Oxford University Press

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The Private Blog of Joe Cowley – Ben Davis

Published October 25, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The brilliantly funny and cringe-worthy secret blog of 14-year-old Joe Cowley (wannabe comic artist and self-confessed repeller of girls):

Sunday 1st January
So here’s the thing. I’ve decided to start writing a blog. A private one. The idea is that it’ll help me sort my life out, because quite frankly, it can’t get much worse . . .
· I gained the nickname Puke Skywalker after vomiting over Louise Bentley on the waltzer.
· I am subjected to daily wedgies by my arch-enemy Gav James.
· My so-called best mates are trying to get me killed in a bid to win £250 on You’ve Been Framed.

This cannot go on. I have to do something, or I’ll end up like Mad Morris down the park who thinks he’s Jesus. By the end of next term, I’m going to be a completely different person.

At least, that’s the theory…

What did I think?:

Many thanks to the children’s publishers at Oxford University Press for giving me the opportunity to read this quirky and amusing young adult novel by Ben Davis. After reading it, I immediately thought that it was the Adrian Mole for the new generation and one of my favourite things about the book was the cute comic strip illustrations and photographic images that made Joe’s blog entries even more interesting and fun to read. Joe Cowley is your typical fourteen year old teenager. He loves Star Trek, is both curious and terrified of the opposite sex – actually describing himself as a “repeller” after an unfortunate incident with a girl on a waltzer ride. He has dreams of becoming a comic strip artist, is harassed by the school bully Gav James on a daily basis and is still trying to deal with his parents recent divorce. Living with his mother, it is then not particularly easy when his mum moves in her new boyfriend and another familiar face that is going to be hell for him to deal with. As Joe tells the reader of his “catalogue of misery,” he decides on a more positive outlook. He is going to start a private blog to help him deal with his feelings (NOT a diary, as diaries are for girls in his words), he is going to get Gav back for everything he has put him through and finally he is going to kiss a girl. A real, live one.

As the blog entries continue, it looks like Joe might get one of his wishes as he manages to attract his ultimate girl crush Lisa Hall, who unfortunately is also the ex-girlfriend of the bully Gav James. You can almost sense the drama that is going to unfold! Lisa however, does not seem to be as invested in the relationship as poor Joe is. In fact, she only seems to want to be with Joe when Gav is around…hmm… slightly suspicious? Then Joe meets another girl, Natalie, another Star Trek devotee, but she tends to dress a bit differently and doesn’t really fit within the “popular” crowd. Joe is quite torn as although Natalie seems to genuinely like him and they share the same interests, being with Lisa actually makes him popular, something which is quite new and exciting to him. He is even at risk of losing his two loyal best friends, Harry and Ad as he attempts to change himself into the person Lisa expects him to be.

The rest of the book throws up some very funny, heart-warming and intensely cringe-worthy incidents that many teenagers will be able to identify with. My favourite parts included Operation Scooby-Doo which was absolutely hilarious and the drama caused by the computerised baby Adwina which Joe has to look after in a school project. This book is seriously funny and the illustrations are a fantastic addition but I think this book also holds some strong messages about family, friendship and growing up that many teenagers would relate to and appreciate. As a character, I think Joe learns a lot about life in general, and I’d love there to be a sequel just to see what he gets up to next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Storm and Stone – Joss Stirling

Published February 22, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Behind the ivy-clad walls of an exclusive boarding school, lurks a sinister web of corruption, scandal, and conspiracy. American student Raven Stone has noticed something is horribly wrong. First there were the unexplained disappearances. Then there were the teachers’ lies. And now the death threats …Also entangled in the disturbing turn of events is the enigmatic Kieran Storm – a fellow student with a killer intellect and a body to die for. He’s heading for trouble and taking her with him. Raven can feel herself falling in love, but can she trust a boy she knows almost nothing about?

What did I think?:

Joss Stirling is the second author I heard talk at the recent Oxford University Press bloggers evening, and I’m not familiar with any of her other work so I was excited to read Storm and Stone, the first in a new series.  Joss Stirling is a British author and may be  more familiarly known as Julia Golding, although she also publishes under the pseudonym Eve Edwards. In 2007 she was selected by Waterstones as one of their 25 authors of the future, and has had many teenagers in raptures with her Finding Sky young adult trilogy.

Personally, I found Storm and Stone a really thrilling read. It has a bit of everything for the enthusiastic Young Adult fanatic, you’ve got your romance (obviously!), adventure, action, intrigue and mystery, which when all combined together provide a great mixture to excite and entertain from a clearly gifted author. Our main character is a young girl called Raven who attends a very exclusive private school where she mingles with rich, very privileged teenagers but stands out like a sore thumb as the only reason she can attend is because her grandfather is the janitor there. Of course we know that kids can be cruel, and her difference in social class leads to her experiencing incredibly spiteful behaviour from the other students. So, I was already on her side and ready to fight her corner but then Stirling ramps up the intensity by placing two new and very mysterious male students into the mix whom Raven is able to befriend. But there is an ulterior motive behind Joe and Kieran’s presence in the school. The boys are part of an investigative unit that are trying to uncover mysterious goings-on within the school. Their mission is to try and determine why when students are taken away for a period that they return completely different, almost as if a personality transplant has taken place! This is also linked to many suspected dodgy dealings behind the scenes among the wealthiest of the parents. Joe and Kieran must try to find out what exactly is going on whilst remaining undetected. It would be slightly easier for them perhaps if Kieran could stop himself falling in love with Raven…

This book had me pretty much hooked from the beginning. I found it to be such a strong plot line with both intriguing and likeable characters, that has the potential to turn into a great series. At the bloggers evening, Joss Stirling read out one of my favourite parts of the novel, where Kieran first meets Raven and proceeds to analyse her, almost in a Sherlock Holmesy kind of manner, identifying most of her traits and habits merely from her items of clothing and jewellery. This freaks Raven out considerably as you can imagine, but I loved the way the author then developed their relationship piece by piece and I cannot wait to see how it will continue and grow in further books. Furthermore, I enjoyed how the author dealt with the more emotive issues, for example the loss of Raven’s parents, the relationship between Kieran and his own mother and the ostracisation of Raven from her fellow classmates which I think many teenagers will be able to relate too. Joss is a big fan of detective fiction and one fun part of our evening involved her leading us in a “detective fiction” quiz – fun apart from my shameful score, that is! I think that this book deserves its place within the young adult detective fiction genre, and once again cannot wait to see how the characters will develop over the series.

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Joss “Holmes” Stirling?

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Oxford University Press for a fantastic evening (and a sneak peek at the cover art of Joss’ next new book Misty Falls due to be published this October). Oh, and I may now have to check out the Finding Sky trilogy…

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Who Framed Klaris Cliff? – Nikki Sheehan

Published February 17, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

People used to call them ‘friends’ and said how they were good for your brain. And then a day came when all that changed . . . when they became our enemy.

Now, anyone found harbouring a rogue imaginary person is in for the Cosh, an operation that fries your imagination and zaps whatever’s in there, out of existence.

That’s why I wish Klaris Cliff had never shown up. And why I know that proving her innocence is the last hope I have of saving myself.

What did I think?:

I was lucky enough to both receive an ARC of this exciting debut novel from Oxford University Press and to attend a bloggers evening where I got to hear the author read from her novel and speak about her writing experience. More on that later including a guilty admission of my own…

Among a host of intriguing characters (real and imaginary) is our main character Joseph whose father is raising him on his own after his mother disappeared two years previously then sent a postcard from Spain telling him in the vaguest of ways that she would be back “in the summer.” Joseph still has faith that his mother will return, after all she didn’t specify WHICH summer she would be back but his father has begun to date again, which Joseph squirms away from with the usual teenage distaste! This is no ordinary single-parent, teenage angst story however. It is a story where the imaginary friends of our childhood really do exist and they can go rogue i.e. jump into another person’s mind, feed dogs alcohol, damage cars, break essential medical devices – you know, the usual madness and mayhem. This is why anybody harbouring one is immediately taken for a procedure known as the “Cosh,” in which they eliminate the imaginative part of the brain for good. Yup, that’s right. No more imagination, no more make-believe, surely a nightmare for any child? (apart from the obvious danger of brain zapping of course).

The problem is that our hero Joseph’s brain is now riddled with an imaginary friend who has hopped over from his neighbours child Flea, and her name is Klaris Cliff. She is being accused of carrying out a variety of mischief, and Joseph is in real danger of losing the part of his brain that can still imagine his mum returning home to him. Teaming up with Flea, he knows that Klaris is innocent, and makes it his mission to find out who is framing Klaris and why before it is too late.

Although this novel is probably aimed at an age range a wee bit lower than myself, I’m really glad I got the opportunity to read this quirky and highly original piece of writing. It has a range of characters to fall in love with – this even takes into consideration the slightly creepy twins Egg and Willis, and has a fast-paced, dramatic and slightly bitter-sweet ending that I think children will really enjoy. The idea of the “Cosh” procedure to remove an imaginary friend was absolutely terrifying and ingenious, and made me question whether the author was from a scientific background, as in my field we have COSHH which stands for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health! Then I found out that she is the youngest daughter of a rocket scientist, so I’m wondering now if this is where she got her inspiration from?

Nikki Sheehan

Nikki Sheehan – Rocket Woman?

Photograph courtesy of GoodReads

I really enjoyed listening to Nikki speak at the Oxford University Press bloggers night, especially as she told us of her own experiences with a recurring imaginary friend who bore an uncanny similarity to one experienced by her older brother, and decades later, her own daughter.

Then we were asked if any of us had any imaginary friends when we were younger. Yep, that was me in the second row, admitting to having a lion who lived behind the sofa that we had to feed on a regular basis. The shame! This is why I should never be allowed out in public. Anyway, read Nikki’s amazing debut novel Who Framed Klaris Cliff? For yourself, for your kids, for your inner kid, just read it.

With many thanks to Oxford University Press for their hospitality and a great evening. I’ll leave the final words to Nikki.

“In this book I also wanted to give a shout out to imagination, that weird substance as malleable as clay that seems to dry out as we grow up, and which we forget can be so powerful. You can make anything with it, castles in the sky, ponies, Christmas day and yes, even friends, which, if you’re anything like me, you will carry with you throughout your life. Keep dreaming,               Nikki Sheehan.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

WWW Wednesday #28

Published January 29, 2014 by bibliobeth

WWW Wednesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Click on the image to get to her blog!

Hello everyone, I’m back from a fantastic holiday in Iceland for another WWW Wednesday! Thanks as ever to MizB over at Should Be Reading for hosting.

To join in you need to answer 3 questions..

•What are you currently reading?

•What did you recently finish reading?

•What do you think you’ll read next?

Click on the book covers to take you to a link to find out more!

What are you currently reading?:

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I’m attending a bloggers evening hosted by Oxford University Press this Friday and this is one of the books I have to read beforehand. Looking forward to hearing the author speak at this event.

What did you recently finish reading?:

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Aesop’s Fables is the January read for the Kid-Lit feature I participate in with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. Look out for our reviews coming soon!

What do you think you’ll read next?:

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This is the second book from Oxford University Press that I’m reading for the bloggers evening this Friday. Can’t wait!

What are you reading this Wednesday? Please leave your link and I’ll come and pay you a visit, happy reading everyone!