top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Seven series I need to finish

There is something to be said for a good standalone. Or a trilogy. I am likely to finish a trilogy unless I don’t enjoy the first book, but it takes a compelling world and premise to keep me through seven or eight books. 

My unfinished series seem to fall into roughly two categories – 

  • Dystopian books popularised after The Hunger Games (which, tbh, seem to be languishing on my shelves)
  • Middle-Grade detective books (which I can’t wait to read, but haven’t got through yet) 

Do you notice any trends in your unfinished fiction? Do you plan to finish any of the unread series on your shelves? Let me know in the comments below. Leave your TTT links and I will get back to you ASAP. 

bird

Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden

Of all the dystopian books on my shelves, these are the ones I am most likely to finish. This is an Australian YA series written in the 1990s. It was republished and turned into a film in the wake of The Hunger Games. War breaks out. A group of teenagers who were camping when their town was rounded up form a rebellion. 

I am sorry I didn’t finish this back in 2010. It was a good series to read at 21, when I was closer in age to the 18-year-old protagonists. Read these outdoors on a hot summer’s afternoon. 

 

Divergent by Veronica Roth

We all know our factions, we have strong feelings about Tris and Four, but how many of us finished the Divergent trilogy? I read Divergent before it was published in the UK, ran to the bookshop the day Insurgent was released … then never finished it.

 

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens 

I am working my way through this series at the moment. It is a middle-grade mystery series which is particularly addictive. The clues are spelled out by the fictional detectives in a way which enables the reader to work through the puzzle. 

 

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

I remember this dystopia being well-written. It was set in an unusual world and there were some interesting sibling relationships. 

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This was another US hit which I heard about ahead of the UK release. I liked the concept of building a story around vintage photographs. The story itself didn’t hook me. I’ve read better timeslip novels. I would love to see the Tim Burton adaptation, however, because I can’t think of a better director-novel pairing. 

 

Ruby Redfort by Lauren Child

Ruby Redfort is recruited by top-secret agency SPECTRUM to help them break a secret code. The first book turned into an amazing action-adventure. I would love to return to this series. 

 

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies is centered around a brilliant premise. It is set in a world where everyone is operated on to become beautiful at the age of 16. The world is divided between uglies and pretties. A young girl realises there is more to this set-up than meets the eye, and the further she investigates, the more lies and corruption she finds. I enjoyed Uglies and Pretties, but by Specials, I found the plot a bit melodramatic and difficult to believe. I should return and finish the series because I would like to know how the story ends. 

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top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Five Books to read by the pool

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June 21st marks the longest day of summer. We’re in the lightest weeks of the year. What is is about long summer days and contemporary fiction? Suddenly I want something lighter, brighter and totally relatable. 

I like to read outdoors on a lounger, or in the summer house. The swallows are here at the moment and I love looking up from my page to see them diving around like ariel acrobats. Storm Hector aside, we’ve had some lovely weather. Being outside makes me appreciate life and be in the moment. There is something about being in a place with no WiFi. 

Whether you are heading somewhere hot or plan to spend some lazy afternoons outdoors, you need good TBR pile. These five books would make excellent summer reading. 

bird

How To Write A Love Story by Katy Canon 

Tilly has always wanted to be an author like her gran, the bestselling romance novelist Bea Frost. When Gran asks Tilly to write her next romance novel, Tilly is forced to confront the fact she has never been kissed. She sets out with an action plan but finds that real life isn’t like a novel.

Read my review of How To Write A Love Story here. 

 

Floored (Collaborative) 

Six teenagers from different backgrounds are thrown together when they watch a man die in a lift. They meet on the anniversary over the next five years, falling out, falling in love and supporting each other through their different problems. 

Seven of the biggest names in UKYA have joined together to produce an epic novel. It hasn’t been revealed which author wrote which part (the six characters and the narrator.) This is causing huge conversation in the online YA community. 

 

The Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Bennet’s bookshop has always been a refuge for sixteen year old Paige. It is where she can earn some money and escape from her sleepy hometown. When Bennet’s is threatened with closure, Paige is determined to save it. How can she get people interested in their local bookshop. 

I spent 18 happy months working part-time in an independent bookshop. I can’t begin to tell you what that shop meant to me, or what I would have done to save it. Bookselling is different from other branches of retail. The conversations between staff and customers make it about so much more than shifting units. A bookshop can be a community. 

 

The Polka Dot Shop by Laurel Remington 

Everyone is happy about the new non-uniform policy at school except Andy. How is she supposed to compete with the kids who have money for new clothes? Then Andy finds a bag of designer clothes in her mum’s vintage shop. Can she embrace vintage and help to transform the shop into something special? 

Laurel Remington is the author of the hugely readable The Secret Cooking Club books. I am on the blog tour for The Polka Dot Shop and look forward to telling you more ASAP. 

 

Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt 

Hope lands an internship working backstage on a major production. Her plans to work hard and make a name for herself are sidetracked when she meets an insanely talented understudy. What should take centre stage – romance or ambition?

I love stories set in theatres and performing communities. The old-fashioned theatre setting won me over before I had even finished reading the blurb. I have high hopes for this and look forward to telling you more. 

 

What are you reading this summer? Do you read any particular genres over the summer months? Let me know in the comments below.

 

top ten tuesday

Ten Children’s Books About Cats

img_3882Cats are integral to my life. First there was Lucy. Gentle giant. The kind of cat who kept the house in order by licking her kittens (humans) into shape. Then there was Max. Diva. Deity. Think of Maui from Moana turned feline. What can I say folks, you’re welcome Max knew he blessed us with his presence and he capitalised on it. Now we have Maisie and Willow, our beautiful rescue cats. 

It is only natural that I like stories about cats.

Six Dinner Sid and The Diary Of A Killer Cat were childhood favourites. And Mog. Gentle, dozy Mog, who knew it was her role in life to keep her humans in check. There were stories about cats which I detested too. Those sugary here-kitty-kitty type stories. The ones where the cat was some kind of … pet.

I am suspicious of people who overuse the word pet. Sure, we talk about pet products and pet insurance. One word to refer to our animal companians. That’s fine. It is people who treat my animals as something inferior, something there for the human’s entertainment that I cannot abide. No. My girls are animals. They are part of the family. I like my cat books to reflect their nature (see … nature. Not trained behaviour.) If humans are involved in the story it needs to reflect the very special bond which can be formed between feline and homo-sapien. 

If you are still reading, odds are you are a cat person, in which case I salute you, and send respectful greetings to your feline friends. Let me know your favourite cat books in the comments below. 

 

The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley: 

Mowzer lives with her human Tom. He catches fish for her supper and knows the perfect place to tickle behind her ear. One day, the Great Storm Cat comes. The boats can’t get out to fish. The community starves. Mowzer and Tom are elderly. They have lived long lives. They take it upon themselves to go out and catch fish. It  is up to Mowzer to tame the Great Storm Cat with her beautiful voice.

Based on a Cornish legend, this is one of the best books about the life-long bond between human and cat. Mowzer is not Tom’s pet, she is his companion. Neither can contemplate life without the other. Nicola Bayley is famed for her illustrations of cats. Here her expertise brings the Great Storm Cat to life in a way which is both striking and memorable. 

 

Six Dinner Side by Inga Moore:

Six Dinner Sid: Sid is accoustoumed to six dinners a day. He answers to six different names and sleeps in six different houses. One day, Sid gets ill and the game is up. His humans are not best impressed with their cat-share arrangement. Can Sid find a place where his lifestyle will be accepted?

Some cats eat. And eat. And eat. When I rented a flat, I had regular visits from the handsome tabby upstairs. This chap would fling himself into a pan of baked-beans if you turned your back. Our Maisie likes her food too. She parades around her food bowl for up to nintey minutes ahead of food time. Everybody loves Sid because the story begins with a recognisable feline trait. 

 

Tabby McTat by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler: 

Tabby McTat was a busker’s cat …

This rhyming story follows the adventures of Tabby McTat. McTat always lived with busker Fred. When Fred has an accident, McTat is taken in by a kindly couple and there he meets the love of his life, Sock. By the time Fred is found, McTat has a litter of kittens and a whole new life. 

I think I loved this book because it captures the ineractions of city cats. Our Max lived most of his life in London, and he had regular interactions (both friendships of a sort and blood-curdling fights) with the neighbourhood cats. 

 

Cat, You Better Come Home by Garrison Keillor:

A dark twist on Six Dinner Sid. A cat with expensive tastes does not get the lifestyle she is accoustomed to at home, so she sets out across the world on a globe-trotting adventure in search of fame and fortune. Delicious fortune. At first she has a great success, but ultimately she ends up at the front door with her tail between her legs. 

I found this slightly surreal book when I sorted books at a charity shop. I read to Max. It made no difference – he still preferred fresh king prawns to the ordinary frozen ones. 

 

The King Cat by Marta Altes:

This cat was king of his household until a disgusting, dribbly dog arrives. Cat is not keen to adjust to being one of two pets. A brilliant metaphor for new sibling jealousy.

Cats get jealous. They get possessive of their humans. Maise and Willow love each other to pieces when they think nobody is looking, but if they are having a cuddle they want the human to themselves. Max … Max got jealous of laptops. He learned to push the screen down. I think he thought we were stroking the keyboards. 

 

Slinky Malinky by Lynley Dodd:

Slinky Malinky steals anything. Gloves, slippers socks. She gains a reputation as the local cat burgler. 

I knew a cat burglar Her name was Mabel. She had a penchant for gloves and ear-buds. We used to buy washing up gloves and write messages on them. Sometimes we looked out of the window and saw her dragging rubber gloves across the road. She was also an expert at breaking and entering. She used to follow sales-people around and slip through the open doors when people were distracted. She even made the local paper. 

 

Diary Of A Killer Cat by Anne Fine: 

So hang me. I killed the bird. For pity’s sake I’m a cat …

Tufty has a reputation as a cold-blooded murdurer. If it fits through the cat-flap, he’ll kill it and bring it home. When Tufty turns up with next-door’s rabbit, all hell breaks loose. Did Tufty really kill Thumper? Tufty watches with amusement as the humans devise a plan to put Thumper back in his cage before next-door cotton on. 

This is laugh-out-loud funny, and one of the best examples of voice an aspiring writer can find. 

 

The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy: 

The feral cats of Delhi fear no-one. They stick to their territories or pay the price. Now there is a new cat, a pampered house cat with strange powers. And something is stirring in the shuttered house. Something dark and dangerous. 

This may be fantasy, but it is particularly observant of feline behaviour. It is also a bloomin’ good story. I read it with my mouth open. Please tell me if you read this, because I want to talk about this series. 

 

Varjak Paw by SF Said:

Varjak Paw is a Mesopotamiam Blue. His cousins say he is not a good one. Mesopotamiam Blues do not dream of adventure. Varjak and his family live in a large house. When their wealthy owner dies, a strange gentleman comes in with his dangerous cats. Varjak must escape the house, learn the ways of his ancient ancestors and bring a dog back to help his family. 

Varjak learns a code called ‘the way’. It is like ninja-skills for cats, based on real cat behaviours. Literature has previously refered to the secret ways of cats. Cats have a mystique. Varjak Paws uses this to great effect. 

 

The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison:

‘You’re the only person and know. And, well … I’m hungry.’ 

This is the only book on my list which isn’t about cats. It has a great feline character, a talking cat called Tabitha who has come out of a fictional story into the real world. Tabitha may be a talking cat, but it is her feline behaviour which makes her real. Michelle Harrison knows her cats and it shows in the narrative. 

 

Do you have a favourite children’s book about cats? Do you have a feline friend? Let me know in the comments below.

top ten tuesday

Ten Reasons We Might Fail To Get On With A Book.

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Sometimes we don’t want to finish a book. It’s the dirty secret bookworms believe is theirs and theirs alone. If you organised a confessional, people would come. I swear. We get into such a tizz about our DNFs. Can you imagine people behaving the same way over films or computer games? 

My big secrets:

It is OK to dislike a book

It does not mean you are inferior. It does not mean the book is too literary or political or intelligent for you. 

You are not a snob for disliking a writer’s prose. You are not a snob for disliking certain themes. 

You might like it in the future. You might not. Remember – we bring ourselves to fiction. As we change and grow we need different things from our reading. A character who bored you to tears the first time around might be the one you relate to in ten years. They might not. 

Here are reasons I might fail to finish a book. Do you relate to any of these? Let me know in the comments below. bird

  • A newer book is on our shelves, casting its latest-purchase magic. Even worse? There is a book I do not own but somebody else does. Why is the book I have acquired most recently always the one I want to read? 
  • Dull prose sends me to sleep. The end. 
  • I bought it for the cover. The shiny, shiny cover which the publisher invested heavily in. Other than that it isn’t my thing. 
  • Netgalley made me click-happy and now I am cowering in the face of digital files. 
  • Somebody told me I would love this book. It’s a curse. Speak not the fatal words if you want your friends to enjoy the same book as you. 
  • It appropriates someone else’s experience. I don’t believe you must live an experience to write about it but you must research and be sensitive to the real thing. 
  • I’ve read a-bazillion-and-one books this month. I will never read again. I do not know what reading is. 
  • It’s due back at the library so my reading pace has slowed to snailish. Deadlines. Also a curse
  • Entire GCSES and A-Levels and Degree modules count on me knowing this plot. OK, not relevant right now, but if my understanding of a book is going to be graded my interest in it is nada. Expectations? Curse
  • My book group chose it. Hence I don’t join book groups. That’s deadlines and expectations and I’m-supposed-to-love-it rolled into one. Albeit with tea and biscuits on the side. 
top ten tuesday

Five YA Friendships

Here is it again. Valentines, Galentines or Singles Awareness Day – and no I ain’t, now you ask. Whatever name you call it, it is quite probable that by this point you have had enough. Perhaps you need a shoulder to cry on.

This is certainly the case for a lot of YA characters. Without conflict there would be no story.  The poor things endure so much for our entertainment. Thank-goodness for BFF characters. The ones who have been there since childhood and come back no matter what stupid things the main character says in Act 2. This list features some of my favourite YA BFFs, but I would love to know yours. Which friendships did you enjoy reading the most? Who do you secrectly wish was your BFF? Let me know in the comments below.bird

BeforeIFallBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver – Sam should have died in that car-crash, but she keeps returning to the morning of the accident. Every time she relives her day something changes. Gradually she learns why she has returned, and is forced to challenge the Mean Girl behaviour of her friendship group. Despite their behaviour to other people, I **love** the friendship between Sam and Lindsay. Yes, they are horrible, but they are friends. They love each other and have each other’s backs, and it felt realistic. Popularity is a big issue in schools, and this book told it like it was. Too often fiction tries to turn the reader against popular kids, but Lauren Oliver understood that their friendship could survive without the bullying.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli – She’s elusive, she is strange and she captures Leo’s attention. Star Girl may not strictly be YA, but it is certainly teen interest. I read it over and over throughout my teens, enchanted by Stargirl. The girl who didn’t want to fit in. The girl who wore handmade clothes and played Ukellele in school. Stargirl is not Leo’s friend at the start of the narrative, but their friendship is the most memorable.

img_4802Flying Tips For Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrean- Since an incident of bullying in his first year, Finch has insisted he and his twin sister Birdie dress differently, act differently. He thinks this makes their unpopularity ironic. Then Birdie has an accident and Hector Hazzard comes into Finch’s life. I love the relationship between Finch and Hector, and how much Finch learns when he opens himself to other people.

Justin Case by Meg Rosoff – David Case reckons he will die if he doesn’t get to date Agnes. He reckons he will probably die anyway. After saving his little brother from an accident, David becomes convinced Fate has it in for him. With Agnes’s help, he styles himself as a new person in a bid to outwit fate. The friendship I love is between David/Justin and Peter. Peter is the ‘B Story’ friend. Ingeniously, they meet on a running track. No matter how fast Justin tries to outrun Peter, eventually he is forced to face the truth only an honest friend can deliver.

Geek Girl – When Harriet Manners is given an opportunity to model, it is too much for her best friend Nat. All Nat has ever wanted since she was tiny is to work in the fashion industry, and now the opportunity has presented itself to Harriet. Her awkward, totally-geeky best-friend. Nat is fantastic. She admits her feelings and helps Harriet confront arch-bully Alexa. Their friendship reminds us that nothing is more important than our BFF.

Louise Nettleton

top ten tuesday

TTT – Bookish Resolutions

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It’s a quick one today because I’ve written resolutions, anti-resolutions, goals and reflections, but I love to join in with Top Ten Tuesday. It is one of the best-loved memes of the bookish community and I meet so many different bloggers by taking part. I have reflected on the past year, and written a couple of goals for 2018. It is by no means ten, but these were my top thoughts. Do share your links and tell me how your reading changed across the past year. 

2017

Start a blog – BookMurmuration was born in February 2017 (it moved to WordPress in May). Writing about books taught me to read in more depth, and it gave me a network of bookish people to talk to about my reading. 

 

Read different genres – the genre which widened my perceptions was contemporary YA. Before I stared blogging, I thought it would only be relevant to teenagers. I thought it would be about love-triangles and giggly girls and lipstick. How wrong I was. Everybody was reading Wing Jones. I picked it up in a ‘3 for 2’ and read with my mouth open. I have learned more about writing by reading across a huge range of genres. bird2018

Picture Books – At long last, YA readers are discovering Middle Grade thanks to some brilliant promotion and community events on Twitter. There still seems to be an assumption that picture books are only read by children, and adults who pick them on behalf of children. Picture books are one of the greatest pleasures on this planet. They are quick-reads with hidden depth, and some outstanding artists work in this format. Lets see picture books loved by a wider audience! 

 

Literary Fiction – As a teenager, my staple diet was literary fiction. I rediscovered children’s literature when I sorted books in a charity shop aged 19/20, and it became my passion during the children’s literature module of my degree. I love literary fiction too, and the depth of understanding I have has increased ten-fold between my degree and blogging experience. It would be lovely to feature some on my blog, and I very much enjoyed The Devil’s Highway, which I read over Christmas. Check back for my review on Thursday. 

 

Get to more events – Introverts find it difficult to come out of their book pages, but I gained so much last year from an Arvon course, and a couple of events hosted by Seven Stories. I’ve already booked for the Northern YA Fest at Lancaster Uni, and a talk with Brian Connaghan and Sarah Crossan hosted by Seven Stories. Both of these events are *free* – if you’re in travelling distance, make sure you don’t miss out!

 

 

 

top ten tuesday

Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings

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All I want for Christmas is … well. The answer is pretty obvious. Over the last couple of weeks I have had such lovely book post, I feel Christmas has come already. All I want now is a new pair of PJs and some bath bombs, and I’m set for a good time. 

There are always books I want. I noticed how many picture books made my list. Why is it I feel guilty about stocking up on picture books but not on MG? Picture books not only give us access to beautiful art and visual literacy, they contain some of the most concise and beautifully written stories available. 

Here are ten books I want Santa to bring. In the meantime, I wish all TTTers who celebrate a Merry Christmas. Have a good one guys. birdThe Snow Lion by Jim Helmore – lonely Caro befriends The Snow Lion. They explore together, but Caro must step out on her own. A story about self-belief. I wanted this book before I knew what it was about. The colour pallete is beautiful and I love the art work. The effect of the story and illustrations together reminds me of Raymond Briggs, and I am a HUGE Briggs fan.

 

Daemon Voices by Phillip Pullman – Theory of story always interests me. It is lovely to see a well-known author publishing a book of essays. Authors, especially those as well-established as Pullman, are the people who have spent the most time writing. We need to preserve their knowledge. It’s a safe bet that if I receive this, I will disappear and not be seen until New Year.

 

Tell Me A Dragon by Jackie Morris – I collect books illustrated by Jackie Morris. This is a new collection. I have three so far. I have always loved her Christmas card illustrations, and liked her art on Pinterest. Tell Me A Dragon is a great example of how one thing can be imagined infinite different ways.

 

The Lost Words by Rob Macfarlane and Jackie Morris – One of the most successful and reprinted books this Christmas. Since we moved back to Cumbria I have had a chance to see so much more of the natural world – starlings queuing for migration and great murmurations. I hope this book will reconnect people with these things, and get them outdoors.

 

Witch Born by Nicholas Bowling – I’ve written about this a number of times this year, but not got round to buying it yet. This is one to catch up on.

 

Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard – Amy from GoldenBooksGirl has told me to read Beetle Boy 120 times. We are going to choose books for each other at the start of the New Year, but you know what? She’s talked about this one so many times she won’t have to choose it for me. Amy, you’ve given me the bug. 😉

 

Petra – ‘I never thought I’d find a rock cute.’ I had this conversation with another book blogger, but it is true. Petra steals your heart from the front cover. This is one I should have bought in the Tate. All the arty-types around me were reading up on tone, and texture and things I won’t even pretend to properly understand. Me? I was squealing over Petra.

 

Leaf – A polar bear is carried to the woods. He makes wings of leaves and tries to fly home. Another book which has been on my wishlist all year. Occasionally a video comes up on Twitter which shows just how divine the artwork is. It captures how many shapes and textures there are in the forest.

 

The Atlas of Monsters – Fiction? Non-fiction? This is a reference book of all the fatastic beasts known to man-kind. As a fan of folklore, of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and of fantasy in general, I have fallen in love with this book. 

 

Moon by Britta Teckentrup – This book captures woodland animals and the atmosphere of a walk in the forest. It is beautiful. This is another book which comes up regularly on my Twitter timeline, and I would love a finished copy. As it is not out until 2018, Santa would have to break-the-law or bribe a publicist with gingerbread to obtain a copy.