Friday, 29 May 2015

Armchair BEA: Character Chatter

The topics for Armchair BEA today are Character Chatter and Blogging Q&A. Honestly I wasn't sure what to write about for today as I gave up on a lot of the traditional book blogging stuff (regularly reading/requesting ARCs, writing reviews of even most of the stuff I read etc) but I didn't want to just skip it so I'm going to talk about character.

Yesterday I wrote a long involved post for Visual Expressions but today I've been at work all day and our car just cost almost as much to fix as it did to buy so it's going to be a quick one!

Here are some of my favourite characters. Let me know if any of yours are the same!

* Eleanor and Park from Eleanor and Park. I need to re-read this book but I remember both of them feeling so absolutely real to me when I read it, I just loved them. Separately, together, they are the greatest.

* Meg from Our Tragic Universe. I love how everything in her life is a little bit shit and she finds solace through sock knitting and actually just crafts in general. I feel like Meg and I could be friends.

* Vianne from Chocolat. Ignore the film for a minute, Johnny Depp aside I feel like Vianne would be an awesome friend to have. She entirely kicks ass and also she can make amazing chocolate. What's not to love?

ok but also, Johnny Depp...
* Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre. Forget about Jane, I want to know what's going on with the man who keeps his mad wife locked up in the attic! I've always loved Rochester and I'd love to know what's actually going on in his head.

* Anne (of Green Gables). I recently revisited Anne and discovered that I still love her just as much as I ever did. How could I not? She talks all the time and is absolutely distraught over the fact of her red hair, as was I as a child, and is incredibly over the top about everything, again, as was I. She and I are kindred spirits.


I know I've missed some out but I'm writing this Thursday night and I still have a post to write for Fairytale Fridays and I just don't have enough energy right now! Hoepfully someone else will post about the ones I've missed out!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Armchair BEA: Visual Expressions (or Why Graphic Novels are Great)

Today's topic for Armchair BEA is Visual expressions which means I get to talk about graphic novels, hooray!

Guys, it's no secret that I love graphic novels but in the history of my reading I was a pretty late convert to them. As a kid I read comics - The Beano, The Dandy etc - but I never progressed from kid comics to comics aimed at older age groups. I was never that into superheroes and thus I became intimidated by the very concept of graphic novels. Also when I was a teenager being a girl in a comic book shop tended to be a difficult experience, much similar to being a (the only) girl in Game. I had to be in the mood for it and often I wasn't.

I could have drifted through life and not realised that great graphic novels were a thing, at least until I started blogging. The reason I didn't is, of course, down to one Mr. Neil Gaiman. I honestly do not remember how I discovered Neil Gaiman originally, only that my ex and I read Neverwhere practically at the same time (from the same copy too) and he then nicked all my Gaiman when we broke up at the end of the first year of Uni. This means that I didn't get my introduction to the wonderful world of Sandman until I was at least seventeen, but eventually get it I did and I loved it. There's something amazing about graphic novels and I'm still not sure what it is except perhaps obviously the combination of written storytelling with graphic - it's like getting a double dose of story. Instead of just being able to see it in your head you can actually see it and for me that makes it last that little bit longer and hit that little bit harder.

Yes a lot of graphic novels are quite graphic - Sandman, Fables, Saga, even the Scott Pilgrim books all have their moments of intense violence and/or graphic (ish) sex - but it never feels gratuitous, in the same way that it wouldn't in a standard novel. When I talk to people about why they don't read graphic novels the reservations seem to be thus:

1. Graphic novels are for people like this guy:


Either you have to be like him to read them or reading them makes you like him, I'm unclear, but either way it's understandably a great deterrent. (p.s look guys! My first gif!)

2. All graphic novels are about superheroes.

3. Graphic novels are a waste of money as they take half an hour to read and are more expensive than other books and less easy to get hold of second hand. 

4. They don't like fantasy/ there are no graphic novels in their preferred genre. 

I have responses to all of these points. Honestly, unless your reason is 'I just don't want to' you should give graphic novels a go because they are awesome. 

So firstly, just no. I don't know where this stereotype has come from unless it was just that in the 90s graphic novel shops were often full of vaguely unwashed teenage boys who couldn't make eye contact with the opposite sex except to glare from somewhere behind their hair/glasses at you for being in their shop, and so my local still is if you go there on a Saturday afternoon. The rest of the time it's totally fine, and honestly even then if you stare back at them for long enough they will retreat. In reality people who read graphic novels look like this:

One of these people is a famous author, the other three are not. Spot the celebrity!

Apologies to Katie for cutting your face out of the photo, I thought Hanna would appreciate my using this one more than the two year old one I have of her slightly frowning in Leeds!

Secondly, also no. Superheroes are publicised because they are superheroes but just because superhero graphic novels are the ones you know about doesn't mean they are the only ones that exist. For a great list of places you can start check out Rolling Stone's list of The 50 Best Non-Superhero Graphic Novels.

Thirdly, OK I kind of get the reasoning behind this. Some graphic novels are more expensive than standard novels (some however aren't. For example when I bought the first volume of Saga recently that was only £7.50, so a similar price to a full price brand new novel) but they have (often full colour) art in them so of course they're going to be more expensive. I imagine they're more expensive to produce and also have a smaller potential readership. People who know things about figures could probably give figures at this point, but I'm just using what seems like logic to me. I would say that buying graphic novels isn't a waste of money to me pretty much because they're so beautiful. It's like having an art collection but without having to find wall space for it (just bookshelf space). Also because they're so short you're probably more likely to reread them, thus value for money.


And fourthly, also no. Although a lot of popular graphic novels do fall into the fantasy genre there are graphic novels that fit into almost every genre. For example if you're a fan of biography try Naming Monsters by Hannah Eaton (you can even buy it off me for 50p plus postage!) or Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. If you'd like to learn more about other cultures I can't recommend Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi highly enough and Palestine by Joe Sacco is also good. For the foodies try Relish by Lucy Knisley. If you like your classics (or slight reworkings of the same) try The Rime of the Modern Mariner by Nick Hayes.

A couple of lists to help with ideas:
AbeBooks 50 Essential Graphic Novels
A Goodreads list of Comics & Graphic Novels by Women
Another Goodreads list of Graphic Novels featuring LGBTQ themes
30 Graphic Novels that will Make you Fall in Love with Graphic Novels

So all of that said I've been so excited to see the exponential growth of graphic novel readers, particularly around the blogosphere but also in general in the past year or so. I love to see people stretching outside of their comfort zones and finding something fantastic! If I've missed any of your favourites here please let me know in the comments, I'm always excited to add stuff to my TBR!

I didn't intend for this to be a 'smash all your reservations about graphic novels' kind of post but I'm quite glad it ended up that way, and I'm super excited to check out everyone else's visual expressions posts today!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Armchair BEA: Intro Questions

Today kicks off Armchair BEA, an event for those of us who can't get to actual BEA for whatever reason. I've taken part a few times before and it's usually a really fun, relaxed event. Here are my intro questions, if you've taken part link your post in the comments so I can come and say hi!

Armchair BEA

So we have to answer five of the questions that they've provided over at the Armchair BEA website. These are the ones I've picked:

Tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been blogging? Where are you from? How did you get into blogging?

Probably lots of you will know all this already but for those who don't, hi, I'm Bex. I'm from the South East coast of England (although originally a Londoner) and I've been blogging four and a half years. I started blogging when we moved to Kent from London, away from my family and friends and I was only working part time and needed something to do basically. Also I'd got to the stage with my reading where I'd totally forgotten what I'd read and couldn't recommend stuff when people asked for recommendations because of that. I thought it would be helpful to keep track of my reading somewhere and so it has proved to be!

What does diversity mean to you? 

This is such a difficult question because diversity can mean so many things, but basically for me diversity, and I'm talking specifically in literature here, is anything written by an author or featuring main character/s who are different than me - i.e not white, straight, and British or American (obviously I am not American but I feel like British and American culture has a lot in common so I'm looking to read outside of that). I am making an effort to read more diversely this year and the things I track are ethnic heritage (i.e if a person is from or has parents who were from a country other than Britain/US), sexual orientation, whether a book is translated or not and the authors' gender, although I'm actually not focusing so much on gender as I tend to read a pretty even split. If anything, more women than men.

What is one book everyone should read?

Difficult question, there are so many! I'm going to go for The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern though. It's amazing.

Share your favourite post on your blog

I can't narrow it down to one, but I think this post about bedtime stories or the post I wrote the first year I took part in the Banned Books Week event are my favourites.  Oh oh, or this post about libraries to tie in with today's other topic - library love!

What book are you reading right now?

I'm terrible for reading two or three things at a time, so right now I'm reading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki aaaaand Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Because I'm reading three things at once I'm not moving awfully fast with any of them!

So that's me! If you want more info about Armchair BEA you can find it here.


Monday, 25 May 2015

Armchair BEA!

It is all going on during May this year! First there was the awesome Re-Readathon, then Bout of Books and nowwwwww Armchair BEA! I'm glad I'm all into the reading and blogging at the moment or I might be feeling overwhelmed by now.

Armchair BEA

For those who don't know, Armchair BEA is an annual blogging event which coincides with BEA (Book Expo America) in New York and is specifically designed for those of us who are unable to attend. Each day has a couple of fun topics for us to engage with and write about and it's a brilliant way to connect with other bloggers and discover fantastic new to you blogs! This is the agenda for 2015:


If you want to join the fun (and why wouldn't you?) you can sign up here. Also this year's theme is diversity which is just awesome for me and I'm so excited to work it into my posts! Are you taking part? What are you most looking forward to? 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

I want to say so much about this book; there are so many pages I've turned over at the bottom (my way of remembering a quote) it's verging on the ridiculous. I don't like writing long reviews though so the chances are that I will say very little of what I actually have to say about The Rehearsal here and leave you to discover the rest for yourselves.



I put this book on my wishlist because I wanted to read some Eleanor Catton and was scared of the size of The Luminaries so I used The Rehearsal to test the waters, so to speak, and they passed the test with flying colours.

I can't really give you a synopsis of the book but the general idea is that there is a play based around events which have actually happened and both the story of the play and the actual events are told through the novel. Really The Rehearsal is about (at least in my reading of it) the nature of reality and whether something can become a fact just by a person believing it enough. It's about what people say and what's true and whether what people say can ever be true. It blurs the lines between pretty much everything and maybe it's just me but I found it difficult to get everything straight in my head until the end. I mean this in the best possible way - the story was so intriguing and thought provoking and well told that it was difficult to know what was the play and what was reality. Basically this book is just incredible. The writing is fantastic and the plot is so well thought out and just read it. I'm going to go see if the library has The Luminaries now because I need more. Such a fantastic writer.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Diversity TBR: Literary Awards

In case you were unaware, I really like lists. I particularly like impossibly long longlists for literary awards which I have little to no chance of ever completing a full read before the shortlist, and eventual winner, are announced. In pursuit of that elusive diversity that I'm after this year I've been doing a little research into some awards which are non-UK or USA based. There are a few whose past winners I'd love to add to my (ridiculous, unmanageable and once again ridiculous) TBR.

The Hans Christian Andersen Award

This is a pair of awards presented by the International Board on Books for Young People to a living author and a living illustrator for their lasting contribution to children's literature. It does include a lot of British and American authors/illustrators but also a lot from other countries. Some I'm excited to explore include Erich Kastner, Tove Jansson, Eleanor Farjeon, and Uri Orlev. Unfortunately a lot of the authors who have won don't seem to have work available in translation which (due to the fact that I'm rubbish at languages) limits the amount I can read. I shall do my best though!

Etisalat Prize for Literature

Established in 2013 (so not too much backlist to catch up with!) this is the first Pan-African prize for a first-time African writer of a fiction book. There are only two winners so far one of which (We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo) was already on my radar but I'll definitely be keeping my eyes on it!

Asian Literary Prize (Formerly the Man Asian Literary Prize)

Awarded yearly from 2007 to 2012 to the best novel by an Asian writer, written or translated into English published in the previous calendar  year. I like the look of a lot of the winners. For reference, they are thus:
* Wolf Totem - Jiang Rong (2007)
* Ilustrado - Miguel Syjuco (2008)
* The Boat to Redemption - Su Tong (2009)
* Three Sisters - Bi Fieyu (2010)
* Please Look After Mom - Shin Kyung-sook (2011)
* The Garden of Evening Mists - Tan Twang Eng (2012)

Caine Prize 

Awarded for the best original short story by an African writer written in the English language. I have an issue with the majority of the African authors I've read being of Nigerian heritage and although that's great as it's still a culture I know very little about, it would be good to broaden my reading to some of the many other African countries. Also short stories are great. I'll be searching some of the winners out!

Scotiabank Giller Prize

Awarded for excellence in Canadian fiction. This has been running since 1994 so there's quite a bit of choice, but hey Margaret Atwood's won it so I'm excited. Past winners I'd most like to read include:

* Half Blood Blues - Esi Edugyan
* A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
* Barney's Version -Mordecai Richler
* The In-Between World of Vikram Lall - M.G Vassanji
* Runaway - Alice Munro
* Late Nights on Air - Elizabeth Hay

Do you follow any of these awards? Anything I'm excited about that you've loved or hated? As usual, any non white/American/UK authors you love that I've not heard of and need to be reading?


Saturday, 16 May 2015

Resources to Inspire Creativity

In case you haven't been around these parts long, I'm a very big fan of all things creative. Let me reassure you that my #yearofmaking project is still going strong, although I'm not succeeding with every single day as I was at the start of the year I am still making things waaay more regularly than I used to and now instead of buying things my first response is 'can I make this?'. Often, the answer is yes. There are days, however, when inspiration runs dry and so I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite creativity inspiring resources!


Pinterest.com 

To be honest this is probably most people's go-to resource for inspiration and I've never heard anybody who uses it say anything bad about it besides how easy it is to lose hours (days, weeks) on it. Starting to look at pinterest is like falling down a rabbit hole of things you'd like to do, buy, make, cook, places you'd like to visit, books you'd like to read,activities you'd never thought of doing before but which are suddenly the most fascinating thing you've ever heard of. Also it's full of pretty pictures and quotes and all the stuff I love. 

Ravelry.com

If you're a knitter or crocheter and you're not already familiar with Ravelry you really need to be. It's free to sign up and they have patterns for literally everything. Some you have to pay for but there are a vast amount of free ones as well and you can stick everything that takes your fancy in your queue or library so you'll remember it.  Happify.com

Coursera.org


I find that when I'm in a creativity slump and can't motivate myself to do anything sometimes that act of sitting, watching a video lecture and learning about something - anything really, doesn't have to be in my comfort zone and sometimes it's especially good if it isn't - can really help my brain to start whirring again. All the courses on Coursera are free and it's free to sign up (although if you want verified certficates of completion you have to pay). Courses are run by major universities worldwide and cover a massive range of subjects. Expand your word. learn something new! They also have 'On Demand' courses now so you can learn at your own speed. Perfect for me

Magazines

I'm a huuuuuuge fan of magazines. Not the stuff I used to read as a teenager though - now I'm way more into craft magazines and home/lifestyle and writing ones. Favourites at the moment are Mollie Makes, Pretty Patches, The Simple Things, and Mslexia. Often they bring up completely new ideas and spur me into action. 

Books

Ah books. Of course books had to be on here! There are a plethora of creativity related books available. Currently I'm reading The Art of Doing by Alison Arden which is full of activities to help increase your creativity. I'm also a fan of The Right to Write by Julia Cameron (I have her book The Artists Way on order at the library) and Crafting Creativity by Colin Salter among others. Other books which have inspired me to do things include Little Women (after reading which I always want to start growing all my own food, sewing, and generally being productive), The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton (just finished it and oh my god do I want to write again!), Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas (sock knitting. All the sock knitting), and The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (start this blog!). Also Wild by Cheryl Strayed (hike. a lot.), The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell (visit every single independent bookshop ever),Teach with your Heart by Erin Gruwell (be an English teacher) and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (become self-sufficient). And now I'll stop although I could probably go on and on. That will do for now I think. 

Blogs

For the sake of brevity I'm not going to mention all the book bloggers I love who inspire me to do book -related things or blogs I love that have inspired me to do one thing once, but there are a few blogs I really love which are just generally inspiring to my life. These include:

Orangette, an incredible foody blog which always makes me want to cook stuff, eat stuff, visit places and take better photos, 

Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity. Trish's blog is always inspirational to me whether she's talking about books, craft stuff, motherhood or something else altogether. She always makes me want to get up off my bum and do things. 

Sophisticated Dorkiness is the blog which inspired me to read more nonfiction and continues to inspire me to read outside my comfort zone and about subjects I thought I had no interest in. An extra shout out to Kim for being the one who inspired me to jump on the One Little Word bandwagon this year. Love it. 

The Daily Create 

TED Talks (specifically on the subject of creativity

Where do you get your inspiration? How do you rejuvenate your creativity when you're in a slump? I'd love to know!