***ONGOING***
The Little House Series Read-Along is happening throughout 2016! Join us for some or all of the books - find details here

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Hey Look! A Book Review! : I Will Find You by Joanna Connors

So for a book blog I really don't write about the stuff I'm reading that much any more. This isn't deliberate and it definitely isn't due to lack of subject matter - I've been reading tons recently and loads of great stuff, but just because every time I sit down a start writing a review my head just goes 'oh blah blah blah more of the same'. I feel like reviews aren't very exciting and a lot of them read very samey so I kind of don't write them anymore because I feel like if I'm bored writing them then you'll probably be bored reading them, but I'm trying to find a new fun way to write about the things I'm reading so you don't miss out on me shouting about the great stuff. Watch this space.

I Will Find You

In the meantime I'm making a huge exception for I Will Find You by Joanna Connors, which absolutely isn't the book you think it is from hearing the title. I reserved it at the library on recommendation from Book Riot's All the Books podcast and it was seriously good call. This book is not comfortable reading, I'll warn you that straight up, but it is so good. The last time I felt this uncomfortable and fired up at the same time was when I read It's What I Do by Lynsey Addario last year, it's that kind of book.

When Joanna Connors was 30 and a reporter for a local newspaper she was raped when she went to a university campus to review a show. After she'd reported it to the police and the guy was sent to jail she put it out of her head and pretty much never talked about it again until her daughter was going to college and she felt she needed to bring it up with her. She then realised that she hadn't really dealt with what happened to her properly, and so she begins trying to find out about the guy who raped her; what his story was, and what could have made him do a thing like he did.

This book is incredible. Just the fact that it exists - my mind boggles that Connors could have that much humanity that she actually wanted to go into the jail and talk to the guy who did that to her so that she could try to understand what might have happened to him to make him do what he did, but then she ends up having to go further into his story and meet his siblings and hear some horrific things. It's such uncomfortable reading at so many points. I made many 'this is awful' kind of screwed up faces at unsuspecting people on the bus during the one day it took me to get through this book, but oh please read it, it's so powerful and fantastic. Like, it's about a horrible topic and I read it in maybe four hours? That says something I think. Go get it.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Listening to Music

I don't know about you, but when I was a teenager I used to disappear to my bedroom for hours and when my parents asked me what I'd been doing my answer would just be 'listening to music'. I took my discman (ahhh how old I am!) everywhere with me. When we were at college my friend and I used to walk the 45 minutes there each morning and often we'd just walk next to each other listening to our own music. Much of my life was spent sharing headphones with friends on buses, getting ridiculously excited about songs that just made us so happy all we could do was sing along and grin.

When did I stop doing this? I don't know, but I do know that these days I pretty much only listen to music if I'm doing something else. I mean, nobody buys CDs anymore so obviously there's no more of the taking the lyric book to your room and poring over it and listening to the album sixteen times until you had the words memorised, but I'd stopped doing it before then anyway.

I was thinking about this while I was walking to preschool earlier to pick up Ben. I should probably be writing this on the Parcels of Joy blog for the Monday Happy Thing, and likely that will be related to this, but lately I've been doing a lot of decluttering at home, and the more we get rid of the happier and calmer I feel. I love that I actively like and use so much of our stuff now, and we're not done by a long shot, but I feel like this only listening to music as a background to other stuff is kind of part of the problem. It's like all our stuff and the things we had to do took over my life and made me way too distracted to listen properly. To anything, not just to music. I so rarely just do one thing at a time anymore. Even while writing this post I'm listening to music, typing this and weaving ends into knitted blanket squares... Music used to be my great relaxant, my mood lifter, and the thing I bawled my eyes out to when I was overcome with teenage angst, and although music in any form is great, not ever taking the time to just sit and listen and enjoy the melodies and get wrapped up in the lyrics I know I'm missing out. I know it would do my good to focus that much on just one thing again.

Doing it now is even better than then, because I don't have to go through the traumas of mixed CD making to get my music on shuffle. Spotify is good at that (honestly, better than my mixed CDs ever were - I tended to put all the songs by one artist together, thus completely defeating the point of a mix), and since I got it years back I've been compiling this playlist which is just entitled 'Awesome' and has literally every song that I've ever thought was awesome on it (besides the ones I haven't remembered yet). Every time I listen to it the combinations make me elated. Eva Cassidy followed by Frozen followed by Amanda Palmer, anyone? Ella Fitzgerald and Blink 182? Queen and Katie Melua? Also it just reminded me that there is actually a solo Paul McCartney without the Beatles song that I loved. No I'm not telling you what it is, go search through the playlist if you want to know!

"Stop pretending art is hard, just limit yourself to three chords and do not practice daily" - Ukulele Anthem - Amanda Palmer

Guys, music is the fucking awesomest. Yes, it's a word. Even the songs that have bad memories attached are great for reminding me how much I got through, and so so many of the songs on that particular list are songs that remind me of people that I love. The. Best. Now you'll have to excuse me, I'm going to stop everything and listen to my music. Manic giggling will ensue. There may be dancing, you've been warned.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Make Mine an Indie: CB Editions

Welcome back to another sporadic edition of Make Mine an Indie! At the moment I'm in the depths of researching and setting up crowdfunding for my Indie Book Box (tentatively titled The Ninja Book Box) so I'm even more excited than usual to be researching, reading and talking about indie publishers and titles. If you're interested in hearing more about that project, please add your email to the list here.

 

CB Editions is a one person independent publisher, started in 2007, which publishes poetry, prose and work in translation and specialises in publishing the kinds of things which might otherwise be missed by larger publishers. In 2011 CB founded the Free Verse poetry book fair, which now runs annually in September, and in 2015, with funding from the Arts Council England they started the Sonofabook magazine which is published biannually (in March and September) and contains prose, poetry and work in translation. 

They are also interesting because with a few exceptions, all of the covers of their books are plain grey/brownish colour with just the title and author in a colour. They're really quite striking. 

I was particularly excited to discover this publisher as I had a conversation yesterday with Ellie, following on from her blog post, about reading poetry and ended up re-reading Auden's Tell Me the Truth about Love and ordering myself a copy of Alice Oswald's Dart, so I think there will be some poetry books on this list!

As usual, some titles I'm particularly excited about: 

The German Lottery by Miha Mazzini, translated by Urska Zupanec
From the CBe website:

A young postman in 1950s Yugoslavia delivers a registered letter to a woman who is hanging out her washing . . . Soon he is involved in a lottery scheme devised by the woman’s husband, who has been spending some time in prison – a scheme, he is persuaded, that will bring wealth and happiness to the town’s poorest and most deserving citizens.

How did he get it so wrong? As the narrator recalls for his grandchildren his coming-of-age, Miha Mazzini constructs a political fable that is also a satire on youthful idealism, greed, and the coincidence between our beliefs and what we want to believe.





White Sheets by Beverley Bie Brahic
From the CBe website:

 In Paris, night falls without haste; starlings
.    flock to the oak. A neighbour appears on her porch,
     gives her white cloth
     a conjuror's shake . . .


Brimming with light and wit and appetite, White Sheets is a book of clear-sighted affection in which neither grief nor love’s hard obligations can deflect from Beverley Bie Brahic’s delight in the pleasures of nature, art and the body.






War Reporter by Dan O'Brien
From the CBe website:


      Let’s watch some more TV. Let’s drink some more wine.
      As long as I’m safe I don’t need to do
      anything. See, this is why I don’t talk
      to people. People ask me these questions
      they don’t want answers to.

Paul Watson won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1993 photograph of a dead American being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu; he has since reported from the Balkans, Rwanda, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria ... Deriving from correspondence between poet and war reporter and their eventual meeting on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, and from transcripts and Watson’s own memoir, these poems bear unsparing witness to the incalculable damage inflicted by contemporary warfare.  

Sister of the Artist by Dai Vaughan
From the CBe website:

Prompted by the example of the composer Felix Mendelssohn and his sister Fanny,Sister of the artist addresses the injustice of a brother and sister, both artists, whose talents are respectively encouraged and thwarted by the conventions of their time and place. Their story is layered with fragments of more ancient narratives that explore the mysteries of sibling love and the wellsprings of creativity.

Sister of the artist is prefaced by two stories of a writer and her sister, guests returning from Dai Vaughan’s first novel, The Cloud Chamber (1993).

This sounds the most intriguing of all to me, as I'm sure you can imagine. I love books that look at the place and roles of women in history and how they have affected their achievements. 


Find CB Editions on their website, twitter and facebook pages. 

Catch up with the rest of the Make Mine an Indie series here. I've also started a spreadsheet of upcoming releases by independent publishers so watch this space for how you can access that!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Things That Made Me Happy #6

Given how sparse things have been on the blog lately I thought it was about time I did one of these again! There's a lot going on which is why I haven't been blogging much, but it's all very exciting! I'm planning to rethink (again) the way I (fail to) talk about books here, so watch this space for more on that!

This week has been warm, and we've done a lot. I generally deal with heat extremely badly, mostly because of all the ginger but also because I have a bad habit of going out in the sun without a hat, so I spend a lot of time with headaches and drinking a lot of water during the summer, but hey, we get gorgeous sunny days and lovely warm evenings in exchange, so maybe I'll just get better at remembering my hat!

On that note,

1. The Beach
Because it's warm we've obviously remembered that we live less than 10 minutes from the beach. On Friday after we picked Ben up from preschool, the boys and I took a picnic tea down to the beach and had a gorgeous hour eating our food and searching in rock pools. We all got extremely covered in wet, slightly clay like sand and more than a little bit damp, but nobody minded. And then we picked Rhys up from the bus on the way home and it was generally pretty idyllic. Must do it more often.

2. Margate 
I know, when I moved to Kent 5 years ago I never would have predicted putting Margate on my list of happy things, but honestly on a sunny day it's beautiful. We went the other day because Ben wanted to go to the arcade, and we parked a little way out of town and walked in along the promenade, and then we went and had lunch in this new little indoor market that's opened up opposite the Turner Contemporary, and after that we went into the gallery and had a browse round the shop and a little look at the awesome art. The boys particularly loved the two figures on a seesaw, which I just read up about (obviously I didn't get to read any of the info at the time, because I was too busy trying to stop Sam - who loved and adored the piece - trying to climb on the seesaw) and discovered that it's part of a World War 1 Centenary exhibition and the globes that form the figures heads represent the countries that took part in the conflict. They also have an incredible installation by the same artist which is bookshelves. Go check it out on the website or better yet, go visit yourself. It's free!

End of Empire by Yinka Shonibare, on display at the Tuner Contemporary, Margate until Oct 2016
We also had a gorgeous splash in the freezing cold sea, followed by an ice cream at the forever fabulous Melt and a quick trip to the Dreamland arcade!

3. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
So even though I don't talk about it that much lately, I do still actually read, and thanks to my wonderful secret sister (the one I've been gifting to, who has discovered me!) Chantelle I've started reading The Raven Cycle. I'm on Blue Lily, Lily Blue and just placed a library hold for The Raven King and I really love it. It's just enough magic without being too much and the characters are brilliant. I super super love Blue and Gansey. The ending had better be good. That is all. 

4. Decluttering
For a while now we've been getting rid of stuff. Not just the stuff we have that's rubbish or that we don't use anymore, but anything that doesn't actively make us excited. This isn't directly sparked by Marie Kondo, but I have been thinking about simplifying for a few months now and honestly every time we get rid of stuff we feel better about everything. I just sold a load of stuff on eBay over the weekend so we have a ridiculous pile to go to the post office tomorrow, but we've made £250 since the beginning of the year selling stuff we don't want anymore, and we're not falling over pointless things anymore. I'm excited to read all of my books, I actually cook from all my recipe books, you can see the floor in our summer house, and we can find all of our movies. It's a good time. 

5. Parcels of Joy
This makes me super joyful. This week I've been reading one of the books on my TBR with the express purpose of passing it on to one of the parcels of joy people once I'm done. I'm going to put a couple of other things in a little parcel for her and send it off this week. I'm not sure how well baked goods will travel in the heat, so I'm putting a hold on sending edibles overseas for a while, but I'll still be sending them domestically. We went to an awesome brocante last week and I got a new Hummingbird Bakery cook book for 50p so I'll definitely be trying out some stuff from that. I love planning, baking and sending these parcels, and I just got gorgeous new stickers this week that I'm going to use on my parcels from now on. In case you haven't heard, it's a no obligation project - sign up and I'll send you lovely stuff - all the details are here.

 

Shout out to lovely Ellie at Lit Nerd, the brains behind the sharing of the happy. Go over to her blog to check out hers and others posts on what's making them happy or link up your own!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

May TBR

I don't do monthly TBRs often but I've started to feel recently like it would be nice to put everything I think I might read in one place so I can pull from it (or completely ignore it, as the case may be) throughout the month. I hope that it will help me to at least remember what I wanted to read. This month's pile, as you'll see, is heavily library book focused.


I picked up Memnonite in a Little Black Dress and Look Me In the Eye from the library after I did my post on Memoirs I want to read. I haven't started either yet, but I think I'm going to pick up the top one first. I'm also planning to read Our Endless Numbered Days for Stacie's twitter #bookclub140 this month (and speaking of book clubs, the May title for #feministorchestra hasn't come in at the library yet). I'm almost done with Butterflies in November, which is really great so far. A Court of Thorns and Roses and The Virgin Suicides are there to represent my bookshelves, and By The Shores of Silver Lake is this month's book for the Little House Read-Along. Finally I Will Find You is one I heard about on All the Books and it sounded really good. Plus I'm clearly on some kind of a memoir kick. 

I maaay have gone to the library again today and picked up a few more things. A couple of them are secret - research for my new bookish subscription box project, but I also got James Wong's awesomely named Grow Your Own Drugs which is full of herbal remedies that I'm quite excited to try. Although I do believe in the power of medicine, I try to use natural remedies as much as possible but at the moment that's pretty much limited to peppermint tea for pain and also wheat bags, so I'm looking forward to learning more! 

Monday, 2 May 2016

#LittleHouseRAL: On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder & May Link up!


Here we are again, the end of another month and a third through our read-along of the Little House books! I wasn't sure about settling back into Laura's story this month after our detour for Farmer Boy in March, and it took me a little while to settle in but after I did I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

Laura's family have returned from their stay on the prairie and are now in Minnesota living in a dugout on the banks of Plum Creek. I love the changing landscapes of this series so far. Each book has a different location and they are all so unlike each other that I'm continually feeling a little unsettled, which is a good thing I think because with the familiarity of the events in the book it would otherwise be easy to get almost sleepily comfortable.

I don't mean that in a bad way but the things that happen in this book are very much like the things that have happened in the other books, but just because they're the basics of how the family builds its life in each new destination. Each book has house building, barn building, stuff about crops etc. In this book though Laura and Mary go to school a little bit, and church/Sunday school for the first time.

I liked the interaction between Laura and the 'town girls', and particularly how she got her own back when that girl whose name I know I know and can't for the life of me currently remember was mean to her. I still love Laura way more than Mary!

Honestly that's about all that's new that I have to add this month, and because this is so scrambled and last minute it's also the linky for May's read of By the Shores of Silver Lake! Who can believe it's May already?? How's your reading going?

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Make Mine an Indie: Unsung Stories


I've been looking for independent publishers who publish fantasy and science fiction for a long while now, and while they definitely do exist the focus does seem to primarily be on general fiction and nonfiction, so I was super excited to come across this weeks' publisher at random, through twitter (as you do).
Unsung Stories

Unsung Stories is an imprint of Red Squirrel Publishing, a UK based independent publisher of mainly guides for citizenship tests in the UK and Australia. This seems a little strange, but Unsung Stories specialise in speculative fiction; lots of science fiction and horror but also things that are just a little bit weird and off the beaten track. In short, it seems great!

They are a very small small press and currently only have six titles to their name, but honestly the ones that they have look fantastic, so that's really all that matters!

They are another publisher that has free content. You can read short stories on their website or sign up and they'll email you a short story once a fortnight, and if you are a reviewer (particularly one who, unlike me, reads books in digital format) they have a very clear and simple way to get in touch with them and review their titles. What could be better, right?

Some of their books which look great:

The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley
From the Unsung Stories website:
Somewhere away from the cities and towns, a group of men and boys gather around the fire each night to listen to their stories in the Valley of the Rocks. For when the women are all gone the rest of your life is all there is for everyone. The men are waiting to pass into the night.
The story shall be told to preserve the past. History has gone back to its aural roots and the power of words is strong. Meet Nate, the storyteller, and the new secrets he brings back from the woods. William rules the group with youth and strength, but how long can that last? And what about Uncle Ted, who spends so much time out in the woods?
Hear the tales, watch a myth be formed. For what can man hope to achieve in a world without women? When the past is only grief how long should you hold on to it? What secrets can the forest offer to change it all? 
Discover the Beauty.

I think I first heard about this on Jen Campbell's Youtube (I might be wrong). It sounded fascinating then and it does now. I've added it to my wishlist. 

Dark Star by Oliver Langmead
From the Unsung Stories website:
The city of Vox survives in darkness, under a sun that burns without light. In Vox’s permanent night, light bulbs are precious, the rich live in radiance and three Hearts beat light into the city. Aquila. Corvus. Cancer.
Hearts that bring power to the light-deprived citizens of the city of Vox whilst ghosts haunt the streets, clawing at headlights. Prometheus, liquid light, is the drug of choice. The body of young Vivian North, her blood shining brightly with unnatural light, has no place on the streets.
When Cancer is stolen, the weaponisation of its raw power threatens to throw Vox into chaos. Vox needs a hero, and it falls to cop Virgil Yorke to investigate.
But Virgil has had a long cycle and he doesn’t feel like a hero. With the ghosts of his last case still haunting his thoughts, he craves justice for the young woman found dead with veins full of glowing. Aided by his partner Dante, Virgil begins to shed light on the dark city’s even darker secrets.
Haunted by the ghosts of his past and chased by his addictions, which will crack first, Virgil or the case?

This just sounds really cool and so unlike what I usually read, and you all know how much I love to stretch my reading comfort zone!

And then two that I unfortunately won't be able to read unless I get over my aversion to eBooks, but for those of you who don't suffer with this problem you should probably check them out immediately!

Winter by Dan Grace
From the Unsung Stories website:
In the aftermath of an anarchic uprising, a group of revolutionaries flee London for the north, coming to terms with the violent loss of their companions, battling with illness and a new way of life.
In the forests of the Scottish borders, they meet Mikhail, a Ukrainian immigrant in touch with powers they can scarcely believe. But is he all he seems? Because the snows are coming, the seasons turn, and the laws of the cities mean little to the woods.
In Dan Grace’s debut novella a violent future of the failed Union meets the mythic and pagan past. As man reaps the harvest of war, utopian hopes vie with apocalyptic fears. Winter sets in.

It doesn't seem like it should have mythology in it, and then it has mythology in it. Not going to lie, that's pretty much all it takes to get me interested in a book!

The Bearer of Grievances by Joseph McKinley
Introducing Defurion, the first FDA approved memory transplantation system. Defurion uses patented nanotechnology to gently identify and remove your angriest memories. Defurion is knife and pain free and has been approved for adolescents and adults – Shāshǔyào Pharmaceuticals, helping you get even since 2043. 
Welcome to the future, where technology has saved us all. Drones delivering peanuts, exosuits to make you strong but leave you weak, your house AI powered by hydrogen cells in the basement, digital therapists charging by the minute. Careful with the paperwork though, things have got complicated. 
Don’t get angry, let the Bearer of Grievances take revenge for you. This revolutionary system is tamper-proof guaranteed to ensure retribution for those who most deserve it. 
Let technology set you free.
Hey, why be angry when techology can do it for you? I. LOVE. THIS. 

So I think you'll agree, some awesome looking stuff here! Find Unsung Stories on their website, twitter and Facebook page, and catch up with the rest of the Make Mine an Indie series here.