The Lasses take on the Summer Reading Challenge

Six books in six weeks? We can totally do that! Or can we…? Turns out it’s not as easy as it seems, especially when you add in an extra challenge that involves reading a favourite book from each of the other Lasses (just in case you’d forgotten what they were, you can remind yourself all over again by reading our Top 5 books).

So did we complete the challenge? You’ll have to keep on reading to find out! Pun totally intended…😂

Claire 🐘
It’s fair to say that the two books I had were so different you couldn’t make it up. The first was a historical book about a maid working at a big house, and the second was young adult (YA) fiction about vampires in a college town! Luckily, I’ll generally read absolutely anything so wasn’t phased and approached the challenge with total relish – who doesn’t love a challenge?! I’ve finished both books now (yay, challenge completed!) and here’s what I have to say about the books. 

The Observations by Jane Harris
Historical? Maids? Big fancy houses? Even though I stick by my above point that I’ll read absolutely anything, I definitely never pick up books of this kind. They just never seem that appealing and so I have to say I was totally surprised when I really got into this book! The maid, Bessy, was an incredibly entertaining voice and the whole premise behind the book had me so intrigued that I had to keep turning the pages to find out how it all ended! At 521 pages it was no light read either, plus of course, feeling all the fear when you borrow a book from someone and you want to return it in the same state it arrived in…however I digress. I would absolutely recommend this book, maybe even more so as it took me by surprise how good it was. Give it a try. It might just be your ideal late summer/early autumn read. 

Glass Houses by Rachel Caine
Vampires? ✔️
Teenagers? ✔️
Angsty teenager versus popular girls? ✔️
Angsty teenager falls for hot boy with deep rooted issues? ✔️
Other hot boy turns out to be a ghost who can’t leave the house as it’s providing protection against the vampires…ohhh-kay, now I’m interested! 

If I had to sum up Glass Houses I’d say it’s a cross between Twilight, Mean Girls (if Mean Girls were vampires who ruled the town) and a wannabe True Blood (but not full on True Blood as hello?! YA fiction alert). I’m not mocking, as I actually kind of love all of those things – no shame. I raced through this in a couple of days and because it ends on a massive cliffhanger, I’m now going to have to find the next in the series so that I know what happens next! 

My thoughts about the reading challenge? Turned out to be fun and I’d definitely be up for doing it again. Just as long as there are no classics involved… *shudders*

Emma 🍫

Any Human Heart by William Boyd
Before I start on my thoughts, I would like to remind everyone that I have a rather short attention span for books that are more based on real life that anything else, keep that in mind when reading this.

I have to say, this was a very well written book with a good plot and a lot of plot twists – imagine a country road and that’s how many plot twists you have. I also learnt a lot from this book – there was a Spanish Civil War? – and it showed parts of historical life that I never even thought of. At the same time, I wasn’t quite invested enough in the book and the plot to be able to enjoy it, it just seemed like I was reading for no real reason. I still finished the book, but I didn’t personally enjoy it – each to their own. However, for those of you into biography style books, or books based more on real life, this is perfect for you and I would reccomend you read it; it’s just not for those who are more into sci-fi/fantasy style books.

Carrie by Stephen King (warning – possible spoilers)
I am not very good with horror, so this was a leap of faith for me. Luckily it’s quite difficult to be scared when reading on a bus in broad daylight.

I have to say, Stephen King is very invested in clothing for a horror author – I guess it’s all in the detail.

It didn’t take me all that long to read Carrie, I feel like I could have done it over a weekend solidly. I think my favourite part of this book is how real it is – even with the supernatural aspect – it really tackles the problem of bullying and shows how it make the victim feel, rather than more recent books showing strong female characters in dystopian universes fighting ‘The Man’.

It was refreshing to read about a vunerable, young, and clueless girl being bullied and eventually just breaking, because that is real and relatable.

King – you did a good job with this book and writing its themes in a true and honest fashion. Recommended to those who aren’t squeamish – or those who read on the bus.

Rachel 🐱

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley (spoilers below)

Apparently this is a book for children/young adults, which unnerves me a little bit, because it really is quite scary, although I’ve definitely got less able to cope with scary things as I’ve got older. Aside from that, I definitely enjoyed reading it!

I loved how inventive it was; the stories weren’t your typical demons or zombies or whatever else people generally tend to find scary. I found they were more stories to mess with your mind and make you think ‘what if’, rather than just straight up blood and guts and gore, but they’re the kind of stories that stick with you (trying not to think about them right now tbh because chills 😳). I was particularly unsettled by the story of the boy who was chased across a mountain by a horrible, mangled figure until he fell to his grisly death…whereupon we realise that the figure was his body after death. Massive shudder. 😱😱

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

Let me start by saying that this book is a pretty long way from my comfort zone; ‘laundromat Lotharios, pot-growing landladies, cut throat debutantes, and Jockey Shorts dance contests’ are unlikely to ever be my thing, but I wanted to give it a fair chance – especially since Claire did the same with my book, The Observations.

It’s hard to describe how I actually feel about it, mostly because I haven’t finished it yet. I must admit, I got a bit demotivated when I realised that there were a lot of books in the series, and even if I got through this one, I wouldn’t have any closure on what happened to the characters! I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, per se, but I still wanted to know what happened to the characters and how their stories played out. I guess that means that although it wouldn’t be my choice of topic, it was well written and engaging enough to make me want to carry on reading. And who knows, if I finish it, it might turn out that I liked it after all!

So there you go – 6 books in 6 weeks (kinda) for the Love Middlesbrough Lasses Summer Reading Challenge! 📚📚

We hope you enjoyed our thoughts, and now we’ve got the reading bug, we’ll be reviewing some fab Boro books in the near future (Claire has already started with The Law of Attraction by Roxie Cooper). Stay tuned!

Love Middlesbrough Lass Claire loves libraries

If I had to put an exact age on when my love for libraries started, I’d have to double check with my mam first, but I’m pretty sure I was probably about 3. This is me when I was 3 – cheeky, freckled, the beginnings of the mad hair just starting to peek through…

The early years as we’ll call them were mainly about running into the children’s section of the library, plonking myself down on the floor in front of the book boxes and deciding which pile I was going to take home that week. There was always a pile, and it was always kept separate from our own books so that there wasn’t any mix up – that’s my mam for you (wish her tidy genes had passed on to me ☺️).

Fast forward to the teenage years and this is where the love for the library service and all it can offer was firmly cemented – I’m talking about you, Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams series. There was no way, even with all my babysitting money, that I would ever have been able to afford to buy them all myself – there was loads of them! But each week, I would go in and get myself the next pile in the series, read them all up, and then back again and so on until I finally reached the end. I kid you not, I had a bottomless pit of a rucksack and I used to average 14-15 books per week…

As my reading styles started to evolve my enthusiasm for libraries continued to increase for two reasons: firstly there was so much choice! And in every genre imaginable. Secondly: it’s free. FREE BOOKS! Tell everyone!

Books! Ceilings! Central Library is magical in every way!

And then something wondrous happened: I got a job…in a library! Yep, little old library-loving me was actually going to work every single day in a library – and a big one at that! Now seems a good time to clear a couple of things up: yes, I totally did stamp books with the date stamp – such a satisfying sound – and no, I never told anyone to ‘ssshhhhhh!’

When I moved back up north I got a job in another library (see? I told you it was love ❤️) Chances are, if you went to Teesside University between the years of 2001-2013 you’ll have seen me in the library. Probably pushing a trolley around and usually wearing some very, very bright clothing.

There’s loads of things people don’t realise about working in libraries. It’s definitely not just stamping books and telling people to be quiet, whilst wearing your hair in a bun and boring clothes. It’s basically like living inside the internet, except that all the knowledge sits inside the head of all the people who work there. And the best thing of all? They want to share everything that they know too! And if they don’t know the info, they will absolutely, 100% be able to use their skills to find it for you! Truly, library work is one of the most misunderstood occupations and I’m here to change that! Library staff, and librarians, are proper ace!

Before I became a Love Middlesbrough Lass I was working in yet another library; it won’t come as too much of a surprise that I loved it. The services that public libraries offer are amazing and often, you become a precious lifeline for your customers who rely on you for your help, information giving, and just all round company-providing if they pop in for a chat when they’re feeling lonely. I can honestly say it was the most humbling and inspiring job I have ever done…but becoming a Love Middlesbrough Lass was calling me, which is obviously massively brilliant too!

So here we are. A Love Middlesbrough Lass who loves libraries. I’m a member in two authorities – the one where I live and the one where I work. This is often dangerous, as can be testified by the giant pile of books waiting to be read by the side of my bed. But there can never be too many books…can there?

What does all this have to do with us I hear you ask? Well, this summer we’re so excited to be part of a project called #BoroReads. We’ll be sharing more on that soon, but basically we want to get as many people in Boro reading as we can, from teeny tiny babies looking at picture books to everyone else of any age!

Obviously the first thing you need to do is go and join the library! All the info you need to do that is right here > https://libraries.middlesbrough.gov.uk/web/arena/join-the-library

If you’re not sure where your closest library is you can find that out too > https://www.middlesbrough.gov.uk/leisure-events-libraries-and-hubs/community-hubs-and-libraries/find-librarycommunity-hub

And join us for #BoroReads! We’ll be doing loads of cool stuff over the summer so make sure you join in!

Love Middlesbrough Lasses read!

This summer, we’re hosting a very special takeover on the Love Middlesbrough blog as part of Boro Reads.

What is Boro Reads?
Middlesbrough’s 100 best children’s reads have been chosen by schools across the town, and throughout the summer Love Middlesbrough will be asking children to vote on which of the chosen books are their favourites!

As avid readers, your Love Middlesbrough Lasses are super excited to be involved, so we’ll be posting regularly about Boro Reads all summer, starting today! Sadly the Boro Reads vote is only open to children, so we decided to talk about our own favourite books instead…


Claire

My top 5 books are below. They are in no way, shape or form in any order, because hello?! Don’t make me choose like that!

1. ⭐️ Any Human Heart ⭐️ by William Boyd
I always, always struggle to say why I love this book so much. I’ve never been so completely absorbed by any other book before, and honestly? It took me ages to read it again in case I didn’t love it as much as I did the first time. I always feel completely bereft when I’ve finished it as I don’t get to spend time with the characters any more. So. Good.

2. ⭐️ To Kill a Mockingbird ⭐️ by Harper Lee
I’ve read this book every single year, without fail, since I was 16 and studied it for my final project in English GCSE. Even now, waaaaaay too many years past GCSEs to count, I still love it, and I still get something new from it with each read…

3. ⭐️ Dogger ⭐️ by Shirley Hughes
I’ve got so many memories associated with reading this book but my favourite is that I used to read it with my grandad, sat on his knee, and sadly that grandad is not around any more … you have my permission to have all the feels now… ❤️

4. ⭐️ The Tales of the City series ⭐️ by Armistead Maupin
Reading this amazing series set in San Francisco made me want to go sooooo much! So I saved up and went and it was one of the BEST holidays I’ve ever been on! And yep, we totally found as many places as we could from the books in real life! (luckily my friend I travelled with is also a massive fan of the series!) Each book (6 in total) is completely battered, yellowed in age and dog-eared from being read over and over again…

5. ⭐️ The Go Between ⭐️ by L.P. Hartley
I’m starting to realise I’m not that good at book reviewing ☺️ Can I just say that I love it again…?

Emma

My age is really going to show here, because I’m all about the YA books (I’m a young adult – this is normal). The more action, the better. So, here’s my Top 5 books (in absolutely no order):

1. ⭐️ An Abundance of Katherines ⭐️ by John Green
Unpopular opinion, but The Fault in Our Stars is not John Green’s best book as far as I’m concerned. An Abundance of Katherines is a lot more relatable and a lot funnier, hence why it made my list.

2. ⭐️ Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror ⭐️ by Chris Priestly
This is more of a children’s book but I really enjoyed this book – so much so that I ended up with two copies of the book. Not as scary as it sounds btw.

3. ⭐️ Glass Houses ⭐️ by Rachel Caine
So, I completely forgot this book exists until this blog post, so now I’m re-reading it (and halfway through after only a few hours). It’s part of a series that I’m pretty sure I haven’t finished (book shopping trip anyone?). I mean, vampires, ghosts and smart 16 year olds, I’m in.

4. ⭐️ ⚡️ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ⚡️ ⭐️ by JK Rowling
If I could, this entire list would be Harry Potter. I love the Harry Potter series and JK Rowling is an amazing author who puts so much thought into her characters. If I had to choose a favourite – which you have made me do- it would be Half Blood Prince. It was by far the funniest book and the movie was the best at capturing Harry’s sass.

5. ⭐️ I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You ⭐️ by Ally Carter
I’m really into spy movies so when I discovered a book series about a young spy, still in spy school, I just had to read it. It is the gripping first instalment of the series which empowers women everywhere. Something any Love Middlesbrough Lass can get on board with I’m sure.

Rachel

I’ve also avoided trying to put these into order, because I love them all too much to say I prefer one over the other.

1. ⭐ Rebecca ⭐ by Daphne du Maurier
I love this book! (I also love the 1940 Hitchcock film, and the 1997 TV adaptation, the 2015 Kneehigh Theatre play, and the 2012 musical, which I travelled all the way to Germany to see (in German!)). You could say I’m a bit obsessed with Rebecca. It’s totally iconic – the beautiful ancestral home, the creepy housekeeper, the brooding secrets…all the yeses!

2. ⭐ The Observations ⭐ by Jane Harris
I love books with a very strong and humerous narrative voice, and The Observations has this in absolute bucketloads. Plus, being a history geek (I know, I kept that one quiet!), the fact that it’s set in the Victorian era makes my inner fangirl very happy. (And, a Rebecca-esque house full of a secrets…)

3. ⭐ Carrie ⭐ by Stephen King
I love the way this book is written – the story is told in a normal chronological way, but it’s interspersed with ‘factual’ articles from some time after the story has taken place, which partly explain the ending. So rather than being shocked by what ultimately happens, you know it’s coming and you watch as the characters, completely unaware, make decisions which contribute directly to their fate. (Plus, a great musical – yes, really!)

4. ⭐ Great Expectations ⭐ by Charles Dickens
For me, one of the marks of a favourite book is that I can pick it up, turn to any page, start reading, and know exactly what’s going on and what’s already happened. It’s like being with an old friend. I love this book because you can take whatever message you want from it, whether it’s about love, family, entitlement, work, selfishness…I could go on. Plus I felt like there had to be at least one classic in our list, and I don’t really know many others!

5. ⭐ From a Railway Carriage ⭐ by Robert Louis Stevenson
Like Claire, I’ve gone with one that’s going to give you all the feels (my reason, not the book). My mum used to read this to me at night when I was little, so it definitely has a special place in my heart.

Honourable mentions go to: Dracula (Bram Stoker), Daphne (Justine Picardie), The Distant Hours (Kate Morton), Chinese Cinderella (Adeline Yen Mah), and Catch That Hat (Emma Chichester Clark)…plus more that I’ve forgotten.

Having flowers laid on your book looks highly impractical for ease of reading… 😅

Oh, and you won’t be surprised to know that our beloved Very Hungry Caterpillar is getting an honourary mention as the Lasses’ joint favourite book! 🐛❤️

We’re also working very hard on getting the Boro Reads page live on the Love Middlesbrough website for you to get voting, so watch out for the link on our Facebook page very soon!