11.28.2013

DIVERGENT - Veronica Roth



In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
- Goodreads description

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I've heard so much furor about this book - and even more about the series finale - that I've been going back and forth on whether I really wanted to read it. Between my desire to experience the story - because only a good one could create so much chatter - and fear that I'll become way too attached and that Allegiant will break my heart (please, please, PLEASE don't give away ANYTHING in the comments. I'm begging you.)

 
Magical, terrifying or just deeply tragic, I want the surprise.

And now that I've finally finished the first book in the series, I'm pretty sure I'm going to need an entire case of Kleenex to make it through the rest of these books!

Actually, better make it a dozen.

At first Roth's dystopic version of post-conflict Chicago made me go, "Huh? The fuck?" But as I continued to read it started to slowly make more sense to me. There's suspense and drama right from the beginning. There are characters you come to root for, and others you come to despise. There are even some you go back and forth on.

As I read, I came to love the concepts behind the factions (though not their practical application as it had become distorted and vicious). I particularly loved the basis of Dauntless - though this was probably informed more by my love of black clothing, tattoos and piercings than anything else. I definitely am not a fan of heights.

No thanks. More donuts now, please.

The world Roth created was so powerful that as I read, I constantly imagined myself living in it. Which faction would I choose? How would I deal with the bullying and cruelty of the other initiates? Would I survive the tests involved in initiation? My empathy for Tris as she faced these difficult situations drew me wholeheartedly into her world and made me very attached to both her and Four (aka Tobias).

I liked that Roth didn't pander to the overdone tropes of insta-love or the dreaded love triangle. I liked that I could enjoy Tobias and Tris falling for one another without the annoyance I normally end up feeling. Of all the YA books I've read in the last year, this one reminded me most strongly of The Fault In Our Stars - of the relationship between Augustus and Hazel. Obviously this isn't the same, but the feeling it evoked in me as I read was similar. Granted they do "fall in love" pretty quickly, but so much happens in the plot that it doesn't feel forced or rushed. So I'm okay with it.

Because I have to, I can certainly point out a few things that weren't perfect about the book. The premise, while I became accustomed to it, did turn me off a bit at the beginning. The factions are just so extreme, and such a huge commitment. Dividing and ghettoizing people based on one personality attribute that is supposedly stronger than the others seems as absurd to me as dividing people based on gender or skin colour. But then again, maybe that was part of the point - to highlight just how absurd such prejudice is. And how unsustainable.

The thing I struggled with the most, however, was the idea of choosing an entire life when you're 16 based on one personality trait. And the fact that these kids then had to choose to leave their families, face tests they may or may not have an idea of, and if they fail, be cast out of society permanently. A little harsh, no? The other issue for me was that no one's personality is that one-faceted. Sure, some people are more generous than others. Some are more courageous. Some are more intelligent. But does that preclude them from also being kind, selfless or honest? And shouldn't we all aspire to all these things? Isn't focusing too much on any one aspect detrimental?

Factions: Collect the whole set!

Of course, these are some of the issues ultimately faced by Tris and Tobias, and Tobias discusses his desire to be more than just one thing. But honestly, I'm surprised everyone wasn't divergent!

There are definitely some aspects to this series that scream Hunger Games - like the factions that mirror the districts (right down to one faction based within the major city taking control and using the others to service its interests), the different styles of life and dress between the factions, different societal roles they each play, the way teenagers are torn from their families and thrown into life-threatening situations. Sure, it's not the same. But there are some echoes.

That's all fine, though. You know why? Because even though the premise of the Hunger Games was fascinating, Divergent is much, much better written. And in the end, as the story progresses, it becomes more unique and less like anything I've ever read before - HG included.

I'm apprehensive to continue on with Insurgent and, eventually, the dreaded Allegiant. Call me a pussy, but I have a feeling that Roth will be ruthless with her characters (though not George R. R. Martin ruthless, cos no one is quite that bloodthirsty), and that makes me very, very nervous. But one of my many character traits is curiosity, and I just have to know - so I'm on to Insurgent!

I also cannot wait to watch the movie:



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Book Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Edition: Hardback
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books
Released: April 25, 2011
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopia, Conflict
Pages: 487
Date Read: November 15-November 19, 2013
Rating: 8.5/10

11.26.2013

WWW Wednesdays - November 27, 2013

http://shouldbereading.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/www-wednesdays-nov-6/

It's time for this week's WWW Wednesdays, hosted by Should Be Reading blog (head over and check them out!).

This link up asks three questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you'll be reading next? 
This week may be just a little bit boring... because I've fallen down a Veronica Roth rabbit hole. Yep, that's right:

What am I currently reading?


So here's a tragic story. Sunday. The day of rest. The day when any normal book nerd is curled up somewhere cosy with a cuppa, a blanket and a lovely novel. But there's me, sprawled nearly upside down, bright light in my eyes, mouth wedged uncomfortably open, drill whining into my teeth. For two. And. A. Half. Hours. Obviously after that kind of tortuous ordeal, a girl needs a new book. This was my choice. I love Maggie on Twitter, and I've heard nothing but wonderful things about the Shiver series. But I decided to start here. Excellent so far.





What did I recently finish reading?




Oh boy. I polished off the first two books in this series in a matter of a few days. Then I got stuck. I liked these books, but I'm scared of Allegiant. Also, tbh, I felt kind of exhausted after the first two!







What do I think I'll be reading next? 




So far I'm really liking The Raven Boys. If it keeps up I'll definitely want to read the second book right away! Anyone know if this is going to be a series or trilogy? I'm really hoping there will be at least three books. Great premise and writing so far!







What're your WWWs this week?

11.25.2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Things I'm Thankful For


This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is a seasonal feature since it's Thanksgiving for those lucky bastards folks south of the border. So TBatB wants to know ten things we bloggers are thankful for. They said it could be bookish or not, but I mean really. Who do they think they're talking to??

1. The feel of a new book in my hands.

Nothing compares to that moment when you pick up a new book, settle into your favourite cosy corner, and open it to the first page. Nothing.

2. The community of online bloggers and tweeters who allow me to indulge my (not so) secret book nerd.

Seriously. You guys totally rock.

3. Libraries.

http://byamoret.com/welcome/2011/02/16/the-rapidly-disappearing-printed-word/

The public library is one of the most important parts of the community infrastructure. There's nothing more valuable than access to a wide range of reading materials for everyone - regardless of economic status. I volunteered at a local library as a child, and have retreated to libraries throughout my life when I need a place to take a break from the world.

4. E-readers.

I know some of you will grumble about this one. Part of me does, too. There's nothing better than a book in my hands. But I love the portability of the e-reader. I love that I can read at night without disturbing the hubs (well, not as much, anyway). I like that my books don't get as dog-eared. And I like that because books are cheaper, I can try out more authors I wouldn't have risked in print. (And I normally end up loving them and buying the physical book too.) Plus, since I've got a bad back, the e-reader lets me actually read on my 2 hour commute, which is a huge win!

5. The scent of a bookstore.

http://ibleedinkcp.blogspot.ca/

Whether it's  new or used, the smell of a bookstore is the smell of home.

6. Authors who prioritize excellent writing, character development and an awesome plot.

Plot is important. So are believable and layered character portrayals. But none of this works for me if the text isn't edited properly or if it is sloppily-written. I care about the English language. Please don't abuse it. One of my favourite authors in this respect is J.K. Rowling. Her books are grammatically impeccable. As well as, obviously, wonderful storytelling.

7. Fictional friends, mentors and teachers.

http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/professor-mcgonagall/images/7083850/title/professor-minerva-mcgonagall-photo

I couldn't possibly have encountered the same range of people and experiences in real life as I have in books. Which isn't to say real life isn't important or anything, just that books have widened my scope even further.

8. What books have taught me about myself, the world, and those around me.

I read an article awhile back discussing how reading fiction makes people more empathetic. I don't know all the science behind it, but I can tell you that in my experience, this is definitely true. Not only does it give you a glimpse into the workings of someone else's brain (the author's), but it allows the reader to experience first-hand what it's like to be in an entirely different life. Sure, it's imaginary, but the imagination is powerful. And I believe in its ability to make me a better person.

9. The comfort curling up with a blanket, a cup of tea and a good book can bring - especially when it's cold or rainy outside and when I've had a rough day.

http://pastelpinkpaisley.blogspot.ca/2011_04_01_archive.html


Some days the thought of doing this is all that gets me through. It's my ultimate happy place. 

10. The many amazing worlds created by talented writers over the years that I can escape to and explore whenever I want or need to.

There are books and whole series (*ahem* Harry Potter *ahem*) that I will return to over and over again. Particularly when life is getting me down and I need the comfort of somewhere better, familiar and... well, not here. For these worlds that never change, never get old, never shut me out, I will be forever grateful.

I know that if I spent even another ten minutes on this I'd have double this many things to be thankful for. More, even. At the end of the day, I'm just thankful for books and the authors who write them. They've opened so many doors - both in the world around me and in myself - and I can't imagine (nor do I want to) my life without them.

What are you thankful this year? 

P.S. - After reading some of you guys' excellent posts, I'd also like to add that I'm thankful for Goodreads (because otherwise I'd never remember all the books I want to read or find half as many new ones) and my cats, who make excellent reading companions!

11.24.2013

THE NATURALS - Jennifer Lynn Barnes


Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides— especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own.

Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive. - Goodreads description


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As you might know if you read my other blog, I'm more than slightly obsessed with Criminal Minds, the TV show about a team of FBI profilers (based on the work of John Douglas, a real-life profiler whose book, Mindhunter, is one of my favourites). This team travels around the USA, working on cases involving serial killers or other cases where their skills could help identify the perpetrator.

I also may have a minor obsession with Garcia.

Their particular skills allow them to analyze crime scenes, signatures and MOs to come up with a (spookily accurate) profile of the likely killer, right down to their age and what may have motivated the crime.

I love crime shows, but this one in particular has fascinated me. The idea of being able to learn that much about a killer based solely on evidence is pretty amazing - plus it's interesting to see what motivates extremes of behaviour - murder being one pretty big extreme.

But I digress. This book is kind of like a cross between Criminal Minds and another show I love - The Mentalist - about an expert at reading people. In The Naturals, Barnes creates an FBI program that seeks out teenagers who have a "natural" skill or ability that is useful to the FBI. The talents of the kids in the program vary - one is a natural lie detector, another sees patterns in the world around her that help to crack codes and notice similarities between crimes, another reads emotions based on body language, and two are natural profilers.

The idea behind the program is to foster their natural abilities early on before too much "real life" gets to them and messes them up. Of course, since they're still kids, they're not able to help on current cases - but there are plenty of cold ones for them to hone their skills on.

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The main character, Cassandra, is one of the natural profilers, explained by the fact that she was brought up by a "psychic" to read people based on physical and behavioural clues. Very much like Patrick Jane, also known as The Mentalist.


Cassie is the most recent recruit to the program. Her decision to join it was largely influenced by a horrific event in her own life - when she opened the door to her mother's dressing room to find her mother gone, and the room soaked in blood. Her mother's body was never found, and she's spent five years wondering what happened to her.

When she joins the program she hopes that at some point she'll have the opportunity to look into her mother's cold case, maybe even find some answers. What she doesn't expect is to become a target herself. She doesn't expect to find herself standing in a room with a dead body lying on the ground in front of her.

And she really doesn't expect to have to question everyone around her.


Because of my fascination with Criminal Minds and anything along the same lines, I loved the premise of this book. Sure, the whole "naturals" thing is a bit hokey, but that's okay. I thought it was hokey for the first season of The Mentalist, too, and look how great that show turned out to be.

I also read a couple of reviews that said the book was a bit disappointing. But I actually really enjoyed it. I was completely riveted almost from the beginning, and by the time Cassie had joined the program I couldn't put down the book. I read the entire thing in 24 hours.

There was a good deal of suspense and escalation of the plot, and I was definitely going, "Wait... what?" when I hit the final climax. There was also a lot of bloody description - more than I expected from a Young Adult crime. I even had chills once or twice.

I guess the only down side was a little too much teen love triangle drama (though I liked that it was more possible-crush-triangle since they'd all just met. No insta-love here!) - and not enough character development to make me care much about it.


I would have been totally cool with the book being about twice as long - partly to allow for more character development, and also to draw out the suspense more. As much as I was enthralled by it, the plot moved so quickly that it was in blink-and-you'll-miss-it territory for about the last third of the book. And it was well written, so I wouldn't have gotten bored if it had been longer.

I'm not entirely clear on whether this is a series. I really hope it is, because there is so much here that could still be developed. This storyline alone left some dangling strings that need to be tied up, but in addition to that, Barnes has created an intriguing cast of characters, and I'm really hoping she'll explore the backstory and abilities of each one in turn. That would make me happy.

If you're a fan of crime - particularly psychological thrillers - but looking for a light, quick read, this is a great book to pick up. You'll enjoy it. Though it might keep you up for a night or two!

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Book Title: The Naturals
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Edition: Hardback
Published by: Hyperion
Released: November 5, 2013
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Psychological Thriller, FBI, Profiling, Crime
Pages: 308
ISBN: 9781423168232
Date Read: November 14-15, 2013
Rating: 8/10

11.20.2013

Just One More Chapter Before Bed....


So I'm reading Insurgent, the second book in Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy. I'm definitely suffering from this today. I have a feeling I will be until I've finished the series.

But it's totally worth it.

11.19.2013

WWW Wednesdays - November 19, 2013


http://shouldbereading.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/www-wednesdays-nov-6/

It's time for this week's WWW Wednesdays, hosted by Should Be Reading blog (head over and check them out!).

This link up asks three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you'll be reading next? 
This week may be just a little bit boring... because I've fallen down a Veronica Roth rabbit hole. Yep, that's right:

What am I currently reading? 



I started this one on my lunch break today and I'm already like a hundred pages into it. In fact, I'm about to abandon my computer, snuggle up under my big, comfy blanket, and dive back into it. I almost didn't bother writing this week's post, so you're welcome.







What did I recently finish reading?



I finally finished reading this and... MAN. I'm so confused. I didn't care, then I did care, then I cared a LOT and now I'm totally unable to stop thinking about it! I tried to read it without getting attached, but it really, really didn't work. Also? So much better written than The Hunger Games. That is all.


 




What do I think I'll be reading next?



Well as if you really need to ask. I'm obviously going to be marathoning this entire series and probably acting very antisocially until I get through it. Which is a terrible idea because I have it on good authority (i.e. all you wonderful bloggers) that Allegiant is going to tear my heart out of my chest, throw it in the blender, and suck it through a straw. Which doesn't sound fun. But I can't help it - I'm obsessed!






That's it for my WWW Wednesday - share your answers in the comments!

Though - and I say this with full awareness that I totally asked for it by posting these - please try not to say too much about your experiences reading these because I don't want more expectations, either positive or negative! Try to hold in the commentary beyond "I liked it" to post on the reviews, because by then I'll be DYING to know what y'all think. Please and thank you a whole library of first editions!! :)

11.18.2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Recommend to a Young Adult Newbie


This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is sort of a choose-your-own-adventure. I get to pick ten books I'd recommend to a particular person or type of person. Given that I've been reading a lot of Young Adult books this year, I figured it was a good place to start.  Ao here goes,   ten YA books I'd recommend to a newbie. Including a couple I haven't read yet but am looking forward to based on hearing a lot about them.

1. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

The book that started a bit of a YA obsession for me. It is beautiful,  heartbreaking and hilarious. Often simultaneously.  (Full review here.)

2. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Rowell writes YA books that are more complex and more full of true human moments than a fair number of the adult fiction novels I've read. Serious feels, people. Fangirl is also excellent. (Full review here.)

3. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I'm a huge fan of Criminal Minds, and the psychological thriller genre, so this book was totally up my alley. (Review coming soon!)

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth

I just started this - I'm about halfway through the first book - but I like it a lot so far. Much more than I expected to. Yes, I admit it, I judged it unfairly based on Hunger Games comparisons. That turned out to be totally invalid. (Review coming soon!)

5. Agent 21: Codebreaker by Chris Ryan

I love spy stories, so this series is a great one for me. This book in particular is my favourite, though it's actually the third in the series. It took my favourite city (London) and added in a generous dash of espionage and suspense. Which was pretty much perfection. (Full review here.)

6. The Shades of London Series by Maureen Johnson

And even more London! The first book in the series so far is my favourite. I love the premise, and Jack the Ripper is one of those most fascinating unsolved cases. I've read the first two books and just can't wait for the third! (Full review of The Name of the Star here, and review of its sequel, The Madness Underneath, here.)

7. The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

Okay, so not my favourite of all time, but I stuck with it for the first 4 books and plan to finish the series when the sixth comes out. I enjoy the mythology Clare created, the premise of the books and a lot of the characters are really interesting. Though I have to admit that my favourite is Simon... only partly due to Robert Sheehan!

8. The Shiver Trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater

I love Maggie on Twitter. She's personable, smart and hilarious. I've started the first book but have yet to really get into the series. I'm kind of saving it!
9. Something Strange and Deadly Series by Susan Dennard

People keep talking about this series on Twitter, so I finally gave in and bought the first book. I don't normally do historical fiction, but I just need to know what this is all about!!

10. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This was on a bunch of lists of books to read if you loved The Fault In Our Stars, so I'm pretty sure I'm going to like it. 

And one bonus ANTI-recommendation: Whatever you do, do NOT judge the YA genre on Beautiful Creatures! That is all.

11.17.2013

THE SURVIVAL GIRLS - Ming Holden


In the summer of 2011, writer, artist, and development worker Ming Holden journeyed to Kenya with the goal of creating a performance with refugee girls for World Refugee Day. At the end of her seven weeks there, she had founded the Survival Girls, a theater group comprised of six Congolese refugee women ages 18-23 living in a Nairobi slum. The Survival Girls have stayed together since then, an independent and self-sustaining women's empowerment and artistic expression group that has doubled in membership, competed in local competitions, and been contracted by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees to perform all over Nairobi about female genital mutilation and other social issues.

The Survival Girls is a literary nonfiction book fully illustrated by Seattle artist Jody Joldersma. Proceeds benefit university education for the Survival Girls in Nairobi. Written in the first person by Ming, this is just one story of the group's genesis, a story of how the concept and enactment of 'safe space' to assist with trauma recovery impacted women's empowerment in the refugee community in Nairobi's slums. - Amazon description


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This is the story of a group of Congolese refugee girls living in Nairobi who, with the help of an American writer/development worker, create a moving theatrical performance that is built from their traumatic experiences of rape, death and loss. The Survival Girls, as much as they come to life on the page, must be amazing to watch - by the end of the book I only wished I could be in the front row at one of their performances. Author Ming Holden captured the true spirit of survival she encountered while working with the inspirational group. And she did it justice.

One thing I loved about Ming's writing is the gonzo-like quality to it - she's not afraid to place herself in the story, nor does she shy away from sharing some of her own intimate, scary and very personal experiences. She does this purposely, I believe. Rather than taking the girls' stories and sharing them with the world in a way that could come across as exploitative or voyeuristic, she becomes part of their stories, and they become part of hers. Her book is a tale of community-building, but more than that, it's the story of building a trusting relationship with people who have suffered indescribable horror - some of whom are still suffering it.

I'm sure there will be those who disagree with me, but my impression by the end of the book was of a woman who, yes, has her own demons to face, and who perhaps uses distance and the trauma of others to put it in perspective. But it's also the story of a woman who uses her trauma to connect. She uses it for something positive, which is not an easy thing to do or talk about. She creates, in her own words, a "safe space." Somewhere without judgement, expectations, or further abuse.

This wasn't what I'd call a comfortable read. The girls' stories, their lives, and Ming's own experiences are laden with heavy topics. But beyond that, this is a story written by a white girl from the USA who is writing about the experiences of people a world away - both culturally and physically - many of whom don't speak the same language. Her time in Nairobi was short, and though she did her best to learn their language and customs, there's only so much context you can understand when you're a foreigner. There's nothing wrong with writing a story from limited experience, and she does an excellent job of contextualizing her own perspective, but it does lead to questions in the mind of the reader. At least, this reader. How much was lost in translation? How much cultural context was missed? How much of their experiences did the girls hold back because it was just to painful for words?

Regardless of these unanswerable questions, I commend Ming for not only hopping on that plane, but for attempting to be a voice of hope on behalf of those whose own voices so often go un-heard - or simply ignored. Despite the issues involved in becoming the voice of someone else's experiences, there are times when it can be beautiful to help the world see and hear their stories. And when that's the only way they will be heard.

For such a young author, Ming's voice is both strong and sincere. Her writing is evocative, and her imagery drew me in. Of course there were parts of the book where I noticed some small stylistic stumbles, or a need for additional editing, but for someone so young, this is an impressive book. Ming is someone to watch - as are her Survival Girls.

You can purchase the book on Amazon here. If you'd like to find out more about Ming and her project, visit her website and read the Huffington Post article.

And if you're on Twitter, follow her (she also has one of the best handles ever): @minglishmuffin

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Book Title: Survival Girls
Author: Ming Holden
Edition: Review Copy (PDF)
Published by: Wolfram Productions
Released: October 15, 2013
Genre: Memoir, Journalism, Development, UN
Pages: 196
Date Read: October 25-November 12, 2013
Rating: 7/10

11.15.2013

Let's Talk: Books That You Value the Most

http://www.iswimforoceans.org/

This week's topic on I Swim for Oceans' weekly "Let's Talk" link up is: Books That You Value the Most. Buckle up, this could be a very long, long post!

There are books I value for their content, for the escape they offered me at a time in my life when I sorely need it, for their life lessons, or even because I have a particularly beautiful edition. I'm attached to nearly all of my books for one (or more) of these reasons, so it's going to be tough to pick just a few! But here goes, in no particular order:

Matilda by Roald Dahl



I grew up on Dahl. His stories narrated my childhood, taught me how far the reach of the imagination can be and gave me unlikely heroes and heroines to whom I aspired. Like Matilda. She won my heart in the first few chapters as she learned to read and devoured books whole. I could relate to her, and she's probably the literary character I love the most.





 The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling


I came late to Harry Potter - I only wish these books had been around when I was a child! These are, both literally and figuratively, magic. Rowling's world is one I retreat to again and again - I'm sure these will be the most often re-read books in my collection for years to come!

The Adrian Mole Books by Sue Townsend




I went through a phase of reading pretty much anything with "journal" or "diary" in the title, and came across these. It's hard to describe their charm if you haven't experienced it - when described they sound.... well, weird and a bit unappealing. But they are hilarious and I loved poor, hapless Adrian.




A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving




This is at once one of the most deeply affecting and deeply disturbing books I'd read when I first picked it up. It is now tied by... well, the rest of Irving's novels. But it has stuck with me, and I am forever in awe of his writing talent.




A Guide to Getting It On by Paul Joannides



One of the best sex guides out there. I know it doesn't really fit with the rest of the books on this list, but I've read extensively on the subject and this book covers everything (seriously, it's HUGE *insert "that's what she said" joke here*) and I love that it gives practical, no-nonsense information with a great sense of humour.




Wall and Piece by Banksy

I've loved Banksy's work for over a decade now - since well before he shot to international notoriety and became the best-known unidentified person in the world. I love his artistic style, but more than anything I love his witty social commentary and inventive concepts.

Graffiti World and Graffiti Women by Nicholas Ganz


Both of these books contain hundreds of amazing pieces of art from around the world that reflect a huge range of styles and media. And, for an art form that is quite often (erroneously) perceived as a male one, the fact that Ganz devoted an entire book to women's contributions blew me away.




Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett



Funniest. Book. EVER.

Travels by Michael Crichton




I've re-read this over and over. Judge Crichton for ending up on supermarket shelves if you must, but the man could write. This is my favourite of his books as it's actually an autobiographical account of his time in med school, and subsequent travels. Hugely entertaining.




I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith




This book is just so... endearing. I honestly can't do it justice in a two-sentence description, so I'm not going to try. Just trust me, it's lovely. Also, the author wrote a moderately successful book-turned-Disney-fave: 101 Dalmatians.







Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery



Who didn't fall in love with Anne (with an "e") Shirley? I certainly did. I could relate to her love of books, her rough treatment by her peers and her need to find that one "bosom friend" who would not only fill a social gap in her life, but be there for her when the rest of the world proved, yet again, that it wasn't. I also came to love the Cuthberts and the relationship that developed between them and this one awkward, accident-prone girl who stole their hearts.



Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding



I picked this up when I was about 12 in Heathrow on my way home from visiting family in the UK. I read the whole book on the 8 hour flight home, and have loved Bridget ever since. I'm about to re-read the whole series so as to fully appreciate Mad About the Boy!






The Trixie Belden Books by Julie Campbell


I can't remember how I first stumbled across this series - I think I found one in a used bookstore - but I loved them. Kind of like Nancy Drew, but the characters seemed more varied and likeable, and they stuck with me. Trixie herself is  a tomboy who keeps accidentally getting into trouble - or seeking it out in order to solve her latest mystery. I loved these books and wish I could read them again with the mind of a child to re-live their magic.

I could go on, but I think I should probably stop there! Which books have a special place in your heart? Share in the comments!

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