Tuesday 30 April 2019

The A-Z Blog Challenge, Letter Z

Letter Z of My Favourite Books by Title
Two authors, to genres: YA and Horror

It's been a lot of fun taking part in the A to Z Challenge, and been great to revisit all these books. 
To finish off this journey through my favourite books, I have maybe cheated a little: One of the books has a Z in the title and one is about the topic that starts with a Z! 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35896878-of-lies-and-zombies The first is, Of Lies and Zombies, by Angela Lynn. 

Here's the blurb:

A story about grandmas, cookies, and zombies ... sort of.

Katie Bell has a plan: the ‘Epic Summer of Epicness Before Senior Year' plan. There will be late night parties with her best friend Trevor and Grandma Frankie’s Chunky Monkey Chocolate Chip Cookies for breakfast. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll run into her nameless savior from Feldman’s party. Things she will be avoiding: her estranged father and workaholic mother.

Katie has a golden rule: when life gets too real avoid it by lying. But on the last day of junior year, when the lies won't stick and reality closes in, she is forced to run as far and as fast as she can straight into oddly familiar Logan. When Logan asks Katie to help him film a zombie movie, Katie jumps at the chance.

Because Katie’s got a new plan: the ‘Avoid Reality at ALL Costs' plan.

Unfortunately, reality doesn’t play by Katie’s rule.

This is a book (and author) I'm a little bias toward being that I was the editor on it. I've worked with Angela Lynn on two of her books so far. The first being All The What Ifs, mentioned in Letter A, and it's quite apt that these books should bookend the beginning and end of this challenge for me. I love them both as much as each other. 

Angela has the ability to create characters that readers care about. They are real and emotional, and it's easy to connect with them. YA might not be my normal go-to genre, but I'm glad I didn't miss either of these books. 

With Of Lies and Zombies, I had strong emotions about the characters within the first few pages, which is always a good sign. And don't be misled by the title in thinking this book is about zombies, it's not, they only appear as a film project. This book is about love, both of the romantic kind and the family kind. I laughed out loud at some scenes in this book - even on the fourth run through - and cried too. 

Lynn doesn't shy away from keeping it real, and as with her first book she doesn't deliver the perfect happy ending that you might want for the characters, you get how it is, nothing more and nothing less. 

This is what makes them so real and engaging. These are books I love having on my book shelf. 


The second is Dead Sea Games, by J. Whitworth Hazzard. Here's the blurb: 

One year after the Emergency, the island of Manhattan has become a prison. The survivors of the Colony have carved out a living a few stories above the sea of millions of shambling corpses. With no escape and no hope for the future, the teenagers entertain themselves by participating in brutal gladiatorial games, betting the only thing they have left – their lives. Jeremy Walters is among the best of the best, but his adrenalin-addicted recklessness has done more than earn him the nickname Deathwish; it’s gotten him noticed. Now the race is on to recruit Deathwish as opposing forces maneuver to take advantage of his zombie-killing gifts. If he somehow manages to navigate the maze of bribery, threats, extortion, and intimidation, and not get himself killed, he’ll still have to face every teenager's greatest fear: an angry mother.
This book is about zombies - or trying to survive with their existence in the world. This is a sort of post-apocalyptic dystopian novel, with a lot of action and a lot of horror. It is written in first person from the perspective of a 15 year old, who is the main character. 

It is fast-paced and action-packed, it doesn't relent. James Hazzard had originally written it in separate novellas and then with the fourth episode decided to combine them into one novel.

I am not really someone who picks up a book on zombies, but having got to know James in my writing community, and read other short pieces of his, I was interested to read more. And after reading the first one in the series, I had to read the rest. They are brilliant. Nothing quite like them. Great characters who you get to know, with a backdrop of an intriguing storyline about how the world came to this. They are book that literally keep you on the edge of your seat!

Monday 29 April 2019

The A-Z Blog Challenge, Letter Y

Letter Y of My Favourite Books by title
Two authors, same genre - Self-Help/Personal Development

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38234154-you-are-the-one The first one is You Are The One, by Kute Blackson. Here's the blurb:

A charismatic visionary and transformational teacher offers a bold new look at spiritual awareness providing the tools needed to live a life truly inspired by love for a whole new generation. 

Kute Blackson comes from a long line of spiritual leaders and works with people from all walks of life, offering his own uniquely powerful process to transform lives from the inside out. His inspirational and life-changing YouTube videos, seminars, and conferences are known throughout the world, but it's his trademark transformation experiences that sets him apart. The intensive one-on-one and one-of-a-kind transformational mother of all trips is a 14-day, 24/7 journey into the heart of India where the client--armed with nothing but a backpack, a change of clothes, and a journal--works with Blackson until he discovers what he hasn't yet found. Whether it's about forgiveness, confronting inner demons, letting go of self-hatred or the scars of the past, those hard-earned, sweat-proof lessons Blackson instills in his clients are right here, in this book, You Are The One. No need to pack your bags or renew your passport. 

So what are you waiting for? 

For someone to save you? If so, you're not alone. But it's not going to happen. Your parents won't rescue you. Your friends won't carry you. No one's coming. Know why? Everything you are seeking is within you already. Because you're already here. You. Are. The. ONE. 

You Are The One is a reflection of Blackson's unique and distinctive thoughts, teachings, stories, and poetic inspirations to help you access your true power and live boldly and fully in the world--with no regrets.

I've read a LOT of self-help books and this, this is my No.1! I should say currently, because it could well change with the fact I have many more I plan on reading, but I don't imagine many would top this. As soon as I had read it, I wanted to read it all over again - and I am someone who rarely re-reads anything!

I have followed Kute Blackson for several years now, having discovered him when he was a guest on another blog I followed. I found him inspiration and his words resonated, so I was keen to buy his book, which for me hit the sweet-spot of many topics, in particular leaving me feel as though my life is limitless - that I am limitless, and that I can achieve whatever I want to if I set my mind to it. The opening page alone drew me in and that was that, hooked until the end. 

And this doesn't often happen. I have been keen to read the books of many people I follow in the self-help, personal development arena, and only a handful have left an imprint, so far Tony Robbins, Brene Brown & Gordana Biernat. 

Oh and Wayne Dyer - the second book for today's letter.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39677979-your-erroneous-zonesThe second is Your Erroneous Zones, by Dr Wayne Dyer. Here's the blurb:

If you're plagued by guilt or worry and find yourself unwittingly falling into the same old self-destructive patterns, then you have "erroneous zones" – whole facets of your approach to life that act as barriers to your success and happiness.

Perhaps you believe that you have no control over your feelings and reactions – Dyer shows how you can take charge of yourself and manage how much you will let difficult times and people affect you. Or maybe you spend more time worrying what others think than working on what you want and need – Dyer points the way to true self-reliance. From self-image problems to over-dependence on others, Dyer gives you the tools you need to break free from negative thinking and enjoy life to the fullest.

The picture on the cover of this book is old! Back from its release in 1976 I think. Sadly we lost Wayne Dyer in 2015 to cancer, by which time he had created a massive following. 
Wayne Dyer was a practicing psychologist before his books made it big and over the next few decades he developed into a speaker and became one of the main people in the personal development arena. And although he became more spiritual and less therapy based over the years, this book is very much a self-help book in that it offers tools for killing negative thinking and dealing with feelings of guilt and other paralysing emotions. 
It was my first self-help book and one that really got me hooked on reading in this area - even though few are as good as this book. It's also one I recommend to a lot of people, because Wayne Dyer's ability to put across the information is simple and succinct and not wrapped up in a lot of the language that a lot of self-help books are shrouded in these days. This is a proper book how to go about helping yourself with difficult areas of your life; you won't find terms or talk about the 'law of attraction', 'higher self' or 'positive affirmations' in it. 
To me there is a distinct difference between those selling the idea of helping yourself through spirituality, meditation or some vague magical way of thinking like the Law of Attraction, and those that give proper, sound psychological help, and although I enjoy elements of both, this book distinctly falls into the latter. This book contains proven counseling techniques, it is not just someone jumping on a band wagon trying to make a quick buck as so many are the moment. 

If Self-Help is not for you, please don't feel you have to tell me.
 I already know lot of people don't like it.
Yes, I experience that a LOT.

 But should you be interested in knowing what else I have read in this area, or be looking for recommendations you can find them here.

Saturday 27 April 2019

The A-Z Blog Challenge, Letter X

Letter X of My Favourite Books by title
A series of guides

The Xenophobe's guides cover a huge selection of countries and are a sort of tongue-in-cheek, blantant look at each country's culture and quirks. They are described as: "Highlights the unique character and behavior of the nation. Frank, irreverent, funny--almost guaranteed to cure Xenophobia."

I own these three guide:  


I started with the Aussie one, which my Aussie boyfriend at the time thought was dreadful and bias, and thus bought me the English one, which I found just as funny - and accurate. Here's a snippet from the Aussie one:

'Aussies do say "G'day." At all levels of friendship, all levels of formality and all levels of family familiarity. The first word between two lovers in the morning is "G'day." The other main greeting would have to be "G'day mate." The reason why this brief greeting has such universal acceptance is simple: it's the flies. The longer your mouth is open the more flies that can crawl in.'  

The English one states at the beginning that the British believe their nation is superior to every other nation on the planet, and even though other nations tell them that they are not, they still secretly believe that other nations secretly know that they are superior. This had me in stitches (as a Brit myself) because it is so accurate - personally Brexit highlights this more than anything! 
And now I live in Holland, the Dutch guide became relevant too as an overview of what to anticipate, living here.  Here's a snippet about the Dutch and how they feel about Germans: 

“There is no one more likely to rouse the Dutch from their customary cheerfully benign state than a German. The Dutch see the Germans as arrogant, noisy, rigid and intolerant – everything in fact that the Dutch are not. They are wary of a nation that shows such a passion for living in forests. But usually they don’t even bother to try and explain. They simply do not like Germans. Telling a Dutch person that their language seems very similar to German is unlikely to benefit your relationship. Remarking that the two nations seem rather alike in many ways will probably get you thrown out of the house.”

And also how they talk to each other:

“Verbally, the Dutch express their disgust by damning things on behalf of God, and they insult each other with liberal reference to genitalia and bodily functions. This abuse is sometimes hard to distinguish from affection. Scheetje (little fart) or drolletje (little turd) are both terms of tender endearment.”

And yes, having lived here 17 years now and being an official citizen, these are accurate. 😉

For a good laugh and an insider view on a culture these guides are not to be missed.

Friday 26 April 2019

The A-Z Blog Challenge, Letter W

Letter W of My Favourite Books by title
Three authors - three genres
Crime Thriller, Horror & Psychological Fiction

I had a lot of books vying for this letter, which is why I ended up with three.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29436391-willow-walk The first one is, Willow Walk, by SJI Holliday. Here's the blurb:

When the past catches up, do you run and hide or stand and fight?

When a woman is brutally attacked on a lonely country road by an escaped inmate from a nearby psychiatric hospital, Sergeant Davie Gray must track him down before he strikes again. But Gray is already facing a series of deaths connected to legal highs and a local fairground, as well as dealing with his girlfriend Marie's bizarre behaviour. As Gray investigates the crimes, he suspects a horrifying link between Marie and the man on the run - but how can he confront her when she's pushing him away? As a terrified Marie is pulled back into a violent past she thought she'd escaped, she makes an irrevocable decision. And when events come to a head at a house party on Willow Walk, can Gray piece together the puzzle in time to stop the sleepy town of Banktoun being rocked by tragedy once more?

I am a little bias with this writer, as Susi is also a personal friend. I met her a couple of years before she had the well deserved success she has now, and I love her writing. This is the second novel in a series of Crime Thriller novels, and my favourite of the three. Susi spins a dark, creepy atmosphere and lots of suspense in this novel, and I found it captivating. The killer is exceptionally dark and disturbing, keeping the reader on edge.

Susi has also branched out into a ghost story, with her novel The Lingering, which is also worth checking out. I have no doubt there will be more favourites for me with her novels.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33783986-weaveworldThe second one is Weaveworld, by Clive Barker. Here's the blurb:

WEAVEWORLD is an epic adventure of the imagination. It begins with a carpet in which a world of rapture and enchantment is hiding; a world which comes to life, alerting the dark forces and beginning a desperate battle to preserve the last vestiges of magic which Humankind still has access to.

WEAVEWORLD is a book of visions and horrors, a story of quest, titanic struggles, of love and of hope. It is a triumph of imagination and storytelling, an adventure, a nightmare, a promise…

If anyone asks me where to start with Clive Barker, or my ultimate favourite of his, this is it. This book is perfect in its balance of other worldly and darkness. It encompasses concepts of magic and fairy tales, and brings the horror in, in original ways. He creates something so almost believable it is palpable. He has such fantastic descriptive powers, and like some of the creatures in this book, is able to enchant his reader with them.

Clive Barker is also a visual artist and you can find many illustrations on his website. He's also involved in making many of his films into video games too, due to the popularity of Hellraiser and the characters he created in that.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/535906.We_Need_to_Talk_About_KevinThe third one is, We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver. Here's the blurb:
Eva never really wanted to be a mother; certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who tried to befriend him. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her absent husband, Franklyn. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.
I read this book for a bookclub I attended over a decade ago. I was also a new mother, which seemed to make this book more poignant. I would stand at the side of my son's cot many evenings and think about what I had read and how I was responsible for shaping his future mind and behaviour. I think any parent reading this book would be left with a feeling of uneasy and be provoked to think about how they influence their child. 

This book is full of shocking twists and turns, and leaves little to the imagination. It is blatant and honest, and direct. It leaves nothing to the imagination. And in a world where school shootings and killings are taking place on a more and more regular basis, parenthood is something that should come under scrutiny or at the very least something that is taught.

This book has never really left me. And whether it is really a 'favourite' - much like 1984 - it is a book that has had an impact and I would encourage others to read.