Posted in discussion

Falling Out Of Love With Reading

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I have been reading books for as long as I can remember. In fact, if possible, I probably would have been born holding a book. Growing up I was fortunate not to have to worry about money and my mother raised me on the principle of “if you want a toy you have to wait a week to be sure you really want it, but if you want a book you can have it now.” Naturally my child mind wanted the thing I could have now; Quite a clever tactic really. I was read stories before bed; though my father preferred to make up his own stories and encourage me to do the same.

I take books everywhere with me. Even if I know for sure there is not an opportunity to read, I bring one along as a “just in case.” You never know when a quick two minutes might occur to pop into a fictional world. As I struggled with those around me not wanting to talk about books all the time – and many not reading the same things as me – I turned to the internet in search of a space that had other people like me. And thankfully I found a whole community.

And here we are, three years into a blog and a couple of months past a disastrous booktube channel attempt. Like many, I feel so much pressure to not only keep up with the new books but love them as everyone else and I feel like a failure when I don’t. My blog is scheduled so far in advance but already I’m worrying about the fact that I haven’t finished anything new that I want to review.

Back in March, it started to creep in like a gremlin lurking in the shadows: the reading slump. It manifests itself differently for everyone. But for me, I just don’t enjoy what I’m reading. Even if it’s textbook the sort of thing I would like, it just leaves me feeling empty. Reading is often an escape from my mental health which is obviously not a good way to go about things. But not enjoying reading also leads to me having a general life slump and I realise that I don’t have that much in my life outside of reading and writing, and it’s a dark place to be at times.

It can feel lonely and hopeless and I’m yet to find a way to really get out a reading slump other than to reread something I loved dearly. But then that pressure to be involved in the community bubbles to the surface again and I realise I’m falling behind. It’s sad to, in a way, fall out of love with books; especially when knowing how much time the author put into them.

But for now, I’ll keep muddling through a reading slump that’s been around since March… and hope for the best.

Posted in discussion

Why I Love Book Acknowledgements

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Back in the day, before the internet, (yes I am that old) the only way I could learn more about those people behind the books was through acknowledgements. I didn’t even know what my favourite authors looked like, so it was a chance to peek behind the curtain in some way.

Book acknowledgements are stories in themselves. A name that could mean nothing to me, means everything to someone else. Did they sit there over coffee with the author who groaned endlessly about a chapter that didn’t work? Have they been life-long friends? Maybe they’re another writer who understands the plight of creating a new world. As social media has developed and expanded, readers can now interact with their beloved creators on a daily basis. We feel closer as we see their friendships play out in the virtual world (take Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera and Angie Thomas, for example). Those names littered in the acknowledgment are often familiar now, but it doesn’t make them any less magical.

When a close friend of mine, K.M.Robinson, released her debut book Golden, I was overjoyed to read it after hearing about it for so long. At the time of writing this (I say that because she is a machine and could have written five more by the time this is posted), she has sixteen books out in the world. As I reached the inevitable end, I turned to the acknowledgements and froze when I saw not just my name, but a whole paragraph dedicated just to little old me. I will be grateful for this for the rest of my life.

My favourite thing about it is that it’s a collection of inside jokes. To anyone else, this is jut nonsense;  a weird footnote in a list of thank yous. But to me, it is everything.

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Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

Things I Learnt As A Bookseller

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Working in a bookstore was always something I wanted to do, regardless of for how long it would be. I’ve been fortunate to work as a Seasonal Bookseller, two Christmas’ in a row, at a high-street bookstore, and I thought I would share some of the things I learnt during my time there.

 

HOWEVER MUCH YOU THINK YOU READ, IT’S NOT ENOUGH

It’s pretty self-explanatory that you have to read a lot of books. But no matter whether you read 10 books a month, or 10 books a week, it is NOT ENOUGH. The book industry is constantly moving and unless you grow fifty pairs of eyes and arms, it’s pretty hard to keep up with.

 

THERE IS HOMEWORK

As someone who is very rigid when it comes to genre, you have to do a lot of relying on what other booksellers are into. If someone asks about cookbooks, it’s easily to palm that person off on your co-worker that spends all their free time baking cakes. But when a customer comes up to you with a book from the new releases section and wants to know whether it’s any good, reviews are your best friend. I spent a lot of time when the store was quiet just reading summaries and reviews of the latest releases I had no interest in reading, just so I would look like I knew what I was on about.

 

SENIOR BOOKSELLERS ARE WALKING ENCYLOPEDIAS

I lost track of how many obscure questions customers asked me where I stared back at them blankly, not sure they were talking about something real, only for a co-worker to go “oh yes I know all about that, let me show you out selection.” If you get to work as a bookseller, or the next time you go into a store, take time to talk to them. They have an endless supply of knowledge about books and various topics. I’m convinced some of them aren’t human.

 

PREPARE FOR BIZARRE INTERACTIONS

Following on from my previous point, I have my fair share of odd stories to share. My personal gem is a woman who told me she was looking for a book (handy as she was in a bookstore) and told me she “didn’t know the name of it, or who wrote it but it was on tv as a serial killer drama at the moment and she thought the cover was a light green colour.” Hoping I could narrow the search down, I asked if she knew what channel the show was on. To which she said “how the bloody hell should I know?” And walked off.

 

YOU WILL WANT TO TIDY EVERYTHING

Long after you’ve left your position (if a temporary one), and knowing the secrets of brand standards, you will struggle to avoid reorganising in stores. I have a bad habit of putting books in series order on a shelf, tidying tables before that horrible “I don’t work here” moment dawns over me and I scamper out of the store to safety.

 

SHELVING IS HORRIBLE

Is this 5-8 fiction or 9-12? Is it a biography? Travel? Am I going to leave it on this trolley for someone else to deal with? Absolutely. The only way to solve this problem is by paying attention to your surroundings and learning where everything is. There is no shortcut and it’s often a struggle to shelve books when the store is open. Also, you’ll probably get something wrong and see a senior bookseller grumbling to themselves as they move a book to the right place.

Posted in discussion

The Right Way To Read…

The book community is truly a wonderful place to be. I originally started this book because I wanted to create an online space where I could talk constantly about books without feeling like I have to apologise for word-vomiting my love for stacks of paper. I’ve grown to learn more about the industry and try some books I would never have touched of my own accord. Conversations are constantly streaming in this community from the latest movie news, book announcements, what readers are loving at the moment… But with the good side, there is also a bad one to balance everything out.

Every so often I see readers complaining about how others choose to read/what others choose to read; going on rants about over-hyped books not actually deserving the attention they get,  shaming others for the age range they enjoy, the genre, the tropes they devour. Recently, authors seem to have become a lot more vocal about the money side of dedicating their lives to creating fictional worlds. As the pressure has continued to build, it’s become hard for me to buy book without feeling some sort of guilt as I try to work out just how much of the money spent will be going directly to the authors I adore. So, with all of this in mind, what is the best way to read?

 

Audiobooks

Audiobooks have surged in popularity in recent years, causing many publishers to start dedicating more money and time to expanding their collections. Over the past year, I’ve fallen back in love with audiobooks. Readers can multi-task, some books work better in audio form because the narrator is just so good. But there’s a lot of stigma around whether they are “real reading.” It’s a silly argument to me as you’re still enjoying the story and also it allows those with sight difficulties to fall in love with these tales just the same way as everyone else.
E-Readers

With extensive deals and discounts, it’s no surprise that readers are often against the idea of E-Books. The dreaded electronic devices have been at the centre of many disagreements and I used to be firmly against one… until I actually got one. For people with sight issues, text can be altered both in font and size to make it more readable.

 

Books

Yes, it seems like a rather obvious one, I know. Of course the best way to read books is to… read books. But where exactly do you get your books from? The supermarket or a high street book store? The library or online? What about your local charity shops? A big criticism made towards the video community, Booktube, is the lack of mentions about independent places, libraries or charity shops. (Again, we’re back to the theme of shaming) I’ve seen many people feel like they are superior because they bought their latest stack of books for 50p each.

Basically, this is a long winded way of me making the point that it shouldn’t matter how you read. It should matter than you’re reading at all. That you’re out there blogging about the books you love or just recommending it to those in your real life. Do not ever feel shamed for what you choose to read or how you chose to enjoy those books (as long as it is legal of course!)

What are your thoughts?

Let me know your favourite way to read!

Posted in discussion

Mid Year Freak Out Tag

We’ve officially reached the mid-way point in the year, which is a mixture of exciting and terrifying! So it’s time to reflect on all the bookish adventures I’ve had so far.

Best Sequel Of The Year So Far

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This one is actually a bit of a cop-out as I’ve only read two sequels this year and this one was a reread. As you’re probably aware, it’s the second book in The Maze Runner series and after falling into my hole at the start of the year when the final film adaptation was released, I decided to give the whole series a reread. It’s definitely one of my favourites in the series.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To

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Noah Can’t Even was one of my favourite books of last year and when I found out there was going to be a sequel, I did a lot of running around and screaming. The first book is about a boy called Noah discovering and exploring his sexuality and it’s by a British author! It’s hysterical, cringy and just brilliant so I can’t wait to see what adventures Noah goes on in this one.

 

Most Anticipated For Autumn/Winter

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It is a known fact that I adore Becky Albertalli… but also that I am not the biggest fan of Adam Silvera, so it’s no surprise that the book I’m looking forward is What If It’s Us? I don’t know much about it except that it’s about two boys and all the possibilities of their lives together.

 

Biggest Disappointment Of The Year So Far

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As a big lover of both Tom and Giovanna’s individual works, I was both excited and nervous to hear that they were moving into the realms of Young Adult fiction. Sadly, it’s not that great. The narrators for the audiobook don’t really add anything to the characters, it’s badly written, and just… well, boring.

 

Biggest Surprise Of The Year So Far

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How To Stop Time was a Christmas present from a friend and not the sort of book I would have picked up of my own accord. It’s about a man who’s lived for centuries and is struggling to find his place in the world now that everyone he’s loved has passed away. It’s beautiful, emotional and raises the questions of who we are outside of our connections to other people.

 

New Favourite Author

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All it took was “The Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park” for me to pick up a copy of The Extinction Trials. It’s a world of two continents: one populated by humans, the other by dinosaurs. It’s action packed and utterly brilliant and I’m down for any other books S.M. Wilson may release!

 

Newest Favourite Character

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This isn’t really a new character, but I started the series last year and I just utterly adore Lara Jean. She’s so caring and loves her family and it just trying to stay true to herself.

 

Book That Made You Cry

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I heard about this book when Patrisse was on the Mostly Lit podcast talking about her life and the Black Lives Matter movement which she co-founded. I listened to the audiobook as I feel this is the best way to consume non-fiction. There are many exhausting moments of this book as Patrisse talks about her life but one chapter about the treatment of her brother regarding his mental health just had me sobbing. If you pick up one book this year, make it this one.
Book That Made You Happy

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Oi Goat was one of the World Book Day titles and just made me grin reading it. The frog in the story is teaching all the different things animals have dressed up as for World Book Day such as “otters dressed as Harry Potters.”

Most Beautiful Book So Far

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I mean, just look at it! It’s so simple but just packs a punch!

 

Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

History Of Magic: A Comparison

“J.K Rowling first had the idea for Harry Potter while delayed on a train travelling from Manchester to London in 1990. Over the next five years she planned the seven books in the award-winning series for them at Bloomsbury. Harry Potter’s journey had only just begun…”

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To mark the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter, the British Library held an exhibition all about the series. It covered everything from aspects of the content, to their real life magical counterparts, along with the chance to see J.K.Rowling’s notes and drawings in person. Like many, I was not able to attend, so breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced the exhibition would be turned into a book. In a time when we’re seemingly bombarded with endless add-on books (as discussed in my good things blog post LINK), I was slightly sceptical. But after reading, I can confirm this is probably the only extra Harry Potter book that needs to exist.

The book is available in two physical versions: The hardback which is called History of Magic and the paperback which is called Journey Through A History Of Magic.

The first main difference between the editions is the price: the hardback retails at £30 and is more of a “coffee table” book, whereas the paperback retails at £12.99 and is much easier to carry around.

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Both editions contain the same art and information; covering topics such as Defence Against The Dark Arts, potions and magical creatures. But the way that content is conveyed varies. The Hardback is more academic and very dense to read. I found myself having to take a chapter a day in order to get through it, and often had to reread passages because I didn’t understand what I’d just read.  Whereas the paperback is more aimed at children, and so the information is condensed, highlighting the important pieces of information to take away. It’s overall a lot more colourful and appealing to look at, along with little games to “try at home.”

Naturally, because I am such a child at heart, I enjoyed the paperback a lot more. It gives you the interesting highlights, has all the colourful illustrations from Jim Kay, and it’s easier to consume. Where it took me two weeks to get through the hardback, I was done with the paperback in an hour.

Have you read either edition? What did you think?

Posted in discussion

The Failure of The Great Gatsby

“I know Gatsby better than I know my own child. My first instinct was to let him go and have Tom Buchanan dominate the book but Gatsby sticks in my heart. I had him for a while, then lost him, and now I know I have him again.”

– Fitzgerald in a letter to Maxwell Perkins (December 1924)

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Originally titled Trimalchio In The West Egg, F.Scott Fitzgerald began work on The Great Gatsby in June 1922. After the success of his first two novels, Fitzgerald was sure that his new working progress would be the one to cement him as a literary writer.

Many critics and historians have tried to find the links between Fitzgerald’s situations and those his characters find themselves in, of which there are quite a few. But what I find most interesting is how fascinated Fitzgerald seemed to be with the period of time he lived in himself. In October 1922, Fitzgerald, his wife, and new-born moved to Long Island which would become the geographical base of his next novel. The house they lived in was small compared the homes of the wealthy New-Yorkers around them and money caused Fitzgerald no end of stress throughout his life. So it’s no surprise to see these themes make their way into The Great Gatsby; Especially during a time when technology was on the rise in the form of photographs and cars and the rise of consumerism.

The Great Gatsby was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons on April 10th 1925. On the same day, Fitzgerald contacted his editor, Maxwell Perkins, to ask if there had been any news, to which Perkins responded “sales situation doubtful, but excellent reviews.” As I mentioned earlier, Fitzgerald was sure his latest publication would be a commercial success, and hope he would sell as many as 75,000 copies. By October of the same year, The Great Gatsby had sold 20,000 copies. Critic response was incredibly mixed; and what many believe led to the period of self-doubt which Fitzgerald carried until the day he died. As to be expected, the negative reactions to the book were notable: One of the most memorable being from Harvey Eagleton for The Dallas Morning News who wrote “one finishes Great Gatsby with a feeling of regret, not for the fate of the people in the book, but for Mr. Fitzgerald.”

Fitzgerald felt that everyone, both with good and bad things to say, had missed the point he was trying to make with the book and (sorry to any ladies who swoon over him like I do) he blamed the bad reception, in part, on women being the main readers of literature at the time, and that they were put off by the lack of “admirable women” in the story.

Despite all of this, Scribner’s kept the book in print and the first edition remained on their trade list until 1946, by which time The Great Gatsby was available in three other print forms. In total, Fitzgerald earned only $8,397 from the book in his lifetime.

As critics continued to beat down his other books and with a stream of endless rejections, his wife’s illness led to him writing only short stories as a means to gain money quicker to pay for her care. F.Scott Fitzgerald died December 21st 1940 believing he was a failure.

However, this tale has a slightly happier ending. During World War II, publishing executives, under the “Council on Books in Wartime”, distributed paperback books to the fighting soldiers overseas. 155,000 copies of The Great Gatsby were among them. This led to streams of articles being written about Fitzgerald’s works in 1944. The book began to sell 50.000 copies a year and editor Arthur Mizener (The New York Times) labelling it “a classic of twentieth-century American fiction” certainly did a lot to help. As of 2013, The Great Gatsby had sold over 25 million copies worldwide. With the glitzy Baz Lurhman adaptation in 2013 and many educational institutions adding the book to reading lists, Fitzgerald is finding his way into new hearts every day.

F.Scott Fitzgerald died believing that he had failed as a writer. But that was not right. He just hadn’t found his audience yet.

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“America’s greatest promise is that something is going to happen, and after a while you get tired of waiting because nothing happens to American art because America is the story of the moon that never rose.”

-Fitzgeraald in a letter to Marya Mannes (October 1925

Posted in adaptations, discussion

Losing Characters To Adaptations

I have always been the person to read the book before seeing the film. Regardless of whether it’s something I’ve heard of before like Harry Potter or something entirely new like Divergent,I always have to pay a visit to the original material. I love comparing the two as my Book-To-movie segment on this blog will verify. While hard to stomach at times, everyone has different interpretations when they read the same story. As we seem to have entered a new phase of book adaptations called -only by me- the “YA Contemporary era” with Everything, Everything and  Love, Simon on the big screen, and The Hate U Give and To All The Boys I’ve loved Before soon to follow suit, it’s left me thinking once again about the power of adaptations.

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More recently, I saw the adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s best selling novel Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda. Despite having read it back in 2015, I revisited it so that I could do a book-to-movie talk. When talking to a friend after seeing it, I mentioned that when Nick Robinson was cast in the staring role, I was a bit put out as, after all, he didn’t LOOK like Simon to me. My friend said that she didn’t think Logan Miller was the right person to play Martin. However, to me I thought it was a perfect casting.

Reader, it was like I had  a sudden epiphany. I realized that the reason I always feel I have to read the book first is that an adaptation is someone else’s interpretation of the source material. Stories are streamlined, events are changed because films have a much tighter time constraint than its paper counterpart. As for characters, reading that book before seeing the film, if it’s one you truly love is the last time to see those characters in your own way before the film essentially taints your own perspective.

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I remember when I started reading the Harry Potter books and I cried when I saw Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role. (Yes my mum had a lot to deal with and admittedly I was eight at the time) Now whenever I re-read the books, I always picture him as Harry. The film actors now occupy the pages. Peter Pan has me imagining Jeremy Sumpter as the boy who will never grow up and captain hook as an amalgamation of Jason Isaacs and the Disney cartoon.

The only exceptions tend to be when I’ve seen the trailer so already picture the actors as the characters. Examples for this include The Maze Runner, Divergent and City of Bones. When I joined the fandom for the latter I was instantly asked what I thought of Jamie Bower as Jace and was met with screeches when I said that he was “Jace to me.” Apparently it was a sore subject for a lot of book fans.

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Looking back, I can’t help but feel like I had a little bit of magic stolen from me. But then again,without some of those films, I may not have discovered characters.
and worlds I loved so deeply.

But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to picture them my way… one last time… right?

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Posted in adaptations, discussion

Book To Movie Talk | Love, Simon

“You get to exhale now, Simon.”

Love

 

*This post contains mild spoilers*

Love, Simon is an adaptation of the bestselling novel Simon Vs The Homo sapiens Agenda, written by Becky Albertalli. When I read the book, I instantly fell in love with it and held the story close to my bisexual heart, having related so much to a lot of Simon’s narrative. Naturally, like many readers, I was over the moon to hear that it had been picked up for a movie and secretly prayed that it would eventually make its way onto the big screen. (Given there are many instances of rights being bought and things never happening)

It’s a coming-of-age and, well, coming out story of a gay teenage boy called Simon Spier who is threatened to be outed by a school bully, armed with screenshots of private emails between Simon and the mysterious Blue.

This film is so important for many reasons that you’ve probably already heard about a million times. To be “that adult”, if I’d seen this film when I was a confused 13 year old girl, maybe my own story would be different  But anyway, back to the film. I liked that it emphasised that no one comes out once. There’s always going to be friends you have yet to tell, new people in your life and every time is met with the same hesitation; Simon even uses the “I’m still me” line. Every scene is met with the same intake of breath as he waits to hear their response and I felt it so deeply.

I was unsure about Nick Robinson as Simon when the casting was announced, but I didn’t need to worry at all. Simply put: he is Simon. I was completely invested in his portrayal from every little smile when reading his emails, to every laugh and cry. The “that was supposed to be my thing” scene hit me like a ton of bricks. You could just feel the pure rage oozing from the character and the following sequence left me quietly sobbing into my popcorn. Katherine Langford, known for 13 Reasons Why, was another stand out for me. Leah is a quiet force in the overall drama of the story but Katherine managed to capture the essence of her character: feeling lost, overwhelmed with the possibilities open to her. But when she gets her big moment, my god she shines.

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I loved the contrast between the first and second halves of the film. The former felt slightly darker and like there was a restraint to Simon and the interactions he had with his friends. As Simon’s mother (played by Jennifer Garner) points out: it feels like he’s holding his breath. In comparison, the latter feels much brighter, Simon smiles more, he feels closer to his family and friends. After his first coming out scene, when he finally lets go of that breath, his character moves in a different direction and it’s beautiful to watch.

I also really like how Blue’s email sequences were littered with a different person each time, alternating with whoever Simon suspected to be Blue based on little things he dissected from the emails. It kept it interesting and tried to give a face to the person behind the emails before it’s eventually revealed.

From an adaptation point of view: it’s solid. The best internal narrative bits of the book are littered in voiceovers and all the major plot points are there. There is a big addition to add more drama to the story but it makes sense in the context of the film. The book is a quiet story, and on screen it needed that extra push to keep viewers interested. I was fascinated to see how the emails would be shown and it’s pretty much like in the book: you’re reading them along with Simon which I thought was a nice touch. You really are following Simon on his journey. I don’t feel that Martin was emphasised as much as he was in the book. One of the main points of his character was that he didn’t know/understand that people cared about other people’s sexualities and the result his actions would have. (Not that it excuses his idiot behaviour) In the film it felt like he very much knew what he was doing and trying to take the heat off himself. Which, I guess in its own way, kind of worked. The essence of Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is in very single frame of this film. If you love the book as much as I did, you’re not going to be disappointed.

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However, this film isn’t without its faults. The “trying to be down with the kids” head teacher is a trope that I’ve never been able to get behind in teenage comedies, and in Love, Simon it really took me out of the film. It was just forced humour that didn’t really work and the most hilarious moments happened in a more natural way; they just felt part of the conversation. The beginning is very disjointed, like we’re rushing to establish Simon and his relationships. The film really finds its feet when Simon sends his first email to Blue and after that it’s plain sailing.

The stand out scene for me was Simon and his mother having a heart to heart after he comes out. It’s heartfelt and beautiful and apparently Nick Robinson didn’t know that Jennifer Garner was going to cry as it wasn’t scripted… which then made him cry in the take. But I mean, who wasn’t crying by that point?

The ending fell to some romantic, teenage cliché but you know what? As Jacques a dit: everyone deserves a good love story.

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Posted in children's fiction, discussion

Thoughts On World Book Day

When I was a child, World Book Day was like an extra Christmas day for me. I took that token as if it was the most important gift bestowed upon me and picked out the book I wanted as if the fate of the entire world rested on my tiny shoulders.

Sadly, gone are the days when I am eligible for those magic tokens, but it doesn’t stop me, at the age of 24, making sure I buy at least one book from the line up every year. (I mean, they’re £1 each. How could I not?!)

So, when March 1st rolled around, I ventured out into the snow (yes, snow. England’s weather certainly took an interesting turn) and went to make my selections for the year. Here’s what I bought:

Brain Freeze by Tom Fletcher

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Blurb: “A little girl discovers that eating ice cream from her grandfather’s old ice-cream truck gives her the power to travel through time.”

If you’ve been a long time reader on my blog or watch my videos you won’t be surprised in the slightest to see that I picked up Tom Fletcher’s book. Despite being incredibly biased, I’ve always found his stories to be fun, witty and just downright enjoyable. So Brain Freeze was a no brainer for me.

Paddington Turns Detective And Other Funny Stories by Michael Bond

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Blurb: “Nothing is ever straightforward when Paddington is involved. Whether he is attempting detective work, helping to sail a boat or performing magic, ordinary things have a habit of becoming quite extraordinary!”

I have a confession to make… I’ve never read any Paddington Bear stories. Or seen the films. I know, I’m a mess of a reader but with this collection of fun stories making it onto the list, I can’t think of a more wonderful way to get started.

Oi Goat! by Kes Gray and Jim Field

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Blurb: “Frog turns stylist in this boisterous picture book, making all the animals put on their glad rags for World Book Day. But will everyone be as fashion forward as Frog?”

If you haven’t heard about the Oi! picture book series, then you’re seriously missing out. It’s a hysterical rhyming series about animals sitting on other animals and I think they’re utterly brilliant. So again, it was a no brainer to add this one to my picture book collection.

And there you have it! That’s what I picked up for World Book Day!

Did you grab anything?
Do you have any amazing memories to do with World Book Day?

Let me know!

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