Monday, 22 September 2014

Review for Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release: 9th October 2014
Genre: YA, Mental Health
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review




Synopsis:
"I was sent here because of a boy. His name was Reeve Maxfield, and I loved him and then he died, and almost a year passed and no one knew what to do with me. A group of emotionally fragile, highly intelligent teenagers gather at a therapeutic boarding school where they are mysteriously picked for 'Special Topics in English'. Here, they are tasked with studying Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and keeping a journal. Each time the teens write in their diaries they are transported to a miraculous other world called Belzhar, a world where they are no longer haunted by their trauma and grief - and each begins to tell their own story."

Review 
Belzhar is the kind of book that whilst I enjoyed it for the most part I did have a few problems with it that could easily have tipped my favour the other way.

The idea behind the book really caught my attention and made Belzhar a highly anticipated read of 2014 and the plot really lived up to my expectations. I loved reading about a highly coveted and exclusive class in literature that helps “emotionally fragile teenagers” with their mental state. Mrs Q was one of those inspirational and mysterious teachers that I always wish I encountered at school and her lessons on the importance of words and sharing stories was so interesting and poignant to read. I loved the close knit connection the characters in the class developed with each other and the mystery and intrigue of what Belzhar actually is really kept the pages turning.

Despite all of the good in Belzhar there were a couple of things I really didn’t enjoy. I never really connected with Jam as the main character. As somebody who has been depressed I know that feeling all too well and her depression just didn’t come through for me in the writing as it should with any good book about mental health. In fact I didn’t feel like the topic of mental health was dealt with very well at all. The teens at this school all seemed to have gone through some trauma to trigger a mental illness which is not always the case and this lack of understanding added a falseness to the plot.

Another annoyance of mine was the romance and Reeve’s character as a whole. He’s dripping in British stereotypes with no real personality besides his Britishness and as a Brit I just found it so cringey to read.

Whilst Belzhar had a lot of good it also had a lot of bad. Although I enjoyed the book as a whole I’m disappointed that it didn’t quite live up to the early excitement for me.

Friday, 5 September 2014

It is Time for a Holiday!

Hello my lovelies! This is just a little post to say that I'm not going to be around for a while. I'm going on holiday for a week on Saturday to a lovely little cottage by the English seaside with my family. The place we're staying at has no Wi-Fi which is going to be a shock to the system let me tell you! But with no internet distractions and blogging commitments for a week I'm hoping to read a lot of books, watch a lot of DVD's, spend some quality time with my family and, if weather permits, have lots of lovely walks along the beach and in the countryside exploring the area.

Because I haven't had a blog break all year I've decided to extend my break when I return just to re-charge my brain, get on top of my September releases and indulge in some other hobbies that tend to get neglected because I spend all of my time blogging! I'm planning on returning to the blog sometime during the middle of September. By then I'm hoping to have the final feature of my room sorted out which is the bookcases so hopefully my books will all be back where they should be and I can start doing book haul posts again. Yay!

I've had such an amazing spring and summer from going to the Divergent premiere, to YALC, to events at Waterstones, to seeing Matilda the Musical. I've met so many online friends in real life and made some new friends along the way! Along with putting my dream room together this summer feels like a fresh start and has done wonders for both my confidence and my mental health. Now I'm ready to enjoy the last rays of summer and look forward to what Autumn has to bring.

I hope your September is full of amazing books, see you soon! :)

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Blog Tour: From Sketch to Cover Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban‏

Welcome to my stop on the Harry Potter blog tour celebrating the new cover for The Prisoner of Azkaban! If you follow my blog you'll know by now what a massive Potterhead I am and so I'm thrilled to have some exciting Harry Potter goodness to share with you today. But for now, the reason that we're all here, can we all just take a moment to admire the absolute beauty that is the new cover...

and the artwork on the back cover is equally wonderful!


Blurb from the back of the book
When the Knight Bus crashes through the darkness and screeches to a halt in front of him, it’s the start of another far from ordinary year at Hogwarts for Harry Potter. Sirius Black, escaped mass-murderer and follower of Lord Voldemort, is on the run – and they say he is coming after Harry. In his first ever Divination class, Professor Trelawney sees an omen of death in Harry’s tea leaves ... but perhaps most terrifying of all are the Dementors patrolling the school grounds, with their soul-sucking kiss...

 From Sketch to Cover 
See Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban develop before your eyes in this amazing GIF!


Three exclusive facts from Jonny Duddle 
Jonny Duddle, jacket illustrator for the new Harry Potter children’s editions reveals three facts about the cover of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:

·This was the only cover for which I had a clear vision in my head of how I wanted it to look, before I even started the rough. 

·To get good reference photos of the cape, Sammy’s little sister shook the cape continuously, whilst he stood in position. 

·Harry, Hermione and Sirius are all in the background, surrounded by dementors. 

I think that Jonny Duddle has done a fantastic job of capturing the magic of the Harry Potter books. I'd even go as far as to say that they are my favourite editions to date! I have no doubt that these stunning covers will convince a whole new generation to discover the magic for the very first time. In case you haven't read the series yet and need any more convincing to check out this beloved series multi award-winning British children's writer Annabel Pitcher is here today to talk about why the series means so much to her.

Annabel Pitcher and Harry


When I was a teacher browsing the Times Educational Supplement, a secret part of me was always disappointed that there was never a post advertised at Hogwarts. I would have grabbed the first available owl and applied for it in a shot, packing my bags faster than you can say Albus Percival Wolfric Brian Dumbledore. That I believed it were possible is why I fell in love with Harry Potter in the first place. 

In the opening pages, we are not thrown into a fantasy universe. We are shown our world, with all its square-house, suburban drudgery. We see ourselves as muggles and recognise the worst parts of being human in the curtain-twitching, hosepipe-toting Dursleys. We feel Harry’s frustration because it is our frustration, and together we both long for there to be something – anything – more. And then the owls come, and with it the promise of adventure in a world skilfully interwoven with ours. This is magic, almost within our grasp. It is a wall in Kings Cross. An innocent-looking red phone box. An invisible house on an otherwise ordinary street. That is the charm of the series for me. Harry’s universe is so tantalisingly close and intimately recognisable that it feels as if it really does exist.

Bloomsbury Publishing has relaunched its Harry Potter website to support the new children’s editions. The new Harry Potter site uses the Jonny Duddle artwork from the new children’s editions and includes pages of information on the bestselling series as well as exciting new content from Magical Downloads to a Harry Potter Quote Generator. Check out the new site at: http://harrypotter.bloomsbury.com/uk/

Make sure you stop by Readaraptor tomorrow for the next stop on the blog tour!

Monday, 1 September 2014

August Round Up and Book of the Month


August's Book of the Month is Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas



I was one of the few who thought that Throne of Glass was just an okay read and so I've been happily surprised that this series just keeps getting better and better. Heir of Fire is without doubt my new favourite of this series and one of my favourite reads of this year. I don't want to say too much about it in case anyone reading this hasn't started this series yet but if you'd like to know more of my thoughts on this book check out my review here. The only thing I will say for fans of this series is that Celaena Sardothien has never been more badass!


Read in August
63.) Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (5*)
64.) Written in the Stars by Ali Harris (4*)
65.) Rebel Heart by Moira Young (3.5*)
66.) Conversion by Katherine Howe (2*)
67.) Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (5*)
68.) Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead (4.5*)
69.) Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas (5*)
70.) Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan (4*)
71.) Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater (3.5*)

Monthly Book Awards
Best Plot: Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Best Writing: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Best Cover: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Best Characters: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Best Ending: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Best Romance: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Most un-put-down-able: Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Most Memorable: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Best Moral: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Top 3 Most Recommended Books: Heir of Fire, Little Lies, Isla and the Happily Ever After. 

Books I’m Looking Forward to Being Released in September 
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
Magisterium: The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan
Get Even by Gretchen McNeil
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
The Jewel by Amy Ewing
Falling into Place by Amy Zhang
The Witch of Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper

 What was the best book you read in August? 
 And what are you looking forward to reading this month?

Friday, 29 August 2014

Event Diary: Leigh Bardugo and Moira Young's Writing Workshop and Signing

Last week saw me catching the train to Birmingham again with Ray, this time to attend the writing workshop with Leigh Bardugo and Moira Young hosted by the lovely team at Waterstones high street. This particular event took place at noon instead of the usual evening time which was nice because this time we got to hang out with some blog friends before and after the event instead of rushing off to get the train home. Before Leigh and Moira came out we got to catch up with Jasprit from The Readers Den and Lily from The Whispering of the Pages in which we admired Jas’s signed proof of Talon by Julie Kagawa and some girls behind me got pretty excited when I pulled out my then read Heir of Fire which lead on to me explaining about book blogging which is always fun!

Rachel, Me and Jasprit

Before long Leigh and Moira took to the front and were asked all sorts of questions about writing from early drafts to finding an agent. I have no real aspirations to become an author but even from a fans perspective the interview was very interesting especially as Leigh and Moira had very different approaches to the writing process. Rach on the other hand has been writing a YA Fantasy book this year and so I was really proud when she plucked up the courage to ask her question about world building. As her Alpha reader I surprisingly also picked up some good tips on how to help her as best I can.
Moira and Leigh

After the interview there was a signing and it was so lovely to meet both Leigh and Moira. I’m part of Leigh’s Grisha Army and have supported this series since I read the first book as a proof copy. I was thrilled that Leigh knew my blog and she gave me a hug and thanked me for supporting her books which is always so nice to hear! Moira’s books I only started reading a few months ago in preparation for this event but I completely fell in love with Blood Red Road and am still kicking myself for not reading it sooner! Both ladies were lovely and I’d recommend going to meet them if you ever get the chance. I also got to see Leigh’s UK publicist the lovely Nina again and have a chat with her and I was given a signed postcard, a bookmark and badges.

Me, Leigh and Jas

Moira, Me and Jasprit

Ray and Lily having their books signed


After the event Ray, Jas, Lily and I went to get a late lunch where I tried sushi for the very first time and really loved it. We then went book shopping because that’s what we book bloggers do and when we get together we can be terrible influences on each other! Jas couldn’t decide on a book to make up her buy one get one half price offer so instead of choosing just one book I helpfully convinced her to buy another two in their own offer. Ooops! We also got chatting to two girls Kate and Marriam who’d also been to the event about books and writing. I love meeting new bookish people and events like this one are great for bringing people together.

Super proud at learning how to use chopsticks

My book loot!


Before long it was time to say our goodbyes and get the train home. After a day of helpful advice and inspirational chat Rach and I had an intense plotting session on the train home discussing the what ifs? and plot twists to her story. The creative light bulb was well and truly on for both of us after such a fantastic day.

Sadly this was the last book event planned for the summer but I’m hoping there will be more awesome bookish things to go to and meet ups before the year is over.

In case after reading this any of you are interested in checking out Ray’s story that I’ve been Alpha reading the prologue and first chapter can be found on Wattpad here.
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