Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Books on my Bedside Table!

It's been forever since I did one of these posts and I miss them. Mostly though I thought it would be a great way to mention a book that I just finished and loved but don't really have the motivation to write a full review of.

So, without further ado the books on my bedside table at the moment aaaaare: (from bottom to top)

If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie - this is the book I just finished and loved. I picked it as my choice from the Giller prize longlist. I don't know if you saw but a while back I posted that I was going to try to read one long,shortlisted or winning book from each of several literary awards and this was the one for the Giller and oh my goodness was it a good choice. It's about a kid whose mother has agoraphobia and sort of won't let him leave the house (in as much as she's never expressly forbidden it but if he does anything even remotely dangerous she panics and so he's sort of intuited that he should stay inside) until of course, one day he does. He then gets involved in something he shouldn't have and ends up trying to solve a mystery with a Native Canadian Indian kid named Jonah so the book is a lot about the way that native people are treated in the town, as well as Will's mum's agoraphobia and also some of the tragic things that have happened in their past. It's set in a landscape about which I have little to no knowledge and I felt like the story informed me as it absorbed me. All the characters were fantastic and you should just read it now. So good.

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray - I'm reading this for RIP and also because I put it on my wishlist months ago straight after I read The Diviners, before it was even out, but I'd forgotten how creepy the series is so I can only read it in small amounts early in the day, because I'm a total wuss. It's kind of taken a backseat to Moby-Dick for now but I will definitely be getting back to it soon!

The Storied Life of A.J Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin - I had this on my wishlist for ages and then Sarah got it for me for the Mini Ninja Swap recently and the cover is just gorgeous and it's about a bookshop and,well, sometimes you don't feel like reading Moby-Dick in bed! I'm only a few chapters in but I'm liking it so far.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville - I'm reading this for Hanna's readalong, as you may have seen. So far I'm actually keeping up and enjoying it more than I thought, which is great. I'm aiming to try to get each week's chapters read by Tuesday or Wednesday but failing that I'll make it my work book and take it on the bus with me on the two days I work. I reckon I'll speed through it that way!

Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley - You will notice that this is not in the picture. That is because I have temporarily misplaced it, but it was my bedtime book before I started A.J Fikry. Charlotte read it a while ago and raved about it and I've been really enjoying it so far. It's making me want to run again...

Yes, as usual I am in the middle of way too many books, but it's nice to keep track and remember what I thought about them! What are your reading at the moment?

Monday, 12 October 2015

Moby Dick Read-a-long: Week Zero

The Moby Dick readalong has officially started and I have somehow already read 15.5 of this weeks allotted 21 chapters. I'm trying out someone's tactic from the War and Peace readalong (I can't remember whose, sorry. Maybe Charlotte's?) of getting the chapters read asap and then treating myself by reading whatever I want for the rest of the week. It's a good motivator so far!

Anyway, since I didn't get chance to do these questions last night let's pretend I haven't already started the book and talk about my expectations.

1. What are you expecting from the novel? Do you have any preconceptions?
I'm expecting it to be about a whale. Honestly, other than that, Matilda loves it so I feel like I have a good chance? I'm slightly nervous because it seems like it will be long and we all know about my aversion to reading things I 'have' to read, but after the total let down that was me not finishing War and Peace despite really enjoying it I am determined to finish this!

2. What do you already know about the plot or characters?
It's got whales in. And a guy called Ishmael.

who knew you could slightly fancy a guy named Herman?

3. This book, unlike War & Peace isn't a translation. Do you think that will make a difference?
Like Hanna said, yes because it won't have had the language or whatever updated by the translators and is just as Melville wrote it. I'm not sure if that's better or worse though, we'll have to see about his writing style. (Oh, I'm so sneaky at pretending not to have read any yet!)

4. Have you read Moby Dick before? If not what prompted you to read it now?
About two days before Hanna announced the readalong Laura had offered me her Penguin English Library edition of the book, to which I had said yes please because it had been on my radar once up on a time (and even on my Classics Club list for a while) so when I heard about the readalong it just seemed like time. When better to read something that you kind of meant to get to one day than when there are other people around to bully you into finishing it right?

5. Show us a photo of your book

Ahhh such a beautiful cover!

If you want to join the Moby Dick fun (ha!) you can do so here.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Women's Classic Literature Event

This week The Classics Club, that often ignored mainstay of my blogging life, announced the Women's Classic Literature Event, the idea of which is to read classic literature by women. It runs from now until the end of 2016 and as you can imagine I am super super excited about it!

They also posted a survey of which I will answer some questions here, because who doesn't love a good survey?

Elizabeth Gaskell, Jane Austen, Zora Neale Hurson, George Eliot, Rose Wilder Lane, Louisa May Alcott, & Virginia Woolf.

1. Introduce yourself. Tell us what you're most looking forward to in this event?

I'm Bex and honestly I'm most excited about exploring some of the titles by women already on my list. I'm also really looking forward to seeing what other people are reading and hopefully taking part in some events and talking all things womens literature. 

2. Have you read many classics by women? Why or why not?

I've read all of Austen as well as Jane Eyre, Wutherine Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by the Bronte sisters. I also read To The Lighthouse by Viriginia Woolf in University, which I strongly disliked, and Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, which I remember next to nothing about. More modern classics include The Colour Purple by Alice Walker and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston as well as To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and The Bell Jar (and selected poetry) by Sylvia Plath. 

Honestly in the past I've not gone out of my way to ensure that I'm reading a lot of classics by women. Naturally my reading tends to be more than 50% female authors but this doesn't seem to translate to classics. I don't know if it's because there's less available (unlikely) or just because there's less that I know about, but hopefully this event will help to rectify that!

3. Pick a classic female writer you can't wait to read for the event. List her date of birth, her place of birth & one of her most famous works.

I've had the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder on my Classics Club list since the start and I'm really excited to finally start it for this event. She was born in February 1867 in Pepin, Wisconsin which only had 837 people living in it at the 2010 census so I can't imagine how tiny when she lived there!

8. Will you be joining us for this event immediately or will you wait until the new year starts?

I'm going to be joining in December, although I'm doing Hanna's Moby Dick readalong starting tomorrow so that's a classic at least, but then there's Nonfiction November so I'm kind of tied up with that (in the most awesome way of course). 

9. Do you plan to read as inspiration pulls or will you make out a preset list?

I plan to do a bit of both. I'm including here all the titles by women left on my list and then I'll probably do some browsing at Persephone when we're there on the bookshop crawl and be inspired by what others are reading as well. The titles I have on my list are: 
  • A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  • Ariel by Sylvia Plath
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
  • Let the Circle Be Unbroken, The Road to Memphis by Mildred D. Taylor
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggins
  • Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Professor by Charlotte Bronte
12. Do you hope to host a readalong for the group?

Yes! I'd like some company reading the Little House books so I'm going to do a series readalong starting in December. Hopefully some other people will be interested in joining me for at least some of the books. The tentative schedule will be thus:

December: Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie
January: On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake
February: The Long Winter
March: Little Town on the Prairie, Those Happy Golden Years
April: Farmer Boy, The First Four Years

Let me know in the comments if you're interested in joining me for some or all of it. I'll post an official schedule and sign up next month sometime. 

13. Is there an author or title you'd love to read with a group or buddy for this event?

I need a buddy to read The Age of Innocence with me! I started it before and couldn't get into it but really want to. 

Excited for this event! Please leave links to your posts about it in the comments, I'd love to check them out! For more details check out this post or find the full survey here.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Make Mine an Indie: Nosy Crow

Welcome back to Make Mine an Indie. Each week I feature a different independent publisher in preparation for 2016 being my year of buying independent. I thought it was about time I got around to featuring a children's publisher and where better to start than with Nosy Crow?

Image result for nosy crow

Founded in 2011 Nosy Crow are now the 16th biggest publisher of children's books in the UK. Quite an achievement really. They aim to publish books and apps that get children to read for pleasure, and "don't want reading to be the most boring thing children can do on a touchscreen" which is admirable sentiment! If you haven't seen their books you really should check them out. They work hard on the look of their books, focusing on the type and weight of paper they use as well as covers and it shows. 

As many of you may know, reading to my children is one of the highlights of my life. Benji recently told me that bedtime stories are his favourite part of the day and it made my heart hurt in the best way. I am an absolute sucker for beautiful picture books and have been adding to their wishlist furiously all this year, as I've banned myself from buying books for them as well as for myself (besides the occasional present obviously). I don't think this week will help me to control the number of books going onto that list, but what can you do? If people will keep publishing brilliant books I'm going to have to keep buying them!

With that in mind, here are a few that will definitely go straight there!

A Lullaby for Little One by Dawn Casey & Charles Fudge 
From the Nosy Crow Website :

A Lullaby for Little OneAt the end of a lovely day full of laughter and fun, there’s time for just one last game for little Bunny and Big Daddy Rabbit. All their woodland friends join in, too – woo-hoo! – but when little Bunny gets tired of all the hullaballoo, Big Daddy Rabbit knows that a special lullaby for little one is exactly what’s needed.

I am a big fan of books that calm down and end up with bedtime. I really find they help the whole sleeping process in our house and this sounds really cute. 

Toot Goes to Dinosaurland by Catherine and Laurence Anholt
From the Nosy Crow Website:

Toot Goes to DinosaurlandToot’s little car has a most unusual feature – it has a magical sat nav system! So, when Toot presses the special button, off he zooms on an adventure with his trusty toy puppy for company. But where will he go first? To Dinosaurland, of course! He meets dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes but, watch out Toot, there are some VERY big dinosaurs about!

We have some other Catherine and Laurence Anholt books and the boys adore the colourful illustrations and engrossing stories so I have high hopes for this one! Also Ben loves dinosaurs at the moment so there's that. 

The Last Book Before Bedtime by Nicola O'Byrne
From the Nosy Crow Website:

The Last Book Before BedtimeEveryone knows that the very last story before bed is best of all. But the problem is, EVERYONE wants to be in that very last story!
 A familiar fairy tale is turned topsy-turvy when Cinderella hijacks the story of The Three Little Pigs, insisting that romantic princess stories are best. Then Little Red Riding Hood jumps in, adamant that her story is better because it’s full of DANGER. But disaster strikes when all the arguing tears a page in the book. Uh-oh! What will they do? The characters make up their own story, of course, and one with enough funniness, romance, danger AND CAKE (obviously) to keep everyone happy.
I don't think I need to say anything else about this. Fairytales and cake? I'm in. 
Snow Bunny's Christmas Gift by Rebecca Harry
Snow Bunny’s Christmas GiftFrom the creator of the highly-acclaimed Snow Bunny’s Christmas Wish, comes this brand new tale about the little bunny with the big heart, and the true gift of friendship. Little Snow Bunny loves nothing better than playing with her friends in the wintry forest. Every day holds the promise of adventure for Snow Bunny, Fox, Bear and Mouse. But one particularly cold day, no-one wants to play and Snow Bunny is left all alone. Whatever will she do? With a little luck and a lot of imagination, she makes cosy winter gifts for all her friends, just in time for Christmas Eve.
Christmas and using your imagination to make your own Christmas gifts? This is like me in a book!
As usual I could have gone on forever, and I didn't even get to their awesome looking apps yet! Find them on their website, twitter, Facebook and Youtube.
Catch up with the rest of the Make Mine an Indie series here and check back next week for more indie awesomeness!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Defiant Unto Death by David Gilman

Today I am one of the first stops on the blog tour for Defiant Unto Death by David Gilman! I haven't taken part in a blog tour in a long long time but I'm so glad I get to be part of this one.

Defiant Unto Death is actually the second book in a trilogy that I hadn't heard of before agreeing to take part in this tour, but honestly it doesn't matter whether or not you've read the first book; this book stands on its own. 

From Goodreads:
The Black Prince has launched a devastating raid deep into France, laying waste to everything in his path. In response, the French have mustered an army that outnumbers the English forces 10 to 1 and and are determined to drive their hated foe from the land after years of bloody conquest.
Sir Thomas Blackstone, the British archer knighted on the field of Crecy, has used the intervening years to forge his own war band and has hacked out his own fiefdom in central France. He knows the English are outnumbered, outmanoeuvred and exhausted... but that will not stop him from fighting his way to one of history's greatest military victories.
But the field of battle is not only arena in which Blackstone will have to fight for his life... Although Poitiers was a great victory for the English its aftermath will cost Blackstone dear.
I've heard a lot about the Black Prince because of our proximity to Canterbury, the city housing the cathedral in which he is buried, but I don't actually know a lot about the war that got him his nickname.  From the start this book was interesting to me because of my lack of knowledge of the period of history it takes place in. It begins with a battle which is a great way to present a character who is a soldier by trade, and also a good way to immediately drag me into the action.

I will admit to skimming occasional paragraphs when I felt that the description of battle tactics was dragging but that didn't happen often. For the most part the characters drew me in and the fast paced storyline swept me along. I don't know anything about the actual man but the character of Thomas Blackstone I immediately liked. He's physically strong and pretty brave with an unyielding instinct to protect those he loves, be they his wife, Christiana, his children or his men. I thought the relationship between him and his family was written very well, and I really enjoyed the way that a different, softer side of him came through during the scenes with his children (who were also adorable).

A stupid little petty issue: I didn't like how much the phrase 'sworn man' was used. At times it seemed like every other sentence contained it but I appreciate that there was a point being made which was that Blackstone had men who were loyal only to him rather than just being swords for hire in a time when war was a living. Honestly he reminded me of a lot of my favourite characters from David Gemmell novels which can only be a good thing!

The thing that made this book really stand out for me was the (fortunately) fictional character of the Savage Priest. From the time they first mentioned his name I had chills and every time he made an appearance after that I was wondering how it was possibly going to end well... This year I've not read many books with memorable villains but this guy is pure evil and really gives the book something to spur it along. When people are hiding, they're hiding for a very good reason. When they're running, you're willing them to outrun him, and when they're fighting you're hoping and hoping that they'll be better than him. Without him the book would have been a solid story, but with him it was phenomenal.

It's been a long time since I really read any historical fiction and Defiant Unto Death has made me want to dive right back into it. It also has the added bonus of being published by an independent publisher, Head of Zeus, who were kind enough to send me a physical copy because I'm a pain of a person who doesn't read ebooks! Many thanks to them, they will be featured in an upcoming installment of Make Mine an Indie.

The blog tour is hosted by Neverland Blog Tours and the schedule is below, please do hop over and visit some of the other stops.

Tour Schedule

Tuesday 6th October - Monday 12th October
Thanks to Jenny for letting me take part!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Literary Awards to Diversify Your Reading

A while back I wrote a post about why awards short and longlists are good for our reading during which I said that I liked how literary awards helped bring to my attention titles and authors I'd never previously heard of. This year I set myself goals (that I have spectacularly failed to achieve) for diversifying my reading, and following on from the idea of discovering the unknown I thought I'd write a post highlighting some literary awards that feature diversity.

Many of these are awards for translation, and so the experiences of the authors may not be a milliion miles away from my own, but they are still from another culture and country.

Image result for marsh award for children's literature in translationMarsh Award for Children's Literature in Translation

This award is given every two years for a translation of a work intended for young readers. It has been awarded since 1996 and past winners include Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombelle (trans. Sarah Ardizonne), Duel by David Grossman (trans. Betsy Rosenberg) and In The Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda (trans. Howard Curtis).

Their website.

HomeSamuel Johnson Prize 

This is a prize for a non-fiction work in the English language and is awarded annually. It was founded in 2009 and the longlist for this year has just been announced and features, among others, The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq by Emma Sky which I talked about the other week in my post on Atlantic Books! Previous winners include Mao's Great Famine by Frank Dikotter, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale.

Their website.

Image result for international rubery book awardInternational Rubery Book Award

Given my current obsession with independent publishers it will hardly come as a shock that this award features here. It has been awarded yearly since 2011 to the best work of fiction and the best short story from an independent publisher or self published. As there have only been five winners I feel I can probably list them all here. They are: Jump Derry by Christine Donovan, The Restorer by Daniela Murphy, The Man Who Wouldn't Stand Up by Jacob Appel, Flatlands by Victor Tapner and Don't Try This at Home by Angela Readman.

Their website
Image result for forward prizes for poetry
Forward Prizes for Poetry

Although these awards are really well known I know a lot of people, myself included, don't read much poetry so if you're looking to diversify into the genre this could be a good place to start. (another place I'd recommend is Jen Campbell's Youtube channel - you can find various of her poetry related videos here. She's a seriously well read lady!)

There are a lot of winners and not just the one prize. The Forward Arts Foundation also organizes World Poetry Day so rather than mention previous winners here I'll just direct you to their website. Go explore!

Manbooker official logoMan Booker International Prize

This award has just been reconfigured for next year. It used to be awarded every two years to an author of any nationality for a body of work that was written in English or generally available in English translation. Starting in 2016 it will be awarded annually to a book in English translation and the prize will be shared equally between the author and the translator.

Previous winners include Chinua Achebe (author of Things Fall Apart amongst other things), Alice Munro and Philip Roth.

Their website

These are just the British awards that I've found. Wikipedia has a whole huge page on literary awards throughout the world and although I would love to delve into them all I had to start somewhere! I'll probably do at least one more of these posts because although I'm sure none of us needs to, adding to your TBR is fun, right?

Let me know of any that you love that I've missed!