Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: I'm Not Really Here by Paul Lake

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

From Amazon:

Paul Lake was Manchester born, a City fan from birth. His footballing talent was spotted at a young age and, in 1983, he signed coveted schoolboy forms for City. Only a short time later he was handed the team captaincy. An international career soon beckoned and, after turning out for the England under-21 and B teams, he received a call-up to the England training camp for Italia '90. Despite missing out on a place in the final squad he suitably impressed the management, with Bobby Robson earmarking him as an England captain in the making. As a rising star Paul became a target for top clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool, but he always stayed loyal to his beloved club, deeming Maine Road the spiritual home at which his destiny lay. But then, in September 1990, disaster struck. Paul ruptured his cruciate ligament and sustained the worst possible injury that a footballer can suffer. And so began his nightmare. Neglected, ignored and misunderstood by his club after a career-saving operation was irreversibly botched, Paul's career began to fall apart. Watching from the sidelines as similarly injured players regained their fitness, he spiralled into a prolonged bout of severe depression. With an enforced retirement from the game he adored, the death of his father and the collapse of his marriage, Paul was left a broken man. Set against a turning point in English football, "I'm Not Really Here" is the powerful story of love and loss and the cruel, irreparable damage of injury; of determination, spirit and resilience and of unfulfilled potential and broken dreams.

Why I can't wait to read it:

I have virtually no interest in footballing autobiographies, but this one is special to me. As a young Wrexham fan in the early 1990's my absolute favourite players was a long-haired, impossibly skilful, and wonderfully charismatic player called Mike Lake. On loan from Sheffield United during the 1992-3 season, he came for 13 games, took us from mid table to 3rd place, and then got recalled to Sheffield. Ex-Liverpool legend Jimmy Case replaced him for a match - and we crashed out in the most welcome defeat of all time, as our shambolic midfield performance in that game made it clear that we needed the maestro back; money was found from somewhere, and Mike signed permanently to help lead us to promotion.

Sadly, that one season was pretty much it as far as ML was concerned - injuries blighted the rest of his career and he retired a couple of years later after never recapturing the form of that golden year. Just as sadly, his brother Paul, generally recognised as one of the brightest English prospects of the late 80's or early 90's, also had a hugely promising career cut short through injury. This is Paul's story - and from everything I've seen about it so far, it looks set to stand out a mile from the usual bland superstar autobiographies.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Top Ten Books Tackling Tough Issues

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

This is a list of books tackling ten issues. I've actually cheated and put in two books for each of the first nine issues, just because there were so many I wanted to use!

Anorexia – Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig - Hautzig has written a huge amount of books but nearly all of them are retellings of fairytales or series books for younger readers. However, her two novels are absolutely outstanding. This, the second, deals with anorexia, based on her own experiences at the time she was writing it. Despite being rather less than 200 pages long, it packs an incredibly powerful punch, it’s beautifully written, and is incredibly sympathetic. Also see Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Grief – The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson – Left behind after her sister Bailey dies, seventeen year old Lennie is forced to reassess her life without her. Truly beautiful and one of the very few books ever to make me cry. Also see Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson.

The Holocaust – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – In lesser hands, a tale of the Holocaust narrated by Death himself would have been horrifically inappropriate. Zusak’s narrator is perfect, though – compassionate, caring, and truly unique. A wonderful book. See also The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

Homosexuality – Hey Dollface by Deborah Hautzig – I have no idea why Hautzig has only written two novels. The story of the developing relationship between two girls who are friends, but start to think they may become something more, is captivating and the way things move seems to ring completely true. Like Second Star to the Right, it’s a tiny book which is far more thought-provoking than you’d imagine possible for its length. See also Sugar Rush by Julie Burchill.

Mental Illness – A Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma
– A strong case for being the most powerful book I’ve ever read. Suzuma’s story of musical prodigy Flynn is completely gripping, incredibly hard-hitting, and avoids anything remotely approaching easy answers. Also see Bang Bang You’re Dead by Narinder Dhami

Racism – To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. One of the all-time classics. The character of Atticus is a wonderful one, as is that of Tom Robinson, the poor black man who is accused of raping a white trash girl. Lee’s storyline is shocking but completely convincing. See also Generation Dead by Daniel Waters (if you squint a tiny bit.)

Suicide – The Pact by Jodi Picoult – Picoult seems to write books which should be standard ‘issue of the month’ stuff but do it so well that they stand out and make the reader question their views on difficult topics. This is perhaps her best. See also Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Terminal illness – Before I Die by Jenny Downham – Another of the few that have made me cry, with Tessa’s letter to her family towards the end just having me in floods of tears. Wonderfully well written. See also The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Robert Cormier.

War – Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. I’ve never worked out whether I really like Mockingjay or not. As an ending to the Hunger Games trilogy, I go up and down on whether I think it really works. What can’t be denied, though, is it’s an immensely powerful and thought-provoking conclusion. See also Koh Tabu by Ann Kelley.

And finally. Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons – I can’t really summarise the difficult issue it tackles without a major spoiler. Suffice to say this is by far the greatest graphic novel ever written and is one of the most layered books I’ve ever read, in any genre.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Hidden by Jessica Verday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

From Amazon:

In this, the long-awaited conclusion to the saga of Abbey and Caspian, readers finally learn the truth about Kristen's death, the dark destiny that links Abbey to Caspian and the hard choices that Abbey must make if she is to accept Caspian's love and their unexpected fate.

Why I can't wait to read it:

Without saying too much as I don't want to spoil the first two books in the series, The Hollow and The Haunted, they both feature incredible characters and gorgeous writing, with an absolutely superb and memorable location. I've been waiting for this one for a while and am really desperate to see how it ends!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

May 21st - do not buy Him a silver watch for a surprise graduation present, because then you will spend senior skip day at the mall returning it. Which brings me to the most important tip.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

From Amazon:

In the beginning there was Bob.

And Bob created the heavens and the earth

and the beasts of the field

and the creatures of the sea,

and twenty-five million other species

including lots and lots of gorgeous girls.

And all of this, he created in just six days.

Six days!

Congratulations, Bob!

No wonder Earth is such a mess.

Imagine that God is a typical teenage boy. He is lazy, careless, self-obsessed, sex-mad -- and about to meet Lucy, the most beautiful girl on earth.

Unfortunately, whenever Bob falls in love, disaster follows.

Let us pray that Bob does not fall in love with Lucy.

Why I can't wait to read it:

The central concept sounds potentially hilarious and Rosoff is an ultra-talented author. How I Live Now is one of my favourite YA books of recent years, with What I Was not far behind. This should be great!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I have to confess, Gin... I get a little romantic about the old Empire State. Just looking at it makes me want to play some Frank Sinatra tunes and sway a little.

Really enjoying this so far!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Saturday Special: YA Yeah Yeah Mid Years

The YA Yeah Yeah Mid-Years are intended to be a celebration of the best of the dozens of books I've read over the past six months. I’m limiting it to one award per title, so as spread some credit between the massive number of awesome books out there.

Many of these books were originally reviewed for The Bookbag and links have been given to my reviews either here or on that site – just click on the title.

Best Author: Curtis Jobling (for Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf)

Jobling has managed to create a host of memorable characters and one of the best settings for years in this stunning first novel in the Wereworld series. If the others live up to this, I hope he manages to produce dozens more, because the history and mythology is so well thought-out that when you enter Wereworld you'll never want to leave!

Best Female Character in a Leading Role: Lily (Don't Ask by Hilary Freeman)

From the first page of this wonderful book, when narrator Lily states wearily "I’ll make no excuses for what I’ve done, except to state that I simply couldn’t help myself", it's clear she's something out of the ordinary for contemporary YA novels. She's a character who builds a completely false persona online for what seem to be good reasons - and then takes it a step further by meeting her boyfriend's ex in real life. As she continually does the wrong thing, but never stops being sympathetic, Lily quickly became a favourite of mine.

Best Male Character in a Leading Role: Seth MacGregor (Firebrand by Gillian Philip)

From the opening scene, in which narrator Seth prepares to shoot his brother and a girl to kill them mercifully before they're executed for witchcraft, to the magnificent conclusion of the novel, Seth is an incredible narrator who will find a place in every reader's heart. The half-feral member of the Fair Folk is loyal, hotheaded, and completely wonderful.

Best Female Character in a Supporting Role: Cynthia Stanton (Dark Mirror by MJ Putney)

I couldn't believe that MJ Putney pulled off a historical fiction time-travel story set in two different periods and involving magic quite as well as she did, and one of the main reasons the book worked so well was the presence of Cynthia, who started off as what seemed to be a standard bitchy annoying character but quickly developed into an intriguing member of the supporting cast.

Best Male Character in a Supporting Role: Simon (For The Record by Ellie Irving)

For The Record is utterly charming and one of the reasons it's so sweet is the presence of record adjudicator Simon, who comes to Port Bren to see the residents of this small Jersey village try to save themselves from eviction by breaking 50 records in a week. Even though he's not the famous adjudicator that people were expecting, he's a brilliant character who never failed to raise a smile.

Best Adult Novel: Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka

One of the most beautifully written books I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Getting to the end of the first few pages of this I had to pinch myself because I couldn't believe that I was lucky enough to have a free copy of this - being a book reviewer had NEVER seemed so fantastic! Journalist WG Karunasena's search for the lost legend of Sri Lankan cricket, Pradeep Mathew, is gorgeous, gripping, and heartbreakingly bittersweet.

Best YA Novel: Amy And Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

From the first moment I picked this up, and saw the scrapbook style based around the main narrative, I was entranced. Incredibly, in addition to being breathtakingly wonderful to look at, the actual story is just as gorgeous as Amy tries to come to terms with her grief at her father's death, and Roger tries to deal with the end of a relationship, while they travel across Matson's wonderfully described America.

Best Adult Non-Fiction: 42 - Douglas Adams' Amazingly Accurate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything by Peter Gill

Having read a lot of wonderful non-fiction, this may have been the hardest category to choose a winner for, but in the end the utterly trivial but completely engaging collection of facts about the famous number 42 takes it. I defy anyone to read this and not come away with at least a dozen pieces of trivia they'd never known but are glad they do now.

Best Children's Non-Fiction: The Story of Britain by Patrick Dillon and P J Lynch

Just a lovely, charming, and totally beguiling tale of this country's history. Perfect for youngsters finding out about Britain for the first time, equally perfect for adults needing a refresher course.

Best Sequel/Spin-off/Reboot: Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy by Andy Briggs

Taking the Victorian era character of Tarzan and putting him in the jungle of modern-day Africa must have been a gamble, but it pays off wonderfully for Andy Briggs, as this reboot is a captivating and hugely enjoyable action adventure which looks set to kick off a superb series. I can't wait for book two!

Best Scene: Jem and Iris in the opening scene of Six Words and a Wish by Karen McCombie

Typical Karen McCombie characters, Jem and Iris are warm and friendly from the first time we meet them - as seen in Chapter 1 with narrator Jem asking her hypochondriac friend "how can you FEEL a squeak?" as Iris complains about her knee squeaking. I swear that I'd have known just from that scene I was reading a Karen McCombie book, and that I'd absolutely love it.