What I’ve Read: Life As We Knew It, Songs About a Girl & Roller Girl

What I've Read: Life As We Knew It, Songs About a Girl & Roller Girl
Here are three reviews of books I’ve read recently to get me get out of my reading slump – everything from survival stories to boyband lit and awesome girls doing sports!

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, narrated by Emily Bauer (Audiobook)

I first read Life As We Knew It five years ago when I couldn’t get enough of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. This time, I was looking for an audiobook to listen to on my commute and after a few failed attempts at reading paperbacks while squished on the train, a re-read seemed like the perfect choice!

I loved Life As We Knew It originally because it made me feel like I was surviving alongside Miranda after a meteor collides with the moon, altering the Earth’s climate, making it almost impossible to continue with life as it was. If anything, the audiobook was even more atmospheric. Miranda reading her diary aloud meant that I caught little bits of the story that I think I missed the first time – Emily Bauer has done a fantastic job at narrating the audiobook. It’s been 10 years since it was first published, but Life As We Knew It is still one of the few YA post-apocalyptic novels that had me thinking about it after I put it down.

Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell

I was introduced to Songs About a Girl at a blogger event at Hachette Towers, and this is where we also got to meet the fabulous author, Chris Russell, who’s an utter delight and self-confessed fanboy. He’s in a band himself – The Lightyears – and has previously written for a One Direction fansite, so is in a perfect position to write about the world of music.

I assumed Songs About a Girl would be told from the point of view of Fire&Lights – a hot new boyband – but it’s actually the incredible Charlie Bloom we get to hear from. 15-year-old Charlie is invited to be the band’s photographer after Olly, one of the band members, comes across her photos. Charlie’s a refreshing protagonist who’s simultaneously unaffected by the boy’s popularity and intrigued by their music and complicated friendship. Plus she’s being targeted on social media by jealous Fire&Lights fans; has discovered a baffling secret about her mother, who passed away; and is stuck between frontman Gabe and bandmate Olly and their curious conflict. (I prefer Yuki myself!).

Songs About a Girl was a fun story to read over the summer and I’m looking forward to meeting up with my new friend Charlie in the sequel next year.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Oh, I loved Roller Girl. I came across it during a shopping trip at Gosh! Comics with my friend Daphne and one glance at the cover me it was the graphic novel for me! Roller Girl is the heartwarming tale of friendship and roller derby over one summer, beautifully written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson. It perfectly captures what it’s like to be growing up when you’re not a child, but not quite a teenager.

Astrid is 12-years-old and does everything with her best friend Nicole – until Astrid signs up for roller derby and Nicole starts making new friends at ballet. I wish there were more contemporary graphic novels because it’s a wonderful, underrated format for them. Not only do we get a fantastic story, but are able to experience visually the pain, frustration and heartbreak of real life.

I love coming-of-age stories and in Roller Girl, we get everything from realistic confrontations with parents to what it feels like to be the worst at something you so desperately want to conquer. I also learned a lot about roller derby and feel like I got bruises from just reading about it – ouch!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Classic #6)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Classic #6)

Shelved: Classic
Published: 11th July 1960
Rating: ★★★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #6 / Re-Read Challenge – #1
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Here’s my sixth post for the 2015 Classics Challenge (and technically my first post for the Re-Read Challenge)!  It’s not too late to join me (and 190+ other people) in reading one classic per month.

Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Atticus Finch gives this advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of this classic novel – a black man charged with attacking a white girl. Through the eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with compassion and humour. She also creates one of the great heroes of literature in their father, whose lone struggle for justice pricks the conscience of a town steeped in prejudice and hypocrisy.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in August 2010 and was looking forward to coming back to it nearly five years later. It was one of the few classics I had read at that point (although I was doing well that summer, having also just read A Clockwork Orange and The Great Gatsby). I’m not sure how I discovered it. It’s another classic that I feel I’ve always known, but photos and quotes from the book kept popping up on Tumblr, so perhaps that’s what spurred me to read it for the first time.

WHY I Chose to Read It
I have wanted to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird for a while (and it’s about time I picked up a book for the Re-Read Challenge!). I picked it to be my June classic because I wanted to make sure I read ahead of Go Set a Watchman, the newly discovered sequel set 20 years after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ll also be watching the film adaptation this evening!

WHAT Makes It A Classic
Even if you’re already aware of the tensions that occurred in the Deep South during the 1930s (and continued through to the 1970s), To Kill a Mockingbird brings history to life in a compassionate and memorable way.

To Kill a Mockingbird is part coming-of-age novel and part cautionary tale about race and class, and the injustice that often comes with it. It’s an example of how foolish – and certainly persistent – prejudice is, especially when two young children can see the absurdity of it more than their adult counterparts. Even so, Scout and Jem are guilty of making judgements about people themselves and are taught to recognise this by their father, Atticus Finch.

To Kill a Mockingbird still has a lot of offer 50 years after publication. From the mystery surrounding Boo Radley and seeing Scout and Jem begin to better understand the intentions of the people in their small-town community, to the powerful case of Tom Robinson and the defense trial spearheaded by Atticus Finch, it still packs an emotional punch.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I am relieved to say that I loved it even more than when I read it the first time. I am always worried that I won’t enjoy a book the second time around, especially if it’s a favourite. But thankfully To Kill a Mockingbird holds its own.

As I read many more children’s books now than I did five years ago, I appreciated and enjoyed Scout’s voice even more, although she was always my favourite character. She vividly retells the events in To Kill a Mockingbird as an adult, reflecting upon them as experienced as a young child. I love Scout’s curiosity, humour and confidence, and I adore her complex and thoughtful relationships with everyone around her. I enjoy inquisitive characters and Scout rarely accepts what she’s told as fact – especially when it’s demanded that she has to stop reading and writing!

Even thought I already knew the outcome of To Kill a Mockingbird, it didn’t stop me from hoping and feeling the frustration and injustice that is felt by Atticus, Scout, Jem and Dill. It didn’t stop me from being unable to put the book down.

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing”.

WILL It Stay A Classic
I do hope so. It’s just turned 55 years old, so it’s still a ‘young’ classic, but I doubt (sadly) that many of its lessons will stop being relevant in the future. My only worry is that Go Set a Watchman won’t live up to its predecessor, but I’m still looking forward to heading back to Maycomb. You can read the first chapter here.

“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love books from the point of view of a child. People who love Taylor Swift (because it’s her favourite book!). People who want to delve into modern classics. People who love history.

Have you signed up to the 2015 Classics Challenge?

Books Are For Life | The Re-Read Challenge 2015

Re-Read Challenge
Is it ludicrous to buy and keep books if I’m not going to re-read them? I love re-reading, but I don’t do it as often as I think I should (I’ve re-read 3 books this year). I used to be an avid re-reader when I was a young teenager, but when you’re a blogger – for this is the main reason! – you find out about a lot of books and consequentially buy, borrow and accept a lot of books, meaning that it’s difficult to find time to read books you’ve already read. I have books I’ve bought and borrowed, books I’m reading for work, and books I’ve accepted for review. But I really miss reading my favourite books and it’s easy to forget why they became a favourite in the first place.

Thank you Laura @ Scribbles and Wanderlust for telling me about this challenge, hosted by Hannah @ So Obsessed With and Kelly @ Belle of the Literati. It’s common for bloggers to mostly review newly published books, yet there’s a whole wonderful world of older books just waiting to be talked about. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve enjoyed reading classics (even though I haven’t read as many this year): I’ve loved talking about books that so many people have read before. If you wish you were able to re-read your older books, join in and stop feeling guilty about it! If you would like to blog about books you’ve re-read, but don’t want to write a typical review, Hannah and Kelly have put together fun questions you can answer each time:

WHEN I First Read
WHAT I Remember
WHY I Wanted to Re-Read
HOW I Felt After Re-Reading
WOULD I Re-Read Again

Easy! I can’t commit to a specific number of books (too much pressure!), but here’s a selection from the 669 books I’ve read, that I’d love to re-read:

The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook by Joyce-Lancaster Brisley (read aged 6)
Book of Shadows by Cate Tiernan (read aged 13)
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (read aged 13)
The Girl from the Sea by James Aldridge (read aged 14)
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman (read aged 16)
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (read aged 16)
The Time-Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (read many times, but first aged 16)
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (read aged 17)
Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy (read aged 17-18)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (read aged 22)
Paper Towns by John Green (read aged 22)
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (read aged 23)
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (read aged 24)

Visit the RE-READ tag to see which books I’ve read for the challenge.

Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver (re-read)

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Young adult, science fiction, dystopia.

I adored Delirium when I first read and reviewed it, which was back in February. I had limited experience with dystopia, only having read Matched, The Hunger Games, and Uglies, but Delirium made it one of favourite genres. I’ve come across many young dystopian novels since then, and having re-read Delirium, I can safely say that it is still one of my favourites and one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Although Delirium is a dystopian novel, it is first and foremost a love story; it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. At eighteen years old, citizens of the USA legally must undergo a procedure – a “cure” – that will result in the them being unable to love anyone ever again, whether it may be a partner, friend or family. When Alex enters her life, Lena must fight for the right to love whomever she wishes.

One of the things that I didn’t mention in my previous review, that really struck me about the novel, is the writing. Lauren Oliver has a talent for using the most beautiful, rich language and imagery to capture a moment perfectly. When I’m reading novels, I try to picture the scenes in my head and sometimes it becomes blurry. I try to focus on it but the author hasn’t provided enough detail for me to do so. Lauren Oliver is the complete opposite. She expertly describes every single scene so that the image in my head comes out crystal clear, from the description of the setting to Lena’s emotions:

“The water is an enormous mirror, tipped with and pink and gold from the sky. In that single, blazing moment as I came around the bend, the sun – curved over the dip of the horizon like a solid gold archway – lets out its final winking rays of light, shattering the darkness of the water, turning everything white for a fraction of a second, and then falls away, sinking, dragging the pink and the red and the purple out of the sky with it. All the colour bleeding away instantly and leaving only dark.

Alex was right. It was gorgeous – one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

Another thing I did not pay enough attention to before (because I was eagerly rushing trough the story) is the small fragments of society – the quotation of official documents, rules and regulations, children’s songs, and poetry, which help the reader to mentally construct and imagine the world that Lauren Oliver has created. Even though the story mostly focuses on Lena and Alex’s relationship and the things they discover about each other, we’re constantly aware that they live in a restrictive and severely controlled society.

Delirium is a wonderfully emotional, heartbreaking love story set in a dystopian future. It’s both a gritty and mellow experience. If you’ve not yet jumped on to the dystopian bandwagon, I’d suggest that reading Delirium is a very good start indeed.

“Love, the deadliest of all deadly things: it kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.”

Rating: ★★★★★
Buy: Paperback
More: Goodreads