Archive for February, 2012

International Book Giveaway – March

Hello, bookaholics. March is finally here and what better way to start this month than by doing a giveaway! :)

The giveaway runs from today until 31 March and it’s international!

And what do you win, you ask? Well, I have a paperback copy of Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird to give away to one lucky winner, courtesy of Usborne Publishing. I absolutely loved this book and I’m sure you’ll like it just as much as I did. :) If you have a minute, you can read my review here.

Giveaway details:

♥ Open to international followers
♥ The winner will receive a paperback copy of Mockingbird. To check out this book on Goodreads, click here.
♥ There’s only one mandatory entry and a bunch of optional ones – the more you fill out, the better chance you have of winning :)
♥ You must fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter

Giveaway button:
Books, Biscuits & Tea March giveaway 

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Review: My Name is Olivia…and I Can’t Do Anything About It – Jowi Schmitz

Title: My Name is Olivia…and I Can’t Do Anything About It
Author: Jowi Schmitz
Publication date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Lemniscaat USA
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-935954-11-8
Length: 178 pages
Genre:  Middle grade fiction

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How do you cope with the loss of your mother, while your father is jolted as well? With wit, courage, humor and improvising.

Olivia is ten years old. The major problem in her life is that her mother died. The second major problem is that her father doesn’t really know what to do …

Olivia and her father live on a small boat in the garden of a barbershop. Temporarily, says her dad. But how long is temporarily? And how do you get away from a boat in a garden with a father who doesn’t know what to do, without a mother, but with lots of memories of how life was before?

If you’ve been following my blog and my reviews for a while then you might know that I really enjoy middle grade and young adult novels dealing with loss and recovery. I don’t know why – I guess I just like emotional stories in general. This is how I stumbled upon My Name is Olivia…and I Can’t Do Anything About It and that is why I was so eager to start reading it. I had a feeling that Jowi Schmitz’s novel was going to be (sorry for the cliché here) an emotional roller-coaster and I was right. My Name is Olivia…and I Can’t Do Anything About It gripped me from the very first word and managed to reduce me to tears many times throughout the story.

Children’s books written from a young kid’s perspective can and do go horribly wrong many times. I’ve read several YA and middle grade stories where youngsters were supposed to be the narrators – while in reality, all I could think about when I was reading them was that 13 year olds do not talk or think like this, for goodness’ sake. As opposed to this, Schmitz’s ability to tell a story from a 10 year old girl’s point of view is just spot on.

It was very easy for me to connect to Olivia, a ten year old girl from Friesland who has to cope with the loss of her mother and look after her father at the same time. Even though I can’t even imagine going through the things Olivia had to face in the novel, I could literally feel her confusion and anger throughout the story. Jowi Schmitz’s depiction of Olivia and her childish father makes it really easy for readers to emotionally connect to this little girl. A girl who has just lost her mum, who has no friends whatsoever, is bullied at school, lives in poverty and on top of that, has to look after her dad, who has no clue how to go on living.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the fact that the author keeps jumping back and forth in time during the first half of the story – something that made me a little bit confused at times. Schmitz wants to give us some insight into Olivia’s past and tell us what happened to her mum (which is inevitable for the plot), nevertheless I had a hard time separating present from past when I started reading the book.

On the whole, I adored My Name is Olivia…and I Can’t Do Anything About It. Olivia’s charming personality will no doubt grow on you and her attempts to find a friend and move on will make you smile and cry at the same time. It’s a captivating read which I would definitely recommend to anyone who likes emotional but optimistic stories.


Review: Growing Pains: Kendra’s Diaries – K.P. Smith

Title: Growing Pains: Kendra’s Diaries
Author:K.P. Smith
Publication date: May 25, 2011
Publisher: Doin It
Format: Ebook
Length: 268 pages
Genre: YA fiction

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How would you feel if you had to put on a brave face each morning you leave the house and pretend you’re okay? If you couldn’t tell what’s going on, not even to your best friend – and at the same time, your family was falling to pieces? Yes, that’s right – that’s what Kendra has to face each day of her life.

Meet Kendra Foster. She is smack in the middle of growing up. Oh boy! Just like anyone in the “maze” of growing up, there are challenges along the way. She is facing problems at home and with her family. She thought making cheerleader would be the “best thing in the world”. But she learned quickly there are two sides to every coin. As if she doesn’t have enough to deal with, high school is quickly approaching and her dreams of attending The Academy seems more impossible with each passing day. Every time she thinks she has an answer, they change the question. But never count her out. Her story is one of determination, perseverance and strength.

All in All, Kendra’s Diaries was a good read. There were many things I really enjoyed about it and a few things I think could have been a little bit better. I like the fact that it has an optimistic message and it will definitely make you stop and think: if she can do it and move on, then why couldn’t I?

Another thing I liked about it is the fact that it’s very realistic. It could happen to anyone, which makes the characters (and the plot itself) easily relatable. Smith’s story focuses on Kendra, a 13 year old girl from New Orleans. She’s just an ordinary teenager with ordinary friends, whose biggest dreams is to get into the cheerleader team. But as her family is starting to fall apart and she can’t ignore the fact that her parents are arguing non stop anymore, she realizes that there are more important things in life than this. Kendra is a fun character who is just like any of us. She has to learn how to make decisions and how to learn from her mistakes and she faces everyday problems just like us.

What didn’t really work for me was how the author handled emotional scenes. Kendra goes through a lot during the novel (and I don’t want to spoil anything for you) but I felt like these scenes should have been more developed, more elaborate. We are given the facts – her dad has left the family, for example – but I had a hard time connecting to her emotionally. I didn’t feel her pain.. well, not as much as I should have. It’s almost as if she accepted it and moved on. No drama, no tears. Just like that. This is the main reason why the book becomes a bit predictable and repetitive after a while, if you ask me.

Other than that, it’s an enjoyable coming of age novel for girls from the younger audience. Girls from the age of 12 upwards will no doubt find this story fantastic and easily relatable, since they’re going through the same problems themselves. On the whole, Growing Pains: Kendra’s Diaries is a nice summer read for anyone from the younger audience.

* Thank you to the author of the book for sending me a copy for review *

In My Mailbox #21

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. It’s our opportunity to get a sneak peek into what books everyone is received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders.

Hi guys! I know I keep saying this but I can’t believe another week has just passed. Oh my. Anyway, it’s going to be a super short IMM this week since I’m still trying to catch up with my review copies (which is going to take a pretty long time) so I haven’t requested any more books for a while. I’m not on a book buying ban because … well, I just can’t resist the temptation. Plus, my own copies can wait and I don’t feel guilty if I don’t have time to read them for another 3 months. Anyway, here’s what came in the mail today:

Room by Emma Donoghue (purchased)
All These Things I’ve Done
by Gabrielle Zevin (for review)

That’s it! I’m super excited about these two! I’ve heard great things about both of them so I’m really looking forward to picking them up. And can I just say how gorgeous the cover of ATTID is?! I can’t take my eyes off her eyes. *____*
So that’s it for this week, folks – what did you get in your mailbox? Have you read these two books? Make sure to leave a link to your own post below so that I can check out your books too and visit you back! :)

Bookish Ramblings: Writing Negative Reviews

Hello everyone! Bookish ramblings à la Vicky @ Books, Biscuits, and Tea is back :) I was planning to write this post for quite a long time now but I never had the time to actually sit down and do it. The time has finally come.

Today’s rambling was inspired by this whole Goodreads authors vs. bloggers fiasco which happened to take place last month. If you haven’t heard about it, you can catch up with this whole craziness here. I tried to stay out of it but it made me think . . .

What should bloggers do if the book sucks? a.k.a Writing negative reviews without hurting anyone.

That, judging by some people’s reaction, is quite difficult nowadays. But still, what do we do if the book in question is terrible? Do we review it at all? Well, here’s what I think.

1. Even if you hated the book, respect the author. At least take into consideration the fact that he/she spent a tremendous amount of time writing that book. Did this author do anything against you personally? No. Then show some respect. We understand that you didn’t like the book but you don’t need to diss the author.

2. Keep in mind that other people might have liked the book. What I hate the most is arrogant behaviour. People who act like their opinion is superior to anyone else’s and there’s no way anyone likes the book in question. Well, brace yourself m’dear, there are a bunch of people out there who happen to like it. You’re entitled to your opinion but don’t be rude towards other people who don’t agree with you.

Having said that, I have nothing against negative reviews. I myself write negative reviews if I have to and I didn’t really like the book. The most important thing -for me, at least- is not being arrogant and respecting other people’s opinion. So what would I, or actually, what do I do if I don’t like the book? If it’s a book I purchased then I might consider not reviewing it. If it’s a review copy then I do review it but without sounding like an arrogant little… brat, especially if I know the author. I keep in mind that they took the time to send me a review copy (which I didn’t have to pay a single penny for) and everything I said before, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t state my opinion. I’m not going to lie just because I know you.

I usually start with what I liked about the book (because if there’s nothing I liked about it then I probably won’t review it at all). I tell a few things about what made me keep on reading despite the fact that I couldn’t really connect to the story, etc. And then comes the not so good part. What the most important thing for me here is to be honest but fair. I state my opinion and let other people know what I thought or what didn’t work for me but I don’t start criticising the writer.Why should I? I have nothing against them and the fact that I didn’t like their book doesn’t mean I have a right to treat them like poop.

That’s my humble opinion in a nutshell. What do you guys do when you don’t like a book? :) Do you still review it?

Review: Mockingbird – Kathryn Erskine

Title: Mockingbird
Author: Kathryn Erskine
Publication date: January 2012
Publisher: Usborne
Format: Paperback
Length: 236 pages
Genre: YA / Middle grade fiction

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Caitlin misses her brother Devon. Since his death, she has no one to explain the world to her. And for Caitlin, the world is a confusing place, full of emotions and colours she can’t understand. Dad tries to help, but he spends a lot of time crying in the shower.

So when Caitlin reads the definition of “closure” in the dictionary, she decides that’s what they need. And as she struggles to find it, she learns how to let a world of colour into her black-and-white life…

Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird is a touching, poignant, but at the same time utterly hopeful story which will no doubt stay with you for a long time. Narrated by the 11-year-old Caitlin who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, the book deals with how people can deal with the loss of a loved one and how our lives might be different if we understood each other a little bit better. First person narration can be tricky and it can go wrong in so many ways but Erskine nailed it – seeing everything through Caitlin’s eyes is what makes this novel so special and gripping.

After finishing Mockingbird, all I could say was… WOW. Just wow. Even though it’s been a few hours since I put it down, I’m still in a complete awe – I just can’t praise it enough. It’s a beautifully written story that grabs you at the very beginning and makes you keep on reading until the very end.

What I loved about this novel the most was the first person narration. It’s interesting to see everything from Caitlin’s perspective. The author’s aim with this was “to have readers see the world the way she sees it. If they could live in her shoes, they could better understand why she talks and behaves the way she does” and it works. You cannot help imagining what life must be for Caitlin – or anyone else who has a similar illness. You see how each day is a battle for her – going to school and facing everyone when all she would like to do is to hide under the sofa cushions at home. You see how everyone is constantly making fun of her because she’s different and doesn’t behave the way other people do and it’s quite easy to emphasize with her throughout the story. Reading about how she was trying to make people understand her – or at least accept her or talk to her -reduced me to tears several times throughout the book.

Another thing I really enjoyed in the story was Caitlin’s relationship with her brother and her only friend, Michael. Erskine’s description of Caitlin and her brother’s relationship is just spot on. We learn that Devon, her brother who is a victim of a tragic school shooting, was the one who taught her everything. He told her what to do and what not to do at school so that people don’t laugh at her. He was there for her when she was terrified or confused and now that he’s no longer there for her… Caitlin is confused. Michael is a 6-year-old kid from Caitlin’s school who eventually becomes her friend. He’s the only one, after Devon, who gets her – someone who doesn’t laugh even if what she says or does doesn’t make too much sense.

To sum up, I would say that the author managed to get her message across and Mockingbird is a huge wake up call for everyone of every age. It teaches us to be more emphatic towards others and not to judge them since we don’t know what the other person is going through in his or her life. Mockingbirds is a beautifully written, powerful and poignant story which will stay with you for a very long time. Make sure to grab a packet of tissues before you pick it up because you’re in for an emotional ride. Brilliant. Unique. Something I’d be glad to recommend to absolutely everyone – you won’t be disappointed.

* Thank you to Usborne for sending me a copy of this book for review *

Waiting on Wednesday #9

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. 

My pick for this week:

Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell
ISBN: 9781409142959
Format: Hardback
Publication date: 12 April 2012
Publisher: Orion
Add it on Goodreads

Every family has its secrets. Some are small, like telling a white lie or snooping through a private drawer. Others are more serious like infidelity and betrayal. And some secrets are so terrible they must be hidden away in a deep, dark place, for if they ever came to light, they would surely tear a family apart.

The Tides are a family full of secrets. Returning to Clifftops, the rambling family house high up on the Dorset coastline, youngest daughter Dora hopes for a fresh start, for herself and the new life she carries. But can long-held secrets ever really be forgiven? And even if you can forgive, can you ever really learn to love again?

Secrets of the Tides is a compelling family drama with a dark thread of suspense at its heart.

Why am I looking forward to this? The first thing I noticed about this book was its gorgeous cover. Then I read the synopsis and fell in love. I just LOVE these type of books – family sagas with lots of hidden secrets. AND it’s supposed to have a touch of suspense as well? Even better. Can’t wait to read it!

What’s your “waiting on” pick this week? Feel free to leave a link with your own WoW in the comments below. xxx