Thursday, 11 December 2014

Top Ten Books I've Read in 2014

I've always tried to compile a list of my favourite reads from the year around Christmas time and this year's list is a real mix bag for you.  I've had a huge variety of genres and age ranges that I've devoured this year.  I've not read as much in 2014 compared to other years, but I've been focused on other things and that doesn't mean there haven't been some real gems.  Here are my Top Ten of Books I've read this year that I've taken to my heart, truly loved or left their mark in some way.

This photo doesn't really relate to my Top Ten post but any excuse to post a photo of me with a penguin must be taken.

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and Emily Gravett
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo and Timothy Basil Ering
The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud
Frog the Barbarian by Guy Bass
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
My Booky Wook by Russell Brand
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
Hero by Perry Moore

Thoughts on my choices?  Agree? Disagree?  Don't care?  Comments below with your own Top Ten or just to tell me you loved something on the SisterSpooky Top Ten!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Review: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and Emily Gravett

GoodReads

Rudger is Amanda’s best friend. He doesn't exist, but nobody's perfect.

Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend – until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda's door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he's sniffed out Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn’t there survive without a friend to dream him up?

A brilliantly funny, scary and moving read from the unique imagination of A.F. Harrold, this beautiful book is astoundingly illustrated with integrated art and colour spreads by the award-winning Emily Gravett.

Review

I was sent this book for review from the publishers and I can't say thank you enough to them.  This book was a delicious treat to devour and is a thing of beauty to add to my bookshelf.

The Imaginary tells the story of a young girl, Amanda, and her best friend, Rudger, who happens to be imaginary.  The two are inseparable, by choice, and live, laugh and love the days away with adventures and silly games.  Then, one day, an menacing character by the name of Mr Bunting comes along and threatens the lives of both Rudger and Amanda.  Rudger is forced to consider a life as an imaginary friend without the friend that has imagined you up.  Can someone imaginary survive without someone's imagination?

If I didn't already own a copy of this book, I'd be asking for a copy for Christmas.  In fact; I still might, just so I can have a spare copy.  It's beautifully illustrated by Emily Gravett who creates a visual companion to this story that adds another level to the book as a whole.  Imagines of Mr Bunting's mouth and Amanda in the car park will stick with me in my mind for a long while.  A.F. Harrold has written the sort of book a child would want to jump into and adults too.  The Imaginary is about friendships and fallings-out as well as family and that wonderful time in our lives known as childhood.  I read this remembering my Imaginary friend (who I don't remember but my Mum remembers me talking about her) and all the naughty tricks we got up to.  

The Imaginary is presented as a classic children's novel and I can well see it becoming one for a big generation of children.  BUY IT NOW.
Published by Bloomsbury and is available in bookshops and online now

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Review: The North by Sean Cummings


GoodReads

Breakout. Escape the City. Stay Alive.

Sixteen-year-old David Simmons is on a mission to save his eight-year-old sister. In a smoldering world infested with walking cadavers, the survivors of Simmons infantry reserve unit are going hatches down in a pair of armoured personnel carriers and everyone knows that it’s only a matter of time until their fuel runs dry. 

There’s a weak short wave radio signal from a place called Sanctuary Base and it’s supposed to be zombie-free. But there’s more than a thousand miles to cover, a biting, unforgiving cold, armed survivalists, legions of the living dead and someone called SUNRAY. 

They’re outgunned, outnumbered and out of time. 

This tense thriller for teens offers a terrifying and brutal vision of survival in a post-apocalyptic world where the bonds of friendship and family are the only things left that are worth fighting for.

Review

I was sent a copy of this book from the author directly for review and, as he's a very nice chap and I enjoyed his previous books, I decided to accept.  I don't often take books direct from an author but this book is self-published and Sean made a lovely offer to send me a copy so I was happy to accept, just in time for Halloween.  

Yes, Halloween was yonks ago but, with my work schedule being CRAZY with the onslaught of Christmas, it's taking me a while read anything at the moment - let alone to review it.  So this is a blitz of a review as I want to be fair to the lovely author whose work this is and fair to myself as I have little spare time at the moment.

The North is the tale of survival against all odds.  We follow David, along with his young sister as they try to survive after zombies seem to have taken over and the only hope in life is to survive another day.  David is in the military and, with his band of fellow surviving fighters, they've been holding out well-enough so far but when the chance of finding another, possibly safer location is on offer, they have to risk it all in order to get there.  It's a gruelling story about family and humanity.

Reading this book I could tell it was a book for a very particular audience that I think Sean Cummings has targeted by giving them exactly what they'd want out of a genre book - and a bit more.  Sean has clearly done his research and put a lot of details in there that make it a realistic and believable drama.  I didn't understand all the military jargon at times but I got the gist of it, I think.

The North won't be for everyone, which could be said of all books, but those that stumble upon it will be happy to find a zombie book that isn't just all blood and gore.  It has a bit of heart in there too.

This is self-published and is available online right now

Monday, 1 December 2014

Liebster Award Meme thingy

I was selected by Jesse Owen from That Jesse Bloke blog and I'm very pleased because he's a fab blogger and I'm looking forward to more posts on here about his adventures in food and photography!  I was also nominated by Darran from ShinraAlpha who is a genius kind of bookseller and ever-so-cool, even if he'd disagree.



11 Facts about me:


  • This year I achieved a life goal of meeting a penguin.  He was called Pickles and I love him.
  • I have horrible eating habits and have been known to live on pasta with mayo & chilli sauce at times.
  • I can't stand suede.  I can't bare to touch it and it even makes me a bit sick watching someone else touching suede shoes.
  • I have a scar on my throat that isn't from a pirate fight or anything cool, but from having my thyroid removed because, well, it didn't work.  I now have to have tablets for life instead.
  • I'm allergic to a very specific kind of grass they generally use in public parks.  It's called Timothy Grass and is a bit straw-like and makes my legs all itchy.
  • I love The Muppets so much and honestly think they could solve all the world's problems if we let them.
  • I watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind when I was about nine and it blew my tiny mind.  It is still my all-time favourite movie.
  • I have dyed my hair nearly every colour of the rainbow.  Currently, it isn't dyed at all and that's the first time in over 15 years.
  • I have four tattoos on my back and it often surprises people as they cover most of the lower half.
  • I once spent my whole summer holiday rewatching The X-Files movie every evening.  I think I've seen in over 100 times.  I think I killed it.
  • My favourite toy as a kid was Big Brown Bear.  He was called BBB for short and was originally in a clown outfit and from France but now he's just a scruffy bear with the fluff coming out of his foot.
Questions

1) Why did you start blogging?

Because all my friends were doing it and I got a free token code for LiveJournal from them. Over the years it then changed and bloomed into this blog.

2) How did you come up with your blog name?

Sisterspooky is an inside-joke thing from The X Files I adopted as a teen for my email address and has just stuck as my default online name.

3) What’s the best piece of blogging advice you’ve received?

Be Honest.  It's good life advice too.

4) What is your favourite book?

SOOOO HARD AND MEAN A QUESTION!! Possibly Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky or Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow.  Though, I recently read The Tale of Despereaux and adored it.

5) What is your favourite film?

Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Best movie ever.  Though there are many others that I love nearly as much.

6) What’s your favourite type of post to write?

Short and sweet ones, to be honest.  I like thought pieces because they flow and come out on the page naturally but sometimes, if a book has impressed me, I can do a review and love every minute of it.

7) If you could blog about something completely different what would it be?

Food.  Because I love it nearly as much as books.

8) What do you do to relax when you’re not blogging?

Working, writing, and eating.

9) What question would you love to be asked?

Would you like a million pounds with no strings attached? :)

10) How would you answer this question?

YES.



And here are the rules

Link back to me in the blog post
Tell us 11 facts about yourself
Answer the questions above
Nominate 10 other bloggers with less than 200 Followers on bloglovin 
Create your own 10 questions
Let those you’ve nominated know
Let me know you’ve taken part so I can see your answers 

I nominate:

C J Skuse
Zoe Marriott
Annalie Grainger
Keris Stainton
S F Said
Non Pratt
Viv from Serendipity Reviews
Andrew from PewterWolf

 and anyone that's bored and fancies doing it.....


Thursday, 27 November 2014

Review: The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

GoodReads

Every bookshop has a story.

We’re not talking about rooms that are just full of books. We’re talking about bookshops in barns, disused factories, converted churches and underground car parks. Bookshops on boats, on buses, and in old run-down train stations. Fold-out bookshops, undercover bookshops, this-is-the-best-place-I’ve-ever-been-to-bookshops.

Meet Sarah and her Book Barge sailing across the sea to France; meet Sebastien, in Mongolia, who sells books to herders of the Altai mountains; meet the bookshop in Canada that’s invented the world’s first antiquarian book vending machine. 

And that’s just the beginning. 

From the oldest bookshop in the world, to the smallest you could imagine, The Bookshop Book examines the history of books, talks to authors about their favourite places, and looks at over three hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents (sadly, we’ve yet to build a bookshop down in the South Pole).

The Bookshop Book is a love letter to bookshops all around the world.

Review

This is going to be a short, but sweet review of this book.  Mainly because I'm a bit busy at the moment at work and really need to do a hundred different things at the same time as reviewing. 

I was sent this book to review, along side being part of the blog tour, and I was really quite pleased as it was a book I'd had my beady eye on to get as a post-xmas treat to myself.  This is a lovely book that you can dip in and out anytime you like and explore the world of bookshops and why they are great places to be in and explore.  Jen Campbell has clearly done her research and gives you a window into some wonderful places you might not have the chance to visit.  

It's also a great gift idea because you're not just giving someone a book, you're giving them a chance to explore.  I can imagine using this book like a tour guide across the country (and beyond) to find some really good hidden treasures.

A lovely book with some great interviews with well-known authors as well as some lovely thoughts on a range of bookshops that you might miss out on otherwise.  A perfect gift for a book-lover.

Published by Constable & Robinson and is available online and in bookshops now.  Find out more about the Books Are My Bag campaign by going here.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Blog Tour: The Bookshop Book: Mini Interview with Jen Campbell

Today I'm happy to have Jen Campbell on the blog as part of her Blog Tour for The Bookshop Book. It's available now and Jen has been nice enough to do a mini interview with me.  Hurray!



What is the first thing you look for when you go into a (new) bookshop?

Friendly staff, awesome displays, squishy chairs and great staff recommendations.


Whilst writing this book, was there anything you learnt about bookshops and books that surprised you?

I found it amusing how long we’ve been declaring the death of the book - that was something that crept up time and time again when I was researching. Newspapers are full of articles these days about the death of the publishing industry etc - but in the 1400s, when the printing press was invented and it was announced that books would no longer be written by hand, a bookseller in Florence was so outraged that he closed his bookshop in disgust and declared this new technology the death of the book. Ha! Over 500 years later and books are still here, as are bookshops. I think we’re going to be ok. ;)


What propelled you to write a book about bookshops over anything else?

Well, my first book came out in 2012, when I’d been working in bookselling for five years, and it was called ‘Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops’ - a book about all the funny things that have been said to me (there are quite a few!). When the book came out, I got to go on book tour and met all these amazing booksellers in fantastic bookshops (like Wigtown: a bookshop town on the west coast of Scotland by the sea: twelve shops all on one street. One of them is the largest secondhand bookshop in Scotland with a bed in amongst the books. Another is a feminist bookshop run by a lady called Gerrie who not only sells books but is also a humanist celebrant, so she marries people too! Sometimes in the bookshop itself!). So, I was going to all these places, and in turn going off and researching other strange bookshops - travelling bookshops; tiny bookshops; bookshops in the middle of a rainforest. And I thought, ‘Hey, I need to write about this.’ 



Who was your favourite interviewee from the book and why?

Everyone I talked to had something fantastic to say. I interviewed authors as well as booksellers, and asked them what sort of bookshop they would open if they had the chance. Ian Rankin said he’d open a music bookshop/cafe; Tracy Chevalier said she’d open a bookshop in a train station filled with chocolate; Audrey Niffenegger is actually planning to open an art bookshop in Chicago in real life and Cornelia Funke said she’d open a bookshop in the middle of a forest. 


This book has been heavily tied in with the Books Are My Bag campaign.  Do you think it's important for people to take advantage of a physical bookshops over online retailers? Why?

Good bookshops are places to get lost in. They are places to fall in love with books. They present you with books you didn’t know existed - and you browse them in an entirely different way to the way you browse online. It’s all about the experience that they offer. The smell, the touch, the feel of being surrounded by books (and people who love them!); the events they put on, and the people you get to meet. If you want to buy books online, then do - that’s absolutely fine (though if you discover a book in a bookshop it’s only fair to buy it there!). It’s a simple happy, message really: if you love your local bookshop, please don’t take it for granted.


What's your next project after touring with The Bookshop Book?  Will there be a fiction book on the horizon or is non-fiction where your heart lies?

I’m writing a novel at the moment (eek!), and also working on a children’s project. I’m quite excited about both of these things! 

Thanks to Jen for answering my questions and to her publishers for organising everything.  The Bookshop Book is out now and can be found online and in bookshops

Monday, 17 November 2014

Review: The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo & Timothy Basil Ering

GoodReads

This is the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl with a simple, impossible wish. These characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and ultimately, into each other's lives.


And what happens then?


Listeners, it is your destiny to find out.


Review


I've fallen in love with a mouse called Despereaux Tilling.  I couldn't help it and if you read this book, you'll understand.

The Tale of Despereaux is the story of a little mouse that is very different from his family and doesn't fit in with everyone else.  He dreams and he dreams big.  He notices things in the world around him that others choose to ignore and it's not until his eyes fall upon a book that he slowly understands.  It's a fairy tale about a knight and a princess and it starts Despereaux's journey to meet the young Princess Pea and fall in love with her.  

There are many threads in this story including the story of Mig, a serving girl that has a hard life growing up, and a rat that has a darkness in his heart because of the light he has seen. All these threads come together and tie up eventually but it's a wonderful journey along the way.  Kate DiCamillo writes in a classic style that makes this book feel timeless and writes in a way that makes this book perfect for being read to someone.  There are moments when the story cuts away from the tale and asks the Reader something and gets them to interact with the book and become part of it.  I found myself saying "Quest, Quest" out loud with real glee and excitement.

This is perhaps the most charming and wonderful tale I've every had the chance to read and I hope this review charms you enough to buy a copy for someone you love or even just for yourself.  I've often been told I have an upbeat and positive outlook on life and tend to see the good in people and lightness in the world around me when others find it hard.  The Tale of Despereaux is probably the best example of seeing the lightness and hope in the world and I hope that there is a Despereaux in your life to let you all see the good out there.  If not, then buy this book and treat yourself to a smile, a tear, a laugh and some happiness.
Published by Walker Books UK and is available online and in bookshops now