Review and Giveaway: Panther – David Owen

Panther by David Owen

Panther by David Owen
Publication date: 7 May 2015
Publisher: Constable & Robinson
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781472116420
Length: 230 pages
Genre: Contemporary
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: ★★★★

Life isn’t going terribly well for Derrick; he’s become severely overweight, his only friend has turned on him, he’s hopelessly in love with a girl way out of his league, and it’s all because of his sister. Her depression, and its grip on his family, is tearing his life apart.

When rumours start to circulate that a panther is roaming wild in his south London suburb, Derrick resolves to try and capture it. Surely if he can find a way to tame this beast, he’ll be able to stop everything at home from spiraling towards disaster?

I keep saying this – and I’m sure I’ll say it again – but depression and mental illness are not easy subjects to tackle. It’s not an easy thing to digest as a reader, but it’s even more difficult to write about these issues in a genuine and original way. However, David Owen did a fantastic job with his debut and Panther is just as brilliant and thought-provoking as I hoped it would be.

The story starts in a dark alleyway behind Derrick’s house where he’s eating stale, days old cookies out of a dustbin. Two paragraphs in, and I’m already hooked. It’s a bold yet perfectly eye-opening start, and you cannot help but wonder how things got this bad and what on earth drove Derrick to eat sodden cookies out of a bin for the past few months.

The rest of the story is just as captivating as the beginning and I’m not exaggerating when I say I read it in one sitting. In the following 22 chapters, we get a glimpse of how his sister’s depression affects Derrick’s family and everyone around them, how helpless and out of control they feel, and how each of them cope – or rather fail to cope – with Charlotte’s illness. I loved the fact that we heard the story from Derrick’s perspective rather than Charlotte’s, as I felt it made the story even more unique (and even more heartbreaking, if that’s possible).

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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Book Blogging

Book Blogging

When I started my blog on a gloomy Saturday nearly 4 years ago, I didn’t have a clue how it would all turn out. I didn’t know how long I would be able to keep it up… how long I would want to keep it up. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have any long-term plans when I started – I didn’t sit there and go ‘right, I’ll stick to this for the next five years’. I didn’t have a plan for finding new readers for my blog or creating a consistent blogging schedule either. Quite honestly, they didn’t even cross my mind at that point. I just knew I wanted to share my thoughts about the (increasing amount of) books I read and find other people with the same hobby.

Four years later, I’m still here.

I’ve learnt an awful lot along the way and, although there are things I would do differently if I could start all over again, I’m happy with the way things turned out and proud of this little slice of the internet that I have built throughout the years.

Today, I decided to write about some of the things I wish I knew before I started book blogging. If you’re thinking about starting a blog and joining our (not so) little community, I hope you’ll find these helpful and – hopefully – learn from my mistakes.

1. Blogging is hard work

As I said, I didn’t have a clear plan when I started. I guess I just imagined I would put some posts up once in a while, and that would be it (oh, dear naïve younger self). In reality, though, that’s not how it works.

Blogging is time-consuming and so many people don’t realise just how much work and dedication goes into creating and updating a blog. From brainstorming for new and unique post ideas to creating graphics for your post and making sure it reaches as many readers as it possibly can, there’s a lot of work involved. More than I would have ever thought. Before you start your blog, think about how much time you would be able to dedicate to it (realistically) and whether you’re ready to make that commitment.

2. Some days you’ll feel like giving up

…and that’s completely normal. When I started blogging, I couldn’t imagine not wanting to spend time on my blog. But you won’t always feel that way. There will be days and weeks when you wonder why exactly you’re doing this and whether it’s worth all that time and effort that you’ve put into it. Believe me, it’s not just you. We all go through phases like this and it’s perfectly normal.

Don’t give up. Take a week or two off, spend some time with your family, travel, or dedicate some time to your other hobbies and recharging your batteries. We all do it. Think about why you started blogging in the first place and what you can do more of on your blog that fills you with anticipation and excitement – it helps an awful lot.

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Showcase Sunday #102

Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here.

Good morning, my dear chums – how are you? Are you having a nice bank holiday weekend? The weather’s pretty dreadful over here so my plans of reading and soaking up the sun in the garden are officially ruined. Mind you, I’ve somehow accumulated a pretty large amount of DVDs in the past couple of weeks, so at least I have the perfect excuse to curl up in bed and watch some of them!

Incoming

Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye

House of Windows Alexia Casale

Summertime | House of Windows

In other news, two gorgeous books arrived earlier this week, both of them for review. Summertime was quite unexpected – I’m actually waiting for another book from the publisher so I was really surprised when Summertime showed up instead. To be honest, it’s not something I would normally read but everyone I know loved it, so I’ll definitely pick it up. Many thanks to Orion for the review copy!

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9 Tips for Surviving Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon

Readathon Tips

With this year’s first 24-hour readathon fast approaching, I thought I would dedicate tonight’s post to the event and give you some last-minute tips on how to get the most out of these 24 hours. I’ve experimented with a number of different things throughout my blogging years and, after 5 previous readathons, these are the nine most important things I’ve learned. Whether it’s your first time participating or you’re a fellow old-timer, I hope today’s post will help you achieve your goals and have a smashing readathon tomorrow.

1. Get a good night’s sleep

This one goes without saying, but try to get some rest before the readathon starts. Don’t stay up until 3 a.m just because you need to read “one more chapter” – you’ll have plenty of time for that once the event kicks off. For those of you who start in the late afternoon or in the evening (I’m looking at you, Japanese readers!): try to have a quick nap before your start time so that you’re feeling fresh and energised when the time comes.

2. Prepare your snacks in advance

Snacks are one of my favourite parts of the readathon. I’m ALL about the food.

Make sure to buy all your snacks in advance so that you don’t have to waste your time with grocery shopping. If you’re feeling more organised than I am – and if you eat less junk food than me – it’s also a good idea to prepare your lunch and dinner in advance. A lot of my bookish friends prepare theirs either the night before or in the morning, depending on which time zone they are in, so all they have to do later is to pop it in the oven or the microwave for a few minutes.

Also, something equally important: make sure to have a variety of snacks at hand. Something I learned during my very first readathon is that eating junk food – and literally nothing else – for 24 hours might sound like a good idea, but it is not. Always try to include some healthy snacks on your list. Whether it’s a bowl of fruit or some steamed / roasted vegetables with your lunch, it doesn’t matter. Just avoid eating chocolate and crisps all day. Believe me, it helps.

Muffins and a book

3. Choose short books

One of the biggest mistakes I made (and keep making) during previous readathons is chosing long books. (Note to younger self: this is not the time to read that 600-page classic you’ve been meaning to pick up for a few weeks.) It’s okay not to have a dozen books on your TBR pile – I don’t usually have more than 4 or 5 either. But try to select a mix of genres and lengths so that you don’t burn out in the first 6 hours. Always have at least one ‘light’ read in your pile – you’ll be thankful for it once you’re past the 10-hour mark.

4. Stay away from your computer

Another thing I noticed – and I know I’m not the only one who’s guilty of this – is that I tend to spend way too much time on social media, chatting to other readathoners, discussing snacks and how to stay awake instead of actually reading. Which is fine. And it’s probably one of the reasons why I love readathons so much. I’ve met some of my oldest bookish friends this way and, if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Showcase Sunday #101

Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here.

Hello everyone! I’m sorry I’m a little late with today’s post – we had a power cut earlier and the internet went down for a while. Obviously, it only happens when I’m out on Saturday and don’t have time to schedule my post in advance… Typical!

Anyway, how are you all? Are you excited about Dewey’s readathon? Who’s participating? I’m hoping to, but I still need to figure out which books I should start with. (I’m clearly not as organised as I was last time – this time last year I already had my snacks planned and everything!) I have quite a big pile of review books to go through but I want to sneak some UKYA books in there too.

Incoming

Panther by David Owen

Panther | The Three

The first book to land on my doorstep this week was Panther, a brand new UKYA novel by David Owen, which is being published next month. I was really intrigued by the blurb and am curious to see how the author deals with depression and its effect on the main character’s family, so fingers crossed it turns out to be a good read. Keep an eye on the blog for my review and a special giveaway in May! (And many thanks to Little, Brown for the review copy)

I also popped into a second hand bookshop in Notting Hill yesterday and picked up The Three, which I’ve been meaning to check out for ages. I’ve heard so many great things about it and the hype around its sequel was absolutely INSANE, so I need to know what all the fuss is about. I love thrillers that keep you on the edge of your seat so I have high hopes for this one!

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Review: Normal – Graeme Cameron

Normal by Graeme Cameron

Normal by Graeme Cameron
Publication date: 9 April 2015
Publisher: MIRA
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781848453623
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: ★★★

“The truth is I hurt people. It’s what I do. It’s all I do. It’s all I’ve ever done.”

He lives in your community, in a nice house with a well-tended garden. He shops in your grocery store, bumping shoulders with you and apologizing with a smile. He drives beside you on the highway, politely waving you into the lane ahead of him.

What you don’t know is that he has an elaborate cage built into a secret basement under his garage. And the food that he’s carefully shopping for is to feed a young woman he’s holding there against her will – one in a string of many, unaware of the fate that awaits her.

This is how it’s been for a long time. It’s normal and it works. Perfectly.

Then he meets the checkout girl from the 24-hour grocery. And now the plan, the hunts, the room, the others. He doesn’t need any of them anymore. He needs only her. But just as he decides to go straight, the police start to close in. He might be able to cover his tracks, except for one small problem – he still has someone trapped in his garage.

Discovering his humanity couldn’t have come at a worse time.

I’ve been intrigued by Normal since the minute I read the blurb and, after hearing some amazing things about it from fellow bloggers, I couldn’t wait to pick it up. It was one of the books I was looking forward to reading the most this spring and I was really, really hoping it wouldn’t disappoint.

I LOVED the idea of being able to get inside the killer’s head and hearing the story from his perspective. Thrillers are one of my favourite genres but I rarely get to read books like that and I was really curious how Cameron would make it work.

I started reading the book while waiting for my flight back to the UK after a short holiday and was completely gripped by the first few chapters. I literally flew through the first hundred pages, frantically turning the pages and trying to make sense of what was happening or why this guy was doing this to his victims. I couldn’t stop raving about it on social media and was almost certain it would turn out to be one of the most chilling thrillers I’ve read in 2015.

It was all going well until I hit the 50% mark. From then on, it all kind of went downhill for me, for a number of reasons. One of them – and probably my biggest issue – is the fact that I just felt like the writer was trying way too hard to create a likeable character, a charming killer. The stories about helping a lost girl find his mum, helping the Girl Guides and buying flowers for a random girl he’s never met were just the icing on the cake. At this point I was already frustrated, but I felt like the story could have been much better without the ‘likeable anti-hero’ theme. This aspect didn’t work for me at all, not even at the beginning – although it might be a subjective thing.

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Showcase Sunday #100 + The Blog’s New Look!

Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here.

Hello everyone and happy April! Where did the past three months go?! Christmas feels like two weeks ago – I can’t believe it’s spring already. How are you all? Any exciting plans for the bank holiday weekend?

I was hoping to go away for a couple of days but apparently, the trains aren’t running due to some engineering works, and the weather turned out to be pretty miserable too, so I decided to dedicate this weekend to blogging and reading instead. (The next best thing, really.)

In other, more exciting news, Books, Biscuits and Tea had a makeover last weekend! I’ve been thinking about changing my blog design for a while and I decided not to wait any longer. It’s a massive change from my blog’s previous look but I’m quite pleased with this minimalistic design! I still have a couple of things left to tweak and I’ll need to go through all my previous posts and make sure they are formatted in the same way, but I was too excited to wait with the launch! What do you guys think?

Incoming

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

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