed.

This is definitely a book that got better and better the more I read and if you can get past the beginning I do think it’s worth a read. It’s fun and light-hearted and it’s different. It’s not just a retelling of old fairytales but a fairytale in its own right. There are a few questions that I want answered, namely the dead Beast thing and the burning books/Gavaldon being the only town thing which I don’t really understand yet, but I’m hoping they’ll be resolved in later books. Which I really want to read btw. Because I need to find out what happens to the girls, and also to Tedros, because I am a sucker for romance, even if it is of the contrived fairy tale variety.

~ Becca x

Chained – Susanne Valenti

Chained (Cage of Lies #1)I know I’ve been doing a lot of reviews and not much else recently, so sorry about that. I have a whole list of other posts to do, but I’m interrupting that schedule in favour of another review, because this one is important. A blogger friend, Susanne Valenti, is its about to release her first book Chained and she very kindly sent me an ARC and I have to say, it was great.

Chained, in short, is a YA dystopian about a girl called Maya who has grown up in an extremely regulated, walled city, which is designed to protect the inhabitants from the contamination of the outside world. All is dandy, aside from the fact that her parents are dead, when an accident occurs, while her and her best friend Taylor are on a research trip outside the Wall, and shenanigans ensue.

I really did enjoy this book. It kinda reminded me of Scott westerfeld’s uglies to an extent but was definitely unique enough to be able to stand apart from anything g I’ve read. The world building was excellent. Throughout the book you get to see three different aspects of the overall world and all three were really well thought through and fleshed out as to be believable. Everything was super easy to picture and it felt immersive and I could understand why the characters were reacting to things the way they were. I also liked how each section was different enough to still be exciting and made me desperate to know more about it but that they were still cohesive so as to obviously be part of the same world. The back story also fitted really well, and was impeccably thought through and researched, even down to the little things like how to fire a gun, or the details of animal evolution. I was really impressed with it.

The story itself was also well put together. The pace was excellent, with enough time spent in each place to understand it and get attached to the characters but still moving forwards fast enough and with enough action to always be exciting. My favourite was the SubWar part. It was just so completely different to anything else I’ve read in YA and right from the moment it was first mentioned I knew I wanted to know more. And Susanne didn’t disappoint, with the whole section being dramatic and tense and new. I always try and take notes when I read books for review, and when they first went into SubWar, I actually made one saying that, even though I was stoked to see it, I was also desperate for her to explore the outside world and with that too, there was no disappointment. The way in which the two sections merged together was also seamless. I liked how it felt very natural – they didn’t just suddenly decide to run off or magically end up out there, but events worked together to make it seem like the right course of events without being forced.

I wasn’t such a fan of the almost love triangle – although there was nothing inherently wrong with it (I just personally don’t really like them), I was glad that Maya, at least, very much knew how she say the boys and I’m hoping that it isn’t something that develops too much in later books. The lack of instalove was great though and overall though the narrative was dynamic and engaging and fun and I really enjoyed it.

The one problem I did have however, came down to editing. While the storyline was great, and the actual writing itself was smooth and engaging and actually really good, the sub-editing in felt like it needed a little bit of work. I sometimes felt jarred out of the action by grammatical mistakes, strange sentence structures and weird lexical choices. There were two aspects where I noticeably struggled with it. The first was in particularly tense scenes, especially the one in the bunker-thing, where some of the tension was lost in the writing style. Not the words themselves, which were great, but just things like the placement of commas, and run on sentences. There was no change in the way Maya narrated the story between different types of scenarios – it read the same whether she was chilling out or running for her life. And I found the same kinda thing with the guy’s dialogue. All three main female characters I loved, as I found their personalities were distinct, and that came across really well. I felt a particular affinity for Alicia and her casual yet deliberate un-helpfulness. Alicia was great. The guys however, I struggled with. It wasn’t how they acted; the things they did and prioritised and such showed their personality well. It was just, that was the only way they seemed to show their personality. The dialogue was just a bit too similar for me, with the characterisation coming from the adverb or action accompanying the dialogue rather than the speech itself. Again, I feel like more editing would have been great, particularly for Coal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this made the book bad. I actually feel bad saying anything negative about it because overall it was just so so good. But I was given the ARC in exchange for an honest review and I felt like I at least had to mention it. Overall I loved the book and I can’t wait to read to next one. (Seriously though, I’m writing this on my lunch break and I kept finding myself thinking about it all morning), but for me at least, with a bit more editing it would be an amazing book and I would have been able to fall in love with Coal and Taylor as much as I did with Alicia and Laurie. There are many books to come though, so I don’t imagine it will take long for me to be obsessed with all of them!

Chained comes out on October 1 and I highly suggest you go give it a read. It was fun and, although it used a lot of the well known YA tropes, it did so in a way that felt fresh and new and didn’t actually feel like those same YA tropes for the hundredth time.

~ Becca x

Isla and the Happily Ever After -Stephanie Perkins

IMG_0643Another massive ramble live-tweet thing. I warned you. And Stephanie Perkins’ writing is, as ever, amazing.

  • P.6. Well we seem to be getting straight into it. Here’s for holding out for no love triangles.
  • P.12. I like Isla. Even if if she is loopy. Especially because she is loopy.
  • P.26. Ok, this obsession thing is actually a bit much now. This can’t be healthy.
  • P.27. Oh thank god we’re not going to end up with Kurt being ‘friend zoned’.
  • P.62. He spends a lot of time looking at her cleavage.
  • P.81. Good. He’s honest. I’m glad we finally got something less complicated.
  • P.90. I feel sorry for Josh. All his friends upped and left him. No wonder he doesn’t like school. It must be lonely.
  • P.94. I like Isla. For someone who acts like a lovesick puppy every other page she asks the right questions and is actually very much herself with him. It’s good. Good for you Isla.
  • P.98. Sometimes Stephanie Perkins’ writing is just spot on.
  • P.106. Well this is a refreshing approach to sex. I like Isla more and more as this book goes on. And Josh too. I’m actually liking both the main characters – shocker.
  • P.114. ‘It’s the afternoon. Tell him he’s wrong.’ I love Kurt. Kurt is the best.
  • P.132. Isla is me. I am Isla. That is basically my thought process in life.
  • P.141. I am really enjoying the fact hat it’s not taking the entire book for their romance to be solidified. There’s not hundreds of pages of conflicting feelings and confusion and pining.
  • P.167. Josh is a good guy. I like how he recognises how important Isla’s friendship with Kurt is. Because friendship is really important and shouldn’t ever take a back seat to romance. You go Josh.
  • P.186. This whole Barcelona thing seems like a bad idea and they’re going to get caught and it will all end in tears.
  • P.195. I like how sure of herself Isla is. To begin with she’s portrayed as shy and innocent and nervous but she’s just not. She’s shy definitely but she also has a security and a confidence in who she is and what she wants in any particular moment. I also appreciate that there is sex in this book which isn’t complicated or awkward or momentous. It’s just sex.
  • P.197. Too true. It is wonderful.
  • P.204. Called it. I’d say I was good at this but I think these books are just really predictable. I don’t care though. They’re amaze.
  • P.246. I feel so sorry for Josh. Poor Josh. I just want to give him a hug.
  • P.279. The temple of Dendur is pretty damn cool
  • P.295. Oh god he’s crying. Oh no. Oh baby. I want to hug them all. This is the most upsetting to read so far. I am actually kinda upset by this.
  • P.301. This is all very ridiculous.
  • P.306. Isla’s kinda a selfish idiot and I feel sorry for Josh.
  • P.307. Yes. Go fix it moron. Good.
  • P.310. Well this is all going horribly wrong.
  • P.330. I’m liking how despite the annoying and unnecessary breakup thing, the focus is on Isla and her making decisions for her and deciding who she is regardless of Josh. That’s good. That’s more important.
  • P.347. Yesssss! Anna and Etienne! Yes! I like how their story is happily concluded in and amongst the others.
  • P.362. Awwwwwwww
  • Well that was adorable. And I actually think I like that more than the other two, which appears to be a controversial opinion. All of the reviews said that I&THEA was disappointing and didn’t live up to expectation but for me it did. It was just… sweeter I think. There were no love triangles. Both of the characters felt realer and more likeable. And yes there was that ridiculous fight thing. And yes there is only a token amount of Anna and Etienne and Lola and Cricket thrown in at the end. But I was so invested in Josh and Isla that I was okay with it. I love all three. They are all great. But I think I like Isla the most. Maybe I see the most of me in it. I’m sad to see them go.
  • Okay, I’ve had a couple of hours to think it over and I will admit yes there are problems with this book. Obsessing over someone and then following it up with instalove is both weird and unhealthy. True. But I kinda don’t care? (And I really hate instalove). I feel like that’s why I liked the book so much. It started out as instalove and they barely knew each other and they didn’t really know what love meant or even who they were themselves. But the whole point of the book was that they were finding out. And when you’re 17 that’s kinda how relationships work- you don’t get an epic romance where you overcome all of your problems and somehow you two star crossed lovers are just meant to be together. No. Basically no one gets that. It starts out with infatuation and you build this ideal of someone and when that ideal is shattered it’s heartbreaking. And a lot of times it doesn’t work out. But where most people condemn Isla for bigging up instalove and idealisation, to me it’s the opposite. Yes that’s the first part of the book and there are some adorable parts to it, but by the end of the book is that they’ve broken through that ideal and worked out who they really are and who the other person is. They learnt that about each other, even if it’s not verbal. Communication can go beyond just the verbal (although, y’know, just having an actual conversation is usually quicker and a hell lot more straight forwards). And it’s only because they’ve got past her obsession that they will actually work. And that’s what you learn about relationships when you’re 17. You don’t learn how to fall in love. Anyone can fall in love – that’s the easy part You have to learn how to work on a relationship and make it what it needs to be. Build upon that love when it already exists and a relationship is already there. With Anna and Lola they only get together once they have already done the working out. But sometimes things go backwards. And I like how Isla shows that there are different ways to get to the right kind of love. And to me it feels like less of an ideal, as a story at least. It feels more like, at 17, you might actually be able to attain it.

Lola and the Boy Next Door – Stephanie Perkins

IMG_0647Continuing with the landslide of contemporary I have acquired this summer, we have Lola and the Boy Next Door. Because yes it has taken me this long to finish this series. And they were great (I’ve also read Isla, which I will report on next week). I love Stephanie Perkins’ writing. I’ve opted to repeat the process I used for To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before for these two books and created a rambly-live-feed-style-thing as I read it. I like doing certain books this way as it lets me see how my opinions change and develop whilst I’m reading and it’s also something a bit different. I also remembered to include page numbers this time around (well, apart from the first one…).

  • ’64 Chevy Impala – very Supernatural. Not entirely sure I’m on board with this Max guy though. I can kinda see her parents’ point. There’s a surprisingly big difference between 17 and 22 in my experience, not so much because of years as because of experience and maturity. I see the world very differently now than I did when I was 17 and I feel like my time at university and after has shaped my viewpoint in a huge way. And I don’t think it’s just me. While I’m not saying that no 17 year old is mature or that a relationship like that could never work, I think it’s important to remember that 22 is adult while 17 is still technically a child, and in most cases there’s still a lot of naivity that comes with it. Rightly so. So just yeah… Not there with Max I’m afraid.
  • P.26. I’m glad sex isn’t being made out as a big thing. It can be whatever the hell you want it to be.
  • p.30. Yay Anna and Etienne!
  • P.33. What on earth is going on? What’s the problem with Cricket? (What kind of a name is Cricket anyway?) TELL ME ALREADY.
  • P.78. Calliope is bitch. And also has a name that is unfairly hard to pronounce for anyone who hasn’t studied Greek mythology.
  • P.96. While I understand Lola’s dislike of the new van I actually think this is the most sensible decision he has made so far and is actually very logical and grown up. Now hopefully he’ll bugger off in said van. I’m not even sure if I actually dislike him or not. Like, he seems like a caring, thoughtful boyfriend who listens to her and accommodates her parents. But something about him sill irks me. Maybe it’s Lola that I don’t like.
  • P.97. Starting to like Max. He becomes less of a dick every page. And seems fairly grounded for a rockstar. Lola slowly dropping in my estimations.
  • P.100. Eurgh. When are we going to get something without a love triangle.
  • P.102. Oh Cricket. Cricket is adorable. Even though I’m meant to like Cricket. Even though his name is Cricket. Lola is kinda cruel though. In a very passive way but she did effectively tell him to meet her there and yeah… Not team Lola.
  • P.103. I feel like Lola likes the idea of Max more than she actually likes Max.
  • P.146. Cricket’s bluntness is refreshing
  • P.169. Who doesn’t approve of drinking coffee?!
  • P.190. Eurgh Lola.
  • P.259. Will you just break up with Max already. He has clearly had enough of your shit and I am fed up of you moping around all the time.
  • P.265. Bloody. Finally.
  • P.270. The cuteness is battling against my (very personal) objection to going to uni with a boyfriend. Although he’s already at uni so does it count?
  • P.280. Taking back the Max being an okay guy thing. Max can join the jerk list. So far I only actually like Cricket, the dads and Lindsey. Which come to think of it is almost half the character list. There are not many characters in this book.
  • P.292. Oh dear. Poor Cricket.
  • P.292. I love Andy
  • P.292. I definitely love Andy.
  • P.315. While I definitely really enjoy Stephanie Perkins’ books I’m starting to realise that I rarely morally agree with them.
  • P.320. What. A. Jerk.
  • P.322. It’s the wrench. The tiny thing from her sock drawer. It’s definitely gonna be the wrench. I wondered what she’d done with it.
  • P.327. Called it.
  • P.360. His story is beautiful. Sickening but beautiful. Although I really like her response. That’s important too.
  • P.362. Alright then. Easy on.
  • P.373. For pretty much the entirety of this book I was thinking that it was not as good as Anna and the French kiss. But that ending is just… Yeah. Yeeeeeeahh.
  • The acknowledgements are great.

Okay, so maybe these things make more sense if you actually have the book in front of you. But I don’t care – I like doing them, and it’s nice to be able to look at a book/review a bit differently when I feel like it. Hopefully at least some of you enjoyed it!

~ Becca x

P.S. I Still Love You – Jenny Han

IMG_0642I really really need to start writing these reviews after I finish a book and not like a week and a half later. Oops. I’ll try and remember what I thought of it but I’m sorry if I remember a few things a bit inaccurately!

I flew through P.S. I Still Love you. I massively enjoyed it – Jenny Han’s writing feels so natural and easy that I never felt jolted out of the story or got distracted by something else. I was really encased in the narrative and I find that that often doesn’t happen in contemporary form me as much as it does in fantasy and other genres. I was going to do a live-feed style review for P.S. like I did with the first one but I was too distracted by the story to ever write anything down.

I love how family is such a major focus of these books. Her father’s opinion of her is genuinely important to her, not just so that she can avoid being in trouble, but because she respects and values what he has to say. All three sisters, despite arguing and being generally catty like all sisters are, support each other when it’s needed and value each other above anything else. Kitty and Margot are more important to Lara Jean than any boy will ever be and I think that’s something which is often glossed over. Ultimately a boy is not the be all and end all of your life. I liked how family wasn’t just central to Lara Jean herself, but also to the boys she interacted with. Peter and Kitty’s relationship was adorable and I loved how he still picked her up in his car even after Lara Jean and him broke up. He didn’t treat Kitty like the kid sister but made the effort to get to know her and become her friend for her own sake, not just Lara Jean’s. And then he kept it up when he didn’t have to. It’s that that really showed what kind of a guy Peter is, regardless of the other crap he pulled, and I think that’s why he stood out so much from John.

On paper, John seems like the more standup guy, but in reality he didn’t have any of the heart Peter did. Peter acted with his whole being in everything he did, and was always trying to do the right thing by everybody, even if it didn’t always work out right. John to me was just not quite there. He would have worked with Lara Jean, but I feel like they wouldn’t challenge each other as much, he would always have been following her lead and he just didn’t make her feel as much. So yeah, nothing against John  Ambrose McLaren- he was a great character and was a really important part of Lara jeans character development and tbh I’d totally date him – but I’m still team Peter all the way. (Eurgh, I can’t believe I just said that. Love triangles always make me pick sides. I’m not sure we needed another love triangle, but apparently I wasn’t all that bothered when reading it. I think it was a bit more natural – it was more than just an overused plot device. That’s another thing I love about Jenny Han’s writing, she can take something I usually despise and make it oh so adorable.)

I did have a few problems though (besides the basically acceptable love triangle). The biggest was Genevieve. I never really understood why Gen was the way she was. I feel like I wanted more interaction between her and Lara Jean to fully work out what had gone on there and maybe try to resolve it but it just never really happened. Most of the resolution was Lara Jean finding out about Gen’s father, and Peter constantly telling her that Gen wasn’t really that bad. So Lara Jean just kinda got guilt-tripped into feeling bad for Gen and forgiving her? What? I mean I’m all for forgiveness and redeemable characters, but I feel like there was no justification for it. Gen was basically just a bitch to Lara Jean for the entire book, and then Lara Jean forgave her because Peter wanted her to. I feel like had there been more interaction between Gen and Lara Jean it might have felt more natural, even if Gen was still a mean character.

Basically I loved this book. I think I loved the first one ever so slightly more, but honestly, both were great. I need to read more by Jenny Han.

~ Becca x

Off to University?

66144_10152113160555184_1690036792_nIt’s that time of year again when everyone starts getting ready to trundle off to university, or they do in the UK at least. Looking back to my time at uni, leaving for Freshers was both one of the most terrifying experiences (the need to make new friends, living away from home, long distance relationships or friendships, having to actually cook your own food and pay your own bills, the first time I used a cheque book) but also one of the most exciting (freedom, new friends, freedom, learning, freedom). I loved my first year and uni and was actually desperate to get away from home by that point and find out who I really was in my own way. I was lucky in that I didn’t really get homesick, but I know a lot of people do and that that can make it really hard. Leaving is hard. But it is also amazing. I don’t want to spend my time giving you a long list of all of the reasons uni is great and why you should go/stick at it/ not worry if your homesick because there are loads of those on the internet, particularly at this time of year, and they all say the same thing (TLDR: Uni is great).

I do want to give you just two pieces of advice though, which were both things which really helped me make the most of my four years at university. And I think they apply to anyone, even if you’re not a fresher.

The first is to make friends with the staff. At Oxford that was the porters (people who look after post and man the front desk), the maintenance staff and the catering staff. They will be an invaluable help no matter how long you’re there from, and the more they know you, the more willing they are to look after you and go out of their way to help. Once I had my handbag stolen and one of the porters at the time, Trevor, was an absolute babe about helping me through the panic and telling me what to do (go to the police, obvs, but I was too panicky to think of it at the time). He also made sure that I had a new set of keys so I could get into my room in the mean time, and he already knew my room number because I knew him so well which was amazing when I was in floods of tears. In situations like that, when you’d usually run to your parents, having someone who knows your name and knows what to do is the biggest blessing. The same with catering/bar staff for me. My college had two cafes and I spent almost all of my finals and Masters years working in one of them with my best friend to the extent that the cafe staff knew us ridiculously well and half-knew our timetables if one of us was ever looking for the other. Finals at Oxford where an absolute nightmare of stress and pressure and tears, and the two women who worked at that cafe were one of the main things that got us through it, from bringing us croissants and hot chocolates when one of us was having a breakdown to saving us a portion of lunch if they knew we were going to be late. They got me through. They were amaze. So yeah, make friends with staff. They know your university. They have access to things you don’t. They have knowledge you don’t. Making friends with them can really help you out.

Second is do everything. Or at least do as much as you can (don’t do so much that you can’t deal with the workload for your degree but still filly our time as much as your comfortable with). At no other point in life will you be presented with so many clubs, societies and options all in one place and easily accessible and cheap. You can try new things, things you never knew were available like Octopush and Cheerleading, to that sport that you school just didn’t offer. And to begin with there’s basically no commitment. Most won’t ask you to pay subs until a few weeks in, so if you decide after a couple of sessions that you hate it you can leave and go do something else. And if sport isn’t your thing do something else. Join a debate team, a band, perform in shows, do wine tasting, volunteer to teach, join RAG, get involved in your student union. Do what you love. It doesn’t matter what it is, there will be something there for you. So go find it. Once you leave university, opportunities sadly get a lot more limited so make the most of it while its there. And on a more practical and definitely more boring note: it’s an easy way to fill your CV, which gives you more to talk about in job interviews and makes you a much more likeable candidate. Just saying. So do things you enjoy and do as much as you want to.

Ultimately though, have fun! That’s the most important thing. Work hard and come out with a good degree, but enjoy it 100%.

Good luck to all those going to uni this year! I hope you have the time of your lives :) And as ever, if anyone ever has any questions about my time at uni or anything else, I’m always happy to answer!

                ~ Becca x

Princess Academy – Shannon Hale

Princess AcademyI went to the local (very, very small) library a few weeks ago and picked this up. It’s actually quite an old book now, but I like that about libraries. I tend to read a lot of new releases, so sometimes it’s nice to find something that’s a bit older, and a bit less well known and see what it’s like.

I did not write this review until a while after finishing the book. This is a problem and I am a bad book blogger. Oh well. Tbh there’s not much to remember about this book. It was fine. I enjoyed it. It was quite slow, and a bit generic, but there was nothing really wrong with it. It just didn’t blow me away. There were some things however, which I really did like.

The first is the focus on friendship. There was an underlying romantic current in the book between Miri and Peder, but it was far from being the centre of the narrative – the only time it ever really played a major role was when Peder is the only one who she manages to talk to during the bandit attack (besides the whole Prince thing, but that was never really anything about being in love with the prince, so much as just becoming a princess). In that instance though, it seemed like it mainly revolved around the strength of their friendship, and their history growing up together more than the romantic involvement. I feel like the romantic thing will play a bigger role in later books, but here I was glad that it was left in the shadows. This is because it made room for a bigger focus on other kinds of relationships: namely, friendship. I loved seeing how Miri’s relationship with various girls developed, and how their friendship and comaraderie was not only the thing that kept them all going, but what got them out of a lot of difficult situations. I also loved how the importance of friendship over winning was emphasised. The contrast between Miri’s isolation at the start, to how happy she felt once she had truly become friends with the girls, even if that meant she wouldn’t necessarily become academy princess – and that it was ultimately the fact that she had those friendships, in contrast to Katar who had pushed everyone away, that led to her gaining such a title. The others valued fairness and Miri herself over their own desire to win. In the same way, I lvoed how it was only when Miri befriended both Britta and Katar that we got to see both girls come out of their shells and blossom. Yeah, friendship is great.

I also liked how the entire book showed the value of education. Where a lot of fantasy novels push education aside in favour of adventure and action, here learning was itself an adventure. And it’s so true. I love how learning can spark your imagination, and allows you to create your own adventures by equipping you with skills which can push you in any direction you want. In The Princess Academy it was the girl’s education which allowed them to earn more respect from the traders and ultimately make life better for the community living on Mount Eskel. I also think that it was really important how the adults let them do that – they weren’t overbearing or proud or condescending, but recognised that their children had knowledge and understanding that they themselves did not have, and trusted them enough to take a risk which ultimately paid off. The Mount Eskel community was really great.

There’s a lot I could say about this book. Yes it was a bit slow and a bit generic in terms of plot. But it had a lot of values which really pulled it up for me. I think books for younger audiences can often focus on how the biggest thing in life is saving the world, or having an epic romance, neither of which are ever likely to happen for your average teenager. Building solid friendships and finding the excitement in education however, are. And I love how the book focuses on the little things in life that we often take for granted, and makes them big.

                      ~ Becca x

Would You Rather

I wasn’t tagged to do this, but I stole it from @thewritinghufflepuff so I hope she won’t mind! Everyone should go and check out her blog because I think it’s great, even if I don’t get a chance to keep up with it and interact with her as much as I’d like to be able to.

Would you rather…

1. Read only trilogies or stand-alones?

Trilogies. I love stand-alones and it’s often really nice to read a book that feels wrapped up at the end of it, but there’s just something about trilogies that lets me stay in the world longer and allows so much more character development that I don’t think I could give them up! I would be really upset to give up some of my favourite quartets or longer series though *cough* Throne of Glass *cough*. Not sure I’d be able to do it really.

2. Read only female or male authors?

Most of my favourite authors are female so I’d probably have to go with that. I don’t think that the gender of the author should make a difference though so I’m not really ok with this question at all. If someone is a good author and writes a good book then that should be enough to make anyone want to read their work, and enjoy doing so, regardless of what gender they are.

3. Shop at Barnes & Noble or Amazon?

We don’t have Barnes and Noble in the UK so Amazon. And if it’s a comparison between physical book stores and online I don’t know if I could choose. Physical bookstores are my happy place and make me feel very calm and safe when I’m in them so I’d probably have to choose somewhere like Waterstones for that reason, but I like how convenient Amazon is for times when it’s really difficult to get to a bookstore.

4. All books become movies or TV shows?

TV shows. it allows for more development and detail and I think so long as it is directed well and cast thoughtfully you can get so much more involved with what’s going on if you’ve never read the book, and you get to appreciate all of the nuances of the story you love if you had. That being said there are some books which really suit the grandeur of films.

5. Read 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?

Five books a week, no contest. Can you imagine only being allowed to read five pages a day and getting to the middle of a really exciting section and having to stop! No thank you!

6. Be a professional reviewer or author?

While I’d love to write a book, I think to a large extent I’d actually rather be a reviewer. I do want to actually write my stories down at some point but a large part of that is for me rather than anyone else. Also I think there is a lot of glamour surrounding the publishing industry as a whole, and I feel like in reality being an author would be quite lonely. While a reviewer would also work from home, I think the opportunities for interaction and networking would be a lot more prevalent, and I would be getting paid to read and rant about books which is amazing! I’d quite happily do both, but I think that I’d get more out of being a reviewer than an author.

7. Only read your top 20 favorite books over and over or always read new ones that you haven’t read before?

While I love my favourites I’d have to read new ones. I think I’d go crazy if I could only read 20 books over and over again, no matter how much I liked them.

8. Be a librarian or book seller?

Librarian. Again, I think being a bookseller can be over-glamourised. While the actual selling part would be amazing, I’m less thrilled by the idea of stacking shelves and taking stock and dealing with rude customers. I feel like being a librarian would let me interact with a much wider range of people, from young children to the elderly, and share with them my passion for books and see what they love. I also like the fact that when they bring books back you get to find out what they thought and how much they liked them, and you can really get to know people.

9. Only read your favorite genre, or every genre except your favourite?

Can I count YA as a genre? Because I’d quite happily read YA forever. If I had to narrow it down though I think I would still choose to read only my favourite genre, because I know I almost always enjoy fantasy books, and here are a lot of genres out there that I really don’t like, so I would rather have one that I loved, than a lot that I didn’t really feel enthusiastic about reading.

10. Only read physical books or eBooks?

Physical. My room is rapidly running out of shelving, and while I love the portability of my Kindle and how great it is for travel (and probably will be for commuting) I am never going to stop buying physical books. There’s just something so satisfying about the feel and smell of paper.

Until I’ve made some good blogging friends I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you take a fancy to the questions go ahead and do them and let me know that you have so I can read yours!

~ Becca

I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You (Gallagher Girls 1) – Ally Carter

A fairly short review today, but sometimes short reviews are all that are really needed to get the gist of a book.

gallagher 1

I bought this completely on a whim. I very nearly didn’t because it looked like trashy middle grade lit but something still drew me to it and so I picked it up anyway. At 99p I wasn’t exactly losing much and I was intrigued.
And it was trashy middle grade lit. Now don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no problem with reading books aimed at young teenagers. Some of them are excellent, Percy Jackson being the prime example. But a lot of them, particularly the romance based ones aimed at young girls, are simply awful. Gallagher Girls sits somewhere in the middle. The romance is too hyped up and overdramatised by the main characters to be really believable and was a little annoying at times, but it was counteracted by a focus on family and friendship and, well, spies, that meant there was more than one dimension to the story. It reminded me a lot of Mates Dates by Kathy Hopkins, a series I was obsessed with when I was younger. That fast paced, easy reading, romance based narrative that 13 year old Becca simply drank up.

So yeah, I enjoyed Gallagher girls. Definitely. I’m not going to say it’s a work of literature and that you absolutely must go read it but I do actually want to read the rest. I feel like it’s a good way to get girls into reading, particularly reading more complex books, which is something I think is really important, especially with technology becoming a more predominant form of entertainment. And I genuinely did enjoy this book. It was lighthearted and endearing and yes, I definitely felt too old for it because I was looking at the whole romance going ‘dude your 14 you got time he’s just some boy’. But then when you’re 14 it’s not just some boy and I remember that too.

Basically read it, but take it for what it is. It’s pretty good.

~ Becca x