Blogoversary: Portrait of a Woman is one year old!!!!!

well, technically, Portrait of a Woman is 14 months old but let's not dwell on details :)
(yes, it had to be a chocolate cake with pink stuff on it!)

Hi all!

I am celebrating my first year as a book blogger and organising a big giveaway of signed books and swag to thank you for following this blog and bearing with me on my bookish obsession!

I started blogging in December 2009 because I have always loved reading and I had never met anyone who had the same tastes in books as I had. I wanted to share my thoughts on books (as well as keep track of what I read!) but also meet with new people and talk about books!

I started by writing reviews (which were hardly read by anyone at the time!) and then by looking for other blogs. One day, I found Becky's blog (The Bookette) and I really loved what she was reading/reviewing as well as her articles on broader subjects (libraries etc.).
Since I didn't really know how blogging worked, I emailed her asking questions on blogging and how to mingle more in the blogging community. She gave me the best advice at the time and she has since then become the best of friends with whom I share a passion for books, tea and chips :D 
This blog would never be anywhere near what it is today had it not been for Becky who is not only a very talented and dedicated blogger but the most adorable human being there is. Thank you so much Becky *beams*

After a few months of getting the hang of blogging, I finally met (for realz) many UK bloggers in our now quite regular meet ups! I think it is the best thing ever to be able to engage in conversations with people who love reading as much as you do and who evidently share your book buying problem. I really love all my blogging buddies and I have now come to consider all of them as friends (especially that UK book blogger crew - it's like a real family!). A special thanks to the wonderful Lauren @ I Was A Teenage Book Geek and Emma @ Asamum Booktopia for being amazing and big shout outs to my blogger buddies Jo @ Once Upon A Bookcase and Ink and Paper, Lynsey @ Narratively Speaking and UK Book Tours, Sammee @ I Want To Read That, Kirsty @ The Overflowing Library, Sarah @ Feeling Fictional, Carly @ Writing From The Tub, Vicki and Lyndsey @ Heaven, Hell and Purgatory Book Reviews, Jessica @ Nayu's Reading Corner, Michelle @ Fluttering Butterflies, Liz @ My Favourite Books, Luisa and everyone else  @ Chicklish, Jenny @ Wondrous Reads and everyone else I am missing!

A huge thank you to the publishers and the fantastic publicists I am in contact with and who are made of awesome! I have really loved getting to read books I probably wouldn't have picked up myself, discover new authors and to have been able to broaden my book tastes. Big shout outs to the ever-wonderful RHCB team and Liz Scott!

A big and straight-from-the-heart thank you to all the authors I have had the chance to meet this year, in "real life" (Charlaine, Harris, Delphine de Vigan, Melvin Burgess, Cressida Cowell, Terry Pratchett, Cat Clarke, Kaz Mahoney, Maggie Stiefvater, Lynda Waterhouse, John Boyne, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Green, David Levithan and others!) and all the others I have talked to through various social media outlets (okay, Twitter) and I can't wait to meet in real life (Luisa Plaja, Keren David, Keris Stainton, Gillian Phillip and many others!).
Thank you beloved writers for writing such wonderful books and making me laugh, cry, dream and travel through the realms you create in your imagination and share with the rest of us in your books! I have always been a dedicated reader (growing up in a bookshop really helps!) and I have really loved everything that came up with blogging, especially getting to meet author and tell them how much I love them :)

A big hug and a thank you to all the people reading, following and commenting on this blog. I really have no idea why you put up with me but I am glad you do and we can share bookish obsessions together :)

So without further rambling:


So this giveaway is INTERNATIONAL and only people above 16 years old (if you are under, bring a parent/guardian to fill in the form below) who are FOLLOWERS of this blog. You can facebook/blog/tweet about the giveaway but it won't add any points!

I have a few signed books to give away and some swag, you may choose to enter to all of them or just one, I will randomly choose a winner for each.

For entering the giveaway of one book, you need to answer a question about the author of the book (and they are not tricky, you may easily find the answers on internet). Yes, I like making things complicated!
Since I have both Shiver and Linger signed by Maggie Stiefvater, there are two questions to answer: you need both answers right to get a chance to win them both. If no one has the two questions right, I will pick a winner for Shiver and a winner for Linger! The second Maggie Stiefvater question is a bit tricky and I have one very clear answer in my mind so think well before you answer!

If you have any questions or doubts, don't hesitate to comment or send me an email.

Thank you again for taking the time to read my blog!

I bought all books myself except for Noah Barleywater Runs Away, many thanks to RHCB for this!!


x Caroline

Runaway - Meg Cabot

(Airhead Book 3)

By Meg Cabot

Published by MacMillan in 2010

Genre: YA

PB: 275 pages

Bought in Waterstones or WH Smith (can't remember!)

Runaway is the third and last part of the Airhead trilogy written by Meg Cabot. I have reviewed both Airhead (here) and Being Nikki (here). I will try keeping my review spoiler free but I highly suggests you don't read the following if you haven't read Airhead or Being Nikki!


The Airhead trilogy is about Emerson Watts, a geeky teenage girl whose brain is put in the body of Nikki Howard, the hit girl of the moment. The first book is about Em trying to get over the whole weirdness of the situation and learn how to live a new life. She gets to grips with being a model and having everyone touch you and see you naked, as well as try to handle Nikki's love life which was insanely busy when Nikki was using her own body. But even during the first book, Em starts questioning the whole brain transplant thing and especially her employer Stark enterprises. Being Nikki, the second book in the trilogy, becomes more and more a thriller and much less a chick lit book. Em  starts to investigates the Hows and the Whys and finds some startling things about Stark.

Runaway picks up at the end of Being Nikki where Em realise that the real Nikki is still very much alive (her brain was transplanted in another body) and that Brandon Stark, Nikki's on and off boyfriend has found out the conspiracy truth and is blackmailing Em (in Nikki's body) to come with him. Em doesn't know how but she is determined to take Stark down.

I have really fallen for this series and I am really happy that I loved the third volume as much as the two previous ones! There are classic chick lit themes, but there is also so much more in this series that I really can't encourage you enough to read it!

I have to admit that this series is the first (and only!) Meg Cabot books I have read and I have definitely become a fan of her style! She is funny, witty and has a knack for pinpointing how teenage girls are!

I will only repeat here what I already said about the two previous books so I'll keep this short! I still love the characters, the writing, the pace of the story and the humour!

About the serious issues treated in the background (i.e. the brain transplant and the dodgy dealings of that evil Stark) are really fascinating. You are going to be amazed! I like how in some ways it feels like a futuristic/scifi story and how, when you think about it, this could totally be happening right now without us knowing!

I like how self-perception is portrayed in this book. I feel that it is very important to be said (repeatedly and continuously) to teenage girls not to think there is a single way to be pretty. As Charlotte Brontë beautifully put it in Jane Eyre, "Beauty is in the eye of the gazer".

Emerson is a great heroine to follow and she has a heart of gold. Her sister Frida is wonderful as well as her friend Lulu (I absolutely *love* Lulu!). There are some truly laugh out loud moments as well as some edge-of-the-seat action and you will devour this book in one sitting, not being able to put it down!

Enough gushing! Anyone who likes their YA chick lit and Meg Cabot needs to read this series, the others should honestly give it a try :)

Jenny Downham Double Bill | Before I Die + You Against Me

Double Bill: Jenny Downham

Every once in a while I feel like writing a review doesn't fully convey my thoughts on a theme or on an author. I talk about one book and even though I might mention that I am a fan of the author or the genre, it's not the same! That is why, when I started a review of both Before I Die and You Against Me, I felt something was missing. I have just recently discovered Jenny Downham but I have fallen for her stories and her writing style. That is why I am combining both reviews in a "double bill"on Jenny Downham

Her debut novel, Before I Die, has been one of the most talked about young adult novel since its release, setting itself at the top of all "best YA books" lists of all time. With You Against Me, her second novel, Jenny Downham gives us something as raw, powerful and original as her first book.  

Jenny Downham really doesn't shy away from difficult subjects and her characterisation and plots always takes the reader in an unexpected direction. It might also be the foreign reader in me noticing but her novels are very much set in the British culture and gives us a realistic outlook on youth today in the UK.

Before I Die:
Before I Die is the beautiful and tragic story of Tessa who has just a few months to live. She has been diagnosed with cancer when she was a child and she has now received the news that there isn't much the doctors can do anymore for her. Tessa comes up with a list of things she wants to do before she dies so that she can feel alive. She ends up refusing treatments and visits to the hospital and just wants to do things she likes. She comes up with a list of all those things and wants to do each of them before she dies.

Heartbreaking doesn't even cover it, I cried for a good part of the book, and at times, I was crying and aching so much for Tessa that I had to stop reading. I feel that this book is an essential read for teenagers, not only because it raises awareness on what it is to live with cancer, but also because it shows the importance of life. Everyday life is plagued by little things without importance which sometimes become preponderant and it is easy to lose focus on what really is important. 

It is a beautiful and fascinating book through and through. The whole medical process is very well researched and there is no embellishing any sequence to make it more bearable to read. I absolutely loved all the characters, their personalities and the dynamics and relationships between them. The story is very rich and touches various subjects from teen pregnancy to drugs to sex to relations with parents and other. But all these subjects are treated with a very realistic approach. There is no underlying lessons-of-life-from-the-adult-writing in there nor a global judgement on the characters depicting them as either good or bad. And it's exactly that humanity in Jenny Downham's books that fascinates me. 

The theme of death and Tessa's fear of it is very interestingly written and the difference in insight on the issue between Tessa and the rest of them is just so very striking. Anyone can die all of a sudden because of an accident or other. But only a few people know that their death is close and this knowledge is so heavy to bear for Tessa especially when she can't seem to share it with people the way she would like to. I really can't encourage people enough to read this book. It is wonderfully written and Tessa's voice comes through to the reader very loud and clear. 

You Against Me:
You Against Me is a sort of modern-day Romeo and Juliet. The only thing Mikey and Ellie have in common is the relation their respective siblings have with each other. Ellie's brother Tom is accused of raping Mikey's sister Karyn. Tom is from a very rich part of town and is promised to a brilliant future, whereas Karyn and Mikey are from more modest origins, they live with their alcoholic mother and take care of their little sister.

As you would expect, Tom's parents are doing everything they can to save their son and discredit Karyn by showing her as an "easy girl". Mikey take girls as they come, the less they talk the better. But when he meets Ellie, in an attempt to get information on Tom to help Karyn's case with the police, he realises how different she is from the rest. Their respective problems with their families bring them together. Mikey and Ellie are very interesting characters and I really enjoyed the relation they had with each other. 

But you know what I really found interesting in this story? It talks about rape but not the kind of straight-forward rape story where a nice and innocent girl is walking in the street and gets sexually assaulted by a villain. It is the story of a girl who has been wanting to be with a guy and who has been flirting with him. They party together one evening and she drinks a lot. Sex happens. She says she wasn't conscious and didn't want to have sex. He says she has been wanting to have sex with him forever. 
And I find it truly fascinating how morally challenging the story is. There is no challenge for me, a rape is a rape. But how many people react as "she deserved it" when you see a story of  a prostitute dressed in high heels and mini skirt who was sexually assaulted? Or not exactly "she deserved it" but "she should have seen it coming" if a girl was dressed very sexily? And then sex is sex - so if you want it at one point in your life you shouldn't whine about "rape" when it happens at another time, right? 
That's what Jenny Downham is talking about in this book and she is doing it brilliantly. She puts the finger right on this issue. And that outlook on the rape feeds into this other fascinating theme in the book which is about women. Women today, women in this society. Look at Ellie, Ellie's mother, Karyn, her mother and the other female characters in this book. So many example of what it is to be a woman today. I am not going to get all feminist on you now, but if you are interested in the role of women in society, read this book. I was blown away by all these characters that I can't detail each of them and exactly convey what I felt. While reading You Against Me, I kept thinking about another book (Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma) I have read and which conveys a similar strong image on family. 


As you may have gathered by now, Jenny Downham's books tick all of my boxes. I love the irresistibly British feel the books have and the fact that the characters are all very human and real, as well as the themes she chooses to write on.

And on a bigger sclae, I am such a fan of this wave of British YA writers (and there are way too many for me to write all of them and not forget any!) who write on contemporary themes!

Thank you to Random House Children's Books for those two wonderful books!

Valentine's Day Love Poem

Hi darlings,

Since I haven't been a very present blogger nowadays and that today is Valentine's Day and I want to tell you how much you guys mean to me. Here is a love poem!

I carry your heart with me
e e cummings

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in
my heart) I am never without it (anywhere
I go you go, my dear ; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
I fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) I want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life ; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

You Don't Have To Say You Love Me - Sarra Manning

Summary from Amazon:
Sweet, bookish Neve Slater always plays by the rules. And the number one rule is that good-natured fat girls like her don’t get guys like gorgeous, handsome William, heir to Neve's heart since university. But William’s been in LA for three years, and Neve’s been slimming down and re-inventing herself so that when he returns, he’ll fall head over heels in love with the new, improved her.
So she’s not that interested in other men. Until her sister Celia points out that if Neve wants William to think she's an experienced love-goddess and not the fumbling, awkward girl he left behind, then she’d better get some, well, experience.
What Neve needs is someone to show her the ropes, someone like Celia’s colleague Max. Wicked, shallow, sexy Max. And since he’s such a man-slut, and so not Neve’s type, she certainly won’t fall for him. Because William is the man for her… right?
Somewhere between losing weight and losing her inhibitions, Neve’s lost her heart – but to who?


I read this book a little while ago and Neve's story is still present in my head. Her fight against her weight, but especially against herself, hasn't left me since.

When I think about Chick Lit as a genre, I usually picture a couple of blonde fashionistas going shopping and searching for love in a big city (like probably most of the people who don't actually read Chick Lit). So I tend to dismiss those books very easily - you know, with all those pirates, dragons and werewolves books I haven't read why on earth would I read a Chick Lit book?

Well maybe because these books talk about me. Not me me. But me as a person, a woman living in this century (where the existence of dragons and werewolves still hasn't been proven yet). One of the best aspects of the book is how contemporary it feels. Sarra Manning gave Neve's story a context that many people can relate to with themes such as issues to find a decent job, to make friends at work, to get over what happened during your teenage years etc. The atmosphere feels very real and shows how much some people struggle nowadays to find happiness or fulfilment.
Neve is a very realistic and striking character. She is very bright and her job might not be thrilling per se but she enjoys it (to a certain extent) and has some hopes of one day publishing a book. She has been in love with William since University and despite his move to LA. Neve had a little problem with food during her teenage years and became overweight. When William left for America, she set herself the goal of losing all her weight and becoming "perfect" so that William, upon his return, would fall in love with her. 
A couple of years later and many pounds less, Neve thinks she is prepared for William's return but her sister Celia reminds her of the tiny issue of Neve's complete inexperience in men. As in complete inexperience. Enters Celia's mad plan to take Neve to her work (fashion magazine!) party and introduce her to some of her colleagues. Little does she know that womaniser Max will be the one chosen by Neve.

The contrast between bookish Neve and ladies' man celebrity journalist Max is striking, but it is what makes their interactions so fascinating. They are worlds' apart in appearance but find some deep-rooted connections. I just love what happened between them as well as being able to see behind the scenes of fashion magazines and the world of celebrities. Sarra Manning - having been a journalist for years - depicts very well this world.

The characterisation in the story is just brilliant. I tweeted Sarra Manning about the realism of Neve's personality, and she told me that she drew a lot of her own experience for this book, qualifying it as her most "me" book. You can read her incredible piece for The Telegraph here where she talks about her transformation.

But describing You Don't Have To Say You Love Me as a book about weight and diet would be too reductive. The book is a coming-of-age story of someone who has always lived in the shadows and about her journey to learn how to love herself.

The explicit sex scenes made me blush down to my toes - note to self: do not read explicit sex scenes in the tube where people read over your shoulder.
I loved how all the characters had very distinctive personalities and how they related to Neve: her father, her sister, her brother's wife (and ex-bully when she was at school), her gym trainer and her friends at work. I liked the story of her attempting to write a book on Lucy Keener and how it interestingly completed the main plot.

The writing is simply gorgeous. Sarra Manning has amazing story-telling skills and I literally couldn't put the book down.
 I really loved this book, I found that the characters and the contemporary-feel of the story was fascinating. It is a feel good book in the most realistic way possible (no irrational makeovers or unbelievable male love interests). If you are a fan of Chick Lit, you will love this book, but you might also like it if you are not a fan of the genre!

There are two covers of this book. When I first saw the Lips one I really fell for it, the colour is just so striking and it symbolises what the book is about. But the Petals cover definitely has something. It might be less striking but I really like how the petals circle the page. What do you think? Which one would you rather have on your bookshelf?

Many thanks to Transworld for the book!

Kick-Ass - Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.

Title: Kick-Ass
Author: Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.

Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 2010
Category: Graphic Novel

Source: Bought in Waterstones

Paperback: 216 pages

Summary from Amazon:
The greatest super hero story of all time is finally here! Acclaimed writer Mark Millar ("Wanted") and award-winning artist John Romita Jr. ("Amazing Spider-Man") unite for one of 21st century's most outrageous and acclaimed series! Dave Lizewski is just an ordinary American teenager. He has a MySpace page, he loves comic books, and he is unable to find a girlfriend. Then an idea hits him: why not become a real life super hero? Soon, his life will never be the same again. A major motion picture directed by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, "Kick-Ass" starts where other super hero stories draw the line, taking comic book realism to a whole new level! Warning: This title is for adults only!

 Massive love!

I absolutely loved the film and I have been meaning to read the graphic novel for such a long time! Then the Hit Girl cover of the graphic novel took me by surprise one day I was browsing in Waterstones and I just couldn't help it! I read it immediately and I really adored it!

So there is a lot of bad words and it is a wonder the graphic novel isn't dripping with actual blood from all the gory scenes present inside but what a masterpiece!

The story is about young Dave who is your stereotypical teenage nerd. He is good at school, could have a university chair in comic books and spends his free time online. One day he has a lightbulb moment where he wonders why anyone hasn't ever tried to be a superhero. And be honest with yourself, you have always dream to be a superhero and all your superhero dreams only stopped when you realised that puberty didn't bring you any super power.

His first attempt fails miserably and he is sent for months at the hospital.

What is brilliant is that Dave is a regular guy: no super power, no gifted butlers, not even a gazillion in the bank to buy impressive gadgets. Oh and definitely no sex appeal while wearing tights. He is a regular guy who will still try to be a superhero and whose only power is his determination. Thus Kick-Ass is born!

Then Dave meets other real people who kind of really kick ass in ways he could never do. He meets Hit Girl and Big Daddy who can really throw punches and who are not afraid to kill people in the most "ewww" ways. I obviously *adore* Hit Girl as a character.

There is a trong sense of family in it. Dave has lost his mother and cares about his dad. The relatonship between Hit Girl and Big Daddy is just fascinating.

The illustrations are brilliant and I was really awestruck in front of the few full-page illustrations of Hit Girl. The contrast between her youth and the apocalyptic massacre backgrounds or the crudeness of her dialogues are very striking.

I like how the graphic novel truly illustrates the importance and impact of social media in today's society and for teenagers in particular and how this touches to fame and popularity. It is an amazing depiction of youth in this sense.

The film version differs from the graphic novel and though most scenes are exactly the same way, the ending and the tone of the graphic novel is darker.

This is an absolute must-read for anyone who is into graphic novels and likes its illustrations on the gory side of the force.

Info: There is more than explicit content so it isn't suitable for young audiences.

Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2011

I have taken an interest in Japanese literature recently and I wanted to discover the work of Haruki Murakami.

The Challenge is hosted on the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge blog by Tanabata @ In Sprint It Is The Dawn.

I will start modestly by aiming 3 books (Sheep Man level) in 2011 and if I really like the author I shall read more!

I will update the following list with links to my reviews:

GLBT Challenge 2011

Hi all,

I am going to particpate in the GLBT Challenge 2011, hosted on the GLBT Reading blog and organised by the wonderful Amanda @ The Zen Leaf, Christina @ Reading Thru The Night and Jen @ Looking Towards The Future.


As time goes on, I will update the following list with links to my reviews:

1) Huntress by Malinda Lo

Part of Lesbian Teen Novels Week:
2) A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner 
3) Empress Of The World by Sara Ryan
4) The Rules For Hearts by Sara Ryan
5) About A Girl by Joanne Horniman
6) Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters
7) The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don't Mind by Kirstin Cronn-Mills