#26 The Darker Side of DisneyWorld (#7)

This week, I’ve been dipping in and out of books, as I so often do. I listened to 2.5 hours of ‘A Clash of Kings’ audiobook over the weekend, and I read a third of ‘Paper Towns’, but alongside those, I felt I needed some lighthearted humour. One evening this led me to turn on my Kindle app on my phone, and begin re-reading ‘Life… On A High’ by Nick Spalding, which I finished at just gone midnight. This little comedic autobiographical account of some of the worst experiences of Nick’s life thankfully fitted in with my 2015 Reading Challenge, as #26 A memoir.

In the last few months I’ve definitely been enjoying memoirs/autobiographies more, having read Melissa Joan Hart’s (Sabrina The Teenage Witch) and Vicky Pattinson’s (from Geordie Shore) in the latter part of 2014. The issue I tend to have going into them is the (often) ghost-written aspect, but I had no such fear when delving into ‘Life… On A High’. No one else could write about someone else’s terrible online dating experiences…

My Goodreads Review
“Life… On A High is the second comedy memoir by Nick Spalding, a typically normal 38 year-old divorced father, who by his own admission is carrying a bit too much weight (clearly not excessively though, as he does lay in to fat people in one section of the book). The book was written over 48 hours, on a flight from the UK to Australia, and then back again. This in itself ought to be commended, even if it isn’t literature of the highest order – and it’s not meant to be!
The book features a number of anecdotes, which will have you smiling at all the right places (it’s not laugh out loud funny, at least I didn’t think so). Some highlights include: a disastrous fishing trip with the in-laws, believing he was a banana whilst on an acid trip, getting caught by his police colleagues messing around with sex-toys whilst on a raid, and getting molested by a chipmunk at DisneyWorld – all true he assures us!
With the good, there is the not so good. The book also features a fair amount of ranting, mainly at politicians, something that neither interests me, nor makes for a good read. Maybe that’s simply because I do not believe myself to be in the main target audience for this book (I put it at around 30-45 year-olds).
If you’re after an easy, lighthearted, comic read, then this probably fits the bill. It was highly entertaining in the most part, and I flew through it (if you’ll pardon the pun).”

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I’m certainly glad I re-read this book. It gave my brain a rest from the plotting and scheming of ‘Game of Thrones’. I think I might well re-read Nick’s first memoir, ‘Life… With No Breaks’ the next time Davos, Tyrion and Jon begin to get on my nerves. Or I might wait until he’s strapped for cash enough to need (or just feels compelled) to write a third. Is it bad that I want that to be sooner rather than later?!

#26 A memoir – Life… On A High by Nick Spalding (6/10)

Seven down, forty-three to go.

My journey will also be instagrammed frequently on @charlottebibliophile

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#39 Jobberknoll, Lobalug & Plimpy (#6)

I’ve had a busy week with University (I can’t believe I now only have 10 weeks of lectures until I graduate) so my 2015 Reading Challenge has stalled slightly. However, 10 days ago, a fellow Harry Potter fanatic friend (Johnnie) and I decided to create a Goodreads book group, so we could read some J.K. Rowling books together. Today that led me to finish my 6th book of the year.

With the upcoming movie series “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” (the screenplay of which is being written by J.K. Rowling herself), the first book we decided to re-read was the book of the same name, which fittingly came into the category #39 A book with magic. Anything Harry Potter related is inherently magical, and what could possibly be more magical than magical creatures?!

My Goodreads Review
“‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’ by Newt Scamander (aka J.K. Rowling) is one of three special “Hogwarts Library” books, which accompany the Harry Potter series. Fantastic Beasts focuses on more than 70 different species of magical creatures that are present within the Wizarding World (one note – why are Demeters and House Elves not in here? Are they not classified as beasts?)
The book begins with ‘About the Author’, followed by a ‘Foreward’ by Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore. This special edition book was published for the benefit of Muggles (non-magic folk), but it stresses that the entirety of its contents are fictional. There are also comments made by Harry Potter and his friends throughout (although not as many as I would have liked), which relate to their adventures in the series.
This is a very useful companion for anyone who has read the Harry Potter series, and is unsure exactly what Red Caps and Grindylows are (as well as the dozens of other creatures). I really enjoyed some of the footnotes that are present, particularly the ones about Uric the Oddball, who I desperately hope features in the Fantastic Beasts movie franchise.
Arguably my favourite section of the book was the introduction, which included information about the defining criteria of beasts, Muggle awareness of Fantastic Beasts and a Ministry of Magic classification for each of the beasts discussed. I certainly learnt a lot more about the “laws” of beasts and beings, which I didn’t appreciate when I first read this companion well over ten years ago! For those of you expecting to be entertained by this book, it is not a novel, it is a textbook which has effectively been edited in a way to create an anecdote or two, but it is still information heavy. I’m certainly glad I read it in preparation for the upcoming films! Bring on the Kappas and Erumpents!”

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10 points to Hufflepuff if you can tell me the four creatures present in this photo

Reading this book has certainly got me in the mood for the upcoming movies, and I now know more about Crups, Doxys (or is it Doxies – Jo you’ll have to help me here!) and Graphorns than a moderately skilled wizard. What pleased me even more was that 80% of the proceeds of this book went to Comic Relief (a UK charity helping those abroad and at home with lifesaving treatments and support). I guess Jo simply doesn’t need the innumerable quantities of 14 Sickles and 3 Knuts. The one overriding negative with this book is that it is inherently a “textbook”, thus all elements that I love of the Potter novels are excluded (for obvious reasons) and there is only so much detail one can read when talking of Flobberworms. However, I’m looking forward to reading the remaining two books in the Hogwarts Library collection soon – you can never have too much Potter!

#39 A book with magic – Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them by J.K. Rowling (6/10)

Six down, forty-four to go.

My journey will also be instagrammed frequently on @charlottebibliophile

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#6 The Age-Experience Correlation (#5)

I think it’s fair to say that my 2015 Reading Challenge has got off to an excellent start! Today I finished reading my 5th book of the year, and we’re only two weeks into January.

You may recall that the last book I read, “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion, was recommended to me by Giovanna Fletcher via her YouTube channel (not directly, obviously). I picked up this particular book and absolutely loved it, so I figured that if Gi loved it, maybe her writing might be similar, so I decided to pick up her first novel “Billy and Me”. Gi was only 28 (I believe I’m correct in saying that) when this novel was published, so it comes fittingly into the category #6 A book written by someone under 30. Having read a lot of books over the years, with very few of them having been written by a young author, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I dived in full of hope.

My Goodreads Review
“I really, really wanted to love this book, and so it pains me to say that I didn’t. I’ve been following Gi avidly since she began YouTube-ing frequently, but I’ve been following her on Twitter for a while longer. I knew this book was due to be released in 2013, but I’ve never felt compelled to read it until now.
I loved the first 20% and the last 20%, but the middle just felt like filler material to me. I honestly didn’t really care for Billy and Sophie’s story, I was much more interested in Sophie and Molly’s story. Molly definitely felt like the main, larger than life character in this novel, and I felt her presence throughout. I thought Sophie was a bit wet and needy (understandable after the trauma she suffered when she was eleven, but I just didn’t care about her as much as I should have done). Billy was every bit the Prince Charming for the first 20% of the novel, then he became the exact person I’d chose to avoid in real-life, so I didn’t feel as though I really cared about whether they ended up together. The saving grace of the novel was, unquestionably, Molly. I felt every emotion with her, I laughed and I cried (a rarity at a book, I must say).
As far as a novel goes, it certainly was readable, but I was disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had anticipated. Since this was Gi’s first novel, I’m more hopeful that her second (and upcoming third) effort feels more complete.”

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I can’t as yet judge whether Gi’s writing improves over time, but I certainly hope that it does. Since I own her second novel “You’re The One That I Want” and her “Christmas With Billy and Me” novella, I’m certainly going to persevere, and hope that as she becomes more experienced, she also becomes more accomplished. I can’t really comment on the works of many other young authors – I have a few on my TBR pile (you should be able to spot at least a couple in the background of the above picture) – and I’ve generally had mixed feelings about many authors’ subsequent novels. For now I’ll just have to assume that Gi’s later books are better written with more interesting premises (although I do concede that with contemporary novels, it’s very hit and miss).

#6 A book written by someone under 30 – Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher (5/10)

Five down, forty-five to go.

My journey will also be instagrammed frequently on @charlottebibliophile

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#8 (Shel)-Don’s Looking For Love (#4)

Today, on 11/1, or 1/11 if you’re American (and wrong), I finished my 4th novel of the 2015 Reading Challenge. The repetition, whilst not directly relevant, does represent the autistic element this next novel provides.

I absolutely love getting book recommendations (unfortunately it rarely – possibly never – happens in real life, as I am the reader amongst my friends) – any genre, any author, well known or not, if someone recommends a book (and I trust their perspective) I’m going to read it. With “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion, which is #8 A funny book on the 2015 Reading Challenge, the recommendation came from author Giovanna Fletcher, and subsequently her husband Tom (from McFly/McBusted). I had already seen it pop up on Amazon’s three for £10 list, so along with five other novels, I picked it up. I pre-offered this novel to my ex-English and headteacher grandmother, who is notoriously difficult to please, but she instantly rated it as “up there with the best books I’ve ever read” – high praise indeed. Since it passed her expectations with flying colours, it was the first of the haul I chose to read, and I’m so glad it was.

My Goodreads Review
“Think Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, except with a wish to find a life partner, and you’ve got Don (Shel-Don). This novel begins with Don giving a guest lecture on autism to a group of autistic children and their parents, without much prior knowledge of the condition. Instantly I understood that Don is probably autistic himself, albeit undiagnosed.
This novel is hilariously comic. I was so utterly amused by the book that I proceeded to tweet about it at approximately page 17 (you know it’s good when you’re tweeting about a book full stop, let alone at page 17). The book follows Don’s quest to find himself a suitable partner – he draws up an incredibly long and detailed questionnaire, to which potential respondents must satisfy all criteria. What’s the point in finding a wife if she’s not the perfect match?!
Don’s best friend Gene (think Leonard from The Big Bang Theory, except with a little more good luck) sets him up with Rosie, who Don immediately thinks is entirely unsuitable, but over the course of the novel he realises his feelings for her.
This novel had an interesting subplot, called The Father Project, where Don and Rosie are searching for Rosie’s biological father – this is how the two of them proceed on their adventure of eventually falling in love.
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of the novel, the ending felt a bit rushed (especially since there is a sequel). There was some slight confusion right at the very end, where I had to google who Rosie’s biological father was (I thought I knew at the end, but it wasn’t made abundantly clear).
All in all, it was a funny novel, that didn’t feel as though I was laughing at someone with a condition (autism), rather that I was laughing with someone at the hilariousness of his lack of love life. If you like The Big Bang Theory, you’ll probably love this book! I will certainly be reading The Rosie Effect in the future!”

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There’s no doubt that “The Rosie Project” provided a fresh insight into the world of the unlucky in love. One of the things I love most about this book is that the main character is a man. So often the main character is a damsel in distress, waiting to be rescued by her knight in shining armour, only to realise that the man of her dreams doesn’t exist, so she’ll have to accept his flaws. This novel was much more about Don accepting his own flaws, and working with his good characteristics to find love. He’s such an endearing and kind character, but would usually be overlooked as being weird. The kind of love Don and Rosie found is certainly not applicable to all, but it was cute and I willed Don to find “the one” from very early on in the novel.

#8 A funny book – The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (8/10)

Four down, forty-six to go.

My journey will also be instagrammed frequently on @charlottebibliophile

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#33 Unfortunate Memories (#3)

It’s fair to say that I didn’t expect that my 2015 Reading Challenge would get off to such a great start. I’m clearly very motivated to complete this challenge (it’s just as well really, as I’m not feeling especially motivated to do anything else…)

Last night I was contemplating which book to pick up out of my three current reads (“The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion, “My True Love Gave To Me” edited by Stephanie Perkins or “A Clash Of Kings” by George R.R. Martin, but none of them really spoke to me at that precise minute. On the spur of the moment, I decided to switch on my Kindle, something I’ve only done a couple of times in the last six months, and that led me to decide to re-read Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning”. When I was eight or nine I read the first three books in this series, but didn’t really get into it in a big way, but as it’s a quick read, and it fulfilled #33 A book from your childhood, I decided to pick it up (and subsequently whizz through it).

My Goodreads Review
“Unfortunate is right. In my first childhood revisited novel of 2015, Lemony Snicket’s world hasn’t stood the test of time, at least with me. I read the first three books when I was younger, but didn’t get into them beyond that, and now looking back I can understand why.
The plot was thin (it’s a kids book, so that’s understandable) but the characterisation was good, especially regarding Count Olaf. The descriptions were generally good, however in some instances “explaining the long, difficult words” felt a little condescending (although it’s probably an excellent way for children to further their vocabulary!)
If you are after a quick read, with an important life lesson that not everything turns out alright in the end, then this is probably a good book to pick up. In a day where all novels end with good triumphing over evil, it is refreshing that this series does not follow that predictable format (however, of course it is predictable in the opposite sense). ”

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I’m not sure when I’ll read the other *twelve – yes twelve* books in this series. I have the next two loaded onto my Kindle, so I may well pick them up in the future. Out of the three books I’ve read so far in 2015, it is my least favourite, so the remaining books are not high on my TBR list. Regardless, I have to say, reading on my Kindle again was an enjoyable experience, and I do believe that I read more when I’m less concerned with pages numbers, and when the end of the chapter is, so credit where credit’s due Amazon. You made a great product there!

#33 A book from your childhood – A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (4/10)

Three down, forty-seven to go.

My journey will also be instagrammed frequently on @charlottebibliophile

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#9 Apparently Anyone Can Get A Book Deal (#2)

Only the 5th day in 2015, and I’ve finished my 2nd book of the year in my 2015 Reading Challenge. If I keep going at this rate I’ll have read 146 books come the end of the year – yeah right!

Over the Christmas holiday I acquired a great deal of books, which I either bought for myself or chose as gifts from my family. One such book (in the former category) was “Girl Online” by Zoe Sugg (aka Zoella/aka Siobhan Curham). With this particular read I wanted to check off #6 A book written by someone under 30, but I couldn’t bring myself to give Zoe the credit for what is, essentially, someone else’s work. For this reason, I went with #9 A book by a female author (or authors in this case).

My Goodreads Review
“Obviously this “novel” has drawn a lot of attention over the past couple of months since its publication, and that was primarily the reason I decided to pick it up. I am not a YouTube fan (unless you count the four or five BookTubers I follow), but the amount of press this book received, both when it was released and when it was rumoured (and then admitted to by Zoe) that it was ghost written, drew me to it.
I have a strange hatred of ghost written works (celebrities, politicians etc) but this really got on my nerves. A 20-something year old YouTuber got a book deal, where she didn’t actually have to write the book, only provide the characters and the plot outline (which lets face it, is basically her life story). It really grates on me, especially when there are so many talented young writers out there who haven’t got the means to showcase their work.
Saying that, the novel is decent. I didn’t expect to like it, but I did. Sure Penny was a bit wet, some of the dates/numbers seemed to change during the story, and how many 18 year-old males date 15-year old females? – it’s slightly creepy to be advertising that in a book primarily aimed at the 11-16 year old female market – but the novel itself was good (7/10).
Overall I enjoyed the novel. It was faced paced for a contemporary and the writing style in general was good (but there wasn’t as many blog entries as I was expecting). The character development was good too. For this I praise Siobhan Curham, the true author of this work (thankfully it got so much publicity that at the time of writing this review, she is actually mentioned alongside Zoe as the author of this book). I will be reading the 2nd instalment, but I hope Zoe has more to do with it. ”

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Some good has undoubtedly come out of this novel: it has drawn attention to issues such as homophobia, bullying and anxiety, and it has led to literally hundreds of thousands of teenagers actually reading a book – shock horror! My ex-English teacher grandmother was, and still is, a firm advocate of “reading anything, be it Dickens or a comic book, is a good thing”. I also believe this is true, so write away celebrities/ghost writers, if it means gaining the interest of young people, even if it’s only for a few hours.

#9 A book by a female author – Girl Online by Zoe Sugg/Siobhan Curham (7/10)

Two down, forty-eight to go.

My journey will also be instagrammed frequently on @charlottebibliophile

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#40 Just A Fancy Comic (#1)

Welcome to my first of (hopefully) 50 blog posts about my 2015 Reading Challenge. With each books read, I will write a small review on Goodreads (since that is where I officially track my progress) and subsequently post it on my blog, possibly with a couple of amendments and customary photo(s).

Yesterday I began reading the first book that I have now checked off – A Graphic Novel. When I decided to partake in this challenge (over Christmas) I purchased five graphic novels – 2x Percy Jackson and 3x Alex Rider – all of which are classed as “middle grade” novels (that I have helpfully read), so I figured they would convert relatively well to the graphic novel format. The one I chose to read was “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel” by Rick Riordan.

My Goodreads Review
“Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief was my first ever graphic novel. I’ve previously read the novel by Rick Riordan, and as a graphic novel was one of the categories on my 2015 reading challenge, I thought I’d start 2015 off a little differently.
Obviously I was aware of the plot, and the graphic novel adaption misses out a few significant sections of the book itself (needs must I suppose to keep it short and sweet). This didn’t detract from the story however.
Since I have no prior knowledge of graphic novels, I have nothing to compare it to. However I see these as a great way to get kids into reading “novels” before they pick up the real thing. I do not see the attraction for adults (especially females).”

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The whole experienced transpired that a graphic novel is just a fancy phrase for comic, at least to me (sorry any graphic novel advocates out there). It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, but it’s more that it felt like something I would have done when I was about 7 as opposed to 21. Maybe it was just my “middle grade” selection?

#40 A Graphic Novel – Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel (5/10)

In any case, that’s one down, forty-nine to go.

My journey will also be instagrammed frequently on @charlottebibliophile

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