Friday, 29 April 2011

April RAK Thankyou's & The Four Meme


If anybody hasn't signed up for this yet, you really should! The girls at BookSoulMates host Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) monthly - April is just closing so May sign up will be up shortly I'd imagine - all you have to do is sign up with your wishlist, and then other participants can contact you if they'd like to gift you a book. I've been participating for the past two months now, and I have to say that giving books is at least as rewarding as getting them, and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about the world, and all you lovely bloggy people :-)

On that note, I've got some thank you's to say. This month I recieved THREE amazing books from three lovely bloggers!

 I've been after Delirium for absolutely ages, since I read Before I Fall, and JL from An Avid Reader's Musings was nice enough to send it to me! I haven't got round to starting it yet, as this month's been mental, but I definitely will do soon!

Sarah Addison Allen is my new love! And Erika was lovely enough to send me a copy of it! Thankyoooou! :-)

And finally....I fell in love with T.S Eliot at University, and yesterday I got this copy (different cover) of The Cocktail Party from Lainy (who also has a great Pre-Loved Giveaway going on at the moment!). I'm reading it as part of my drama challenge, and I'm very excited about it!

The Four Meme

So lots of people have been doing this lately, and as I was reading an article about making your blog more personal the other day, I though I'd join in! If anybody knows where this originally came from, can you let me know so I can credit please?

Four jobs I’ve had in my life:
  1. Tutor
  2. Carer for Special Needs children
  3. Retailer
  4. Manual labourer
Four books I would read over and over:
  1. Little Women (and sequels)
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird
  3. Harry Potter Series
  4. The End of Mr Y
Four places I have lived:
  1. Hampton Hill (Greater London)
  2. Teddington (Greater London)
  3. Broadstairs (Kent)
  4. That's it!
Four books I would recommend:
  1. The End of Mr Y - Scarlett Thomas
  2. Garden Spells - Sarah Addison Allen
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  4. Ravenheart - David Gemmell
Four places I have been:
  1. Australia
  2. New York
  3. Paris
  4. Kuala Lumpur
Four of my favorite foods:
  1. Roast Dinner! (especially chicken)
  2. Roast Potatoes
  3. Pasta (especially with melted cheese...)
  4. Ice cream
Four of my favorite drinks:
  1. Hot Chocolate
  2. Milkshakes
  3. Cranberry & Orange juice (with or without amaretto)
  4. Tea
Four places I would rather be right now:
I really like where I am now, but 4 places I'd like to be if I wasn't here are:
  1. At my mum's house, having dinner with my family
  2. In Australia with my godmother and her family
  3. Devon, at the house we used to have summer holidays in when I was a kid
  4. In the car (oh, how I miss the car!) on a road trip somewhere random
Four things that are very special in my life:
  1. my wonderful fiance
  2. my family
  3. all my gorgeous friends
  4. my books!

So, there you have it. A little bit of the personal touch. Oh, and just in case anybody was wondering, the car we had (an amazing classic mini with a union jack on the top) finally gave up just after Christmas :-(

Thursday, 28 April 2011

In Which I Rant about Streatfeild, and the Love of Books

Now that I've finished the final volume of Noel Streatfeild's autobiography, I though I'd take the opportunity to review both the second and third volumes, Away from the Vicarage, and Beyond the Vicarage, at the same time. The thing that stuck with me most about all of the volumes is that none of them end in the way that reading any of her children's books would lead you to expect. Because of this, I found myself more interested in them than I probably would otherwise have been. While all three volumes still have a very distinct Streatfeild style about them, the second and third volumes move out of childhood, and as well as the usual difficulties associated with growing up, she not only lived through, but was actively involved in, two world wars.

Since I started this project, it has been constantly surprising me. As a child, I absolutely devoured her books, and for some reason this led me to believe that I knew all about her. It's very odd, now I think about it, how, as a child, I was convinced that all authors must be exactly like the voices of their books...
The first thing to surprise me was the sheer volume of her output, and also that initially, she was not a children's author (totally weird, given that up to starting this project, I didn't realise she had written anything but children's books!) In fact, she only wrote Ballet Shoes in the first place under duress, and pretty much hid from its' success. It wasn't until the '60s, thirty years or so after the publication of Ballet Shoes, that she decided to write solely for children.

The thing that most amazes me about her, though, is that (at least the way she tells it) she pretty much just decided she wanted to be a writer, wrote a book, and somebody published it, from where she went on to write book after book. Having 'wanted to be a writer' my whole life, I had all the creativity knocked out of me by my university creative writing course, and pretty much had no inspiration to write anything at all until suddenly the blog idea came along, back in January. For a while, I proofread, and if I'm honest this is still something I aim to do in the future - there's something very satisfying about feeling like you're having a hand in making something better. Still, to 'just decide' to write a novel, and sit down then and there and write it, is amazing to me.

Also, at the same time all this writing was being done, Streatfeild was a member of the WVS, runing a mobile canteen, basically feeding people in the air raid shelters, and, between the wars, taking long trips to America, and travelling around with circuses, for research. Away from the Vicarage deals with her time as an actress, and a particularly terrible tour in South Africa, which seemed to have been cursed, as there was illness, accidents, and even several deaths. Just as she had made a plan to retire from acting and become a writer, the books ends with the sudden death of her father.

The final volume, Beyond the Vicarage, basically charts the rest of her life, through the Second World War, and on to middle, and then old, age. My favourite quote from the book is the last sentence:
"Don't be afraid, I'm sure you'll find there's a world of interest still to come." (p214)
All three of the books were well written and very informative. They explain a lot about Streatfeild's books, and why they are the way that they are, and for me personally, it's nice to have some background to the things that I'm reading. The more of Noel Streatfeild's work I read, the more I realise that the kind of writer I'd like to be is one like her. A writer whose work seems effortless, who doesn't seem to struggle for inspiration (though I'm sure there were times when she did!), but above all, a writer whose work comforts people and makes them feel better. That, more than everything else, is why I will never stop loving her books.

This project has given me renewed enthusiasm to read as much as I can, to fully immerse myself, not just in Streatfeild, but in everything I read: to get the absolute most out of books, and to apply the things I read to my life. I was on the website of one of my new favourite authors, Sarah Addison Allen, the other day (I know, I'll stop going on about how good she is someday soon, I promise, but in the meantime, go, read!), and I was reading a short essay she wrote, entitled Just So You Know. Anybody who loves books, go and read this now, I guarantee it will make you smile. For now, I'll stop my rambling, and leave you with this:
You fall in love with every book you touch. You never break the spine or tear the pages. That would be cruel. You have secret favourites, but, when asked you say that you could never choose. But did you know that books fall in love with you, too?
Happy reading, all.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Review:- The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen


Sarah Addison Allen is my favourite author of 2011 so far. It seems to be a feature that I discover a new author whose every word I absolutely must devour, approximately once a year. The last one was Scarlett Thomas, the one before, Jodi Picoult. Both hard acts to follow. Garden Spells was the first of her novels that I read, and I fell in love with both it, and The Sugar Queen. The combination of basic, everyday stories, infused with totally magical elements, and my favourite of all favourite non-bookish things, food, was just amazing for me. One of my favourite things about the library is picking up a book purely on spec (in the case of Garden Spells, because the pretty cover caught my eye) and discovering a new author to love.

I was given The Girl Who Chased the Moon as an RAK by Erika, and immediately fell in love with the cover. My copy is the copy in the picture, midnight blue and silver, and prompted me to make the (stupid, I know) statement that 'all books should be blue!'. I really do think that blue is hugely under-represented in the world of book covers, though. I'm thinking about staging a protest...

The story is set in North Carolina, an area which, being a Londoner, I know little to nothing about, but from reading Addison Allen's books, I get a probably misled impression of it being continuously bathed in late summer evening sunlight, the balmy air filled with magic.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon is about Emily Benedict, who comes to live in Mullaby with the grandfather she didn't know she had, following the death of her mother, Dulcie. Once there, she realises that her mother kept a lot of secrets, and that the Dulcie Shelby the people of Mullaby remember is not the mother she knew at all. When she starts to see a local phenomena known as the Mullaby lights, she becomes more and more curious about the town, her mother's past, and the mysterious Coffey family, who never come out after dark. Helped by Julia from next door, who bakes amazing cakes, hoping to rediscover what she has lost, and the enigmatic Win Coffey, to whom she feels inexplicably drawn, Emily begins to make sense of the past and her own place in Mullaby.

Aside from the cakes, the thing I loved most about this book was the authenticity of its' characters. Addison Allen's characters are never perfect, and in each of them, I have found some part of myself. This time, it was Julia's character which made an impression on me. Being the weird kid who was marginalised in high school and was convinced they were hopelessly in love with someone who turned out (at least at age sixteen) not to be anything like as amazing as you thought, and who broke your heart? That was me. Basically, her books make me want to believe in magic, and especially the magic created by friendship, community, love, and a sense of really belonging somewhere.

I finished the book in a day, and I really really wanted it to last longer!

Rating: *****

I read this book as part of the Once Upon a Time Challenge!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Sunday Salon - Happy Sunny Easter!


Currently I'm enjoying a veerrrry lazy Easter Sunday, back in London with the family. My siblings and I, having just hunted Easter eggs with a vengeance (I had to hunt double, for the fiance, as he couldn't make the visit this weekend..and yes, I know that 23 is a bit old to be hunting eggs, but tradition is important!) are now lying all over the place, having a Chronicles of Narnia film marathon.

I love it when Easter is as sunny and warm as this one has been. It makes me feel hopeful. Everything associated with Easter, for me, is all about new life. We've just been to an all night vigil service at church, and it's made me think a lot about the way that I use the time I have on earth. Lately, everything's been a bit hectic, what with all the interviews and having my induction for my new job while still working at the old one, not to mention the fact that we in England are currently having two four day bank-holiday weekends in a row, and the weather is supposed to be glorious until at least the middle of the week! Unfortunately, the other half is on horrible antibiotics, which make him super-sensitive to the sun, so our Easter Monday is likely to be spent in pajamas, watching a lot of films, and eating our Easter chocolate!

In the world of reading, there's a lot going on! At the moment I'm about to start Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in my 'calm down don't panic, escape and pretend to be a wizard' re-read, which I posted about earlier in the week. I'm also getting through the final volume of Noel Streatfeild's autobiography, Beyond the Vicarage, which I'm really enjoying. I will review the three volumes together at some point in the not too distant future, I hope. I'm a little apprehensive, because I've almost extinguished the stack of Streatfeild books my library service have, and as my book-buying ban is still going strong, I'm wondering what I'm going to read next! I think I'll have to go add lots to my amazon wish list, and hope that some kind souls decide to gift me some books! Finally, I'm ploughing through the sixth volume of the Death Note manga series, which I'm enjoying much much more than I expected to!

Blog-wise, hopefully I will be able to get my April Fairytale Feature up this week, but otherwise, don't expect too much activity from me, I'm afraid. Still trying to figure out the home internet situation. Hopefully it will be forthcoming, but probably not until the end of May, so until then I will be restricted to using it at the library, on average once a week. Sorry about that, please bear with me, I will be back to regular blogging soon, I promise!

So that's me, pretty much. How's everyone else doing?

Happy Easter, all!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Top Ten Tuesday Rewind

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week is Top Ten Tuesday Rewind; a chance to go back through the archives and chose a past TTT that you want to do, or maybe even redo!

As I missed posting for this one, due to my (increasingly frustrating and hopefully soon to be ended) lack of home internet, but had written it all up in my notebook, I thought I'd take the opportunity to post my...

Top Ten Fictional Characters I'd Want in My Family


1. Mrs. March from Little Women would be my fictional mum. My mum is actually kind of the real life version (I know I'm biased, but she's awesome, and I'm not the only one who thinks so!) but if I had to pick a fictional mother, she'd be it, no question. She has such an awesome relationship with her kids, and is such a great role-model, and constant rock for them. I'd like to hope I'll mean as much to my kids someday.

2. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Because he's amazing. And that is all.

3.Meg from Our Tragic Universe would make an amazing sister, because she's kind of odd and antisocial and into crafts, like me! :-)

4. The Weasley Family. I would totally love to have them as cousins. I love my real life cousins, but always felt they were letting the side down a bit (there are 7 of us, 3 of them...) so the Weasleys would make up the numbers! Plus, they'd keep up our family tradition of redheadedness! Maybe not Percy, though...

5. Kaelin Ring from Ravenheart and Stormrider. Because he's kick-ass , and would totally protect me from anything!

6. Delirium from the Sandman series of graphic novels would be the best little sister, because she's so random and floaty and talks in multi-colours with butterflies. Kind of like my real life little sisters...

7. Granny Weatherwax would totally be my granny. She may not be so much with the words, but she's a witch!

8. The Cullen family because (and I kind of hate myself for saying this) they're totally awesome, let's face it.

9. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables because she basically is me when I was a child. We would have the best adventures!

10. The March sisters from Little Women. I know it seems like I'm fixated (all right, I am), but I think I could learn a lot from each of them. I wouldn't want to be around when Beth dies, though... it's like the episode of Friends where Joey has to hide the book in the fridge. I do that, every time I read Good Wives and it gets to the bit where Beth is about to die, I hide the book and stop reading for a while. I know, it makes no sense!

I have to say, my fictional family, combined with my actual family... that would be a sight worth seeing!


Monday, 18 April 2011

Escapism and Comfort Reading

Recently I’ve been terrible at actually getting round to writing reviews of all the many books I’ve been reading. I’ve just been having a lot of difficulty getting inspired, and I blame that mostly on the fact that I’m freaking out about having got a new job, which I start this week. I’m not the kind of person who deals with change particularly well, and so I’ve been super nervous about the whole thing, and been finding it really difficult to concentrate on anything. To try and forget about it all, I’ve retreated to the arms of an oooooold favourite: the Harry Potter series.

I’ve been trying to figure out for ages what it is about these books which makes them such a comfort read. Every time I start reading the first page of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I’m instantly calmer. To be honest, I find that fantasy in general is usually really good for escapism, and I reckon it’s just because the worlds are so far removed from my own that they allow me to absolutely step outside of reality and pretend I’m somewhere else for a while. All good literature does it to an extent, that’s the beauty of reading, but fantasy is on a different level. Along with Potter, my other favourite ‘crisis reads’ are David Gemmell, Terry Pratchett, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I also like this list.
I’m currently finishing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for approximately the four millionth time, about to move on to The Goblet of Fire, and I won’t stop until I finish the seventh book. I’m realising that I really do use reading like my own personal drug – I have certain books or authors who I know will put me in a certain mood, and I use them strategically. At a time in my life when everything else is changing, and I’m panicking like nothing else, it’s nice to know that old favourites won’t have changed. That there are books I can rely on to calm me down and reassure me about the state of the world.
What I’m really wondering is, does anyone else do this? Are there any books you return to time after time, relying on them to make you feel a certain way? Or is it just me?

Friday, 15 April 2011

Autism Awareness Giveaway Winner! (and another apology)


I know I promised to post more this week, but on Tuesday I woke up with my face totally swollen up, and as a result of that I'm now on antibiotics which are making me feel beyond awful, so the whole having to leave the house to get to the library in order to post isn't really the most appealing thing in the world at the moment. I'm sorry, I will return soon!! Having said that, I just got a full time job (wooo but also terrifying!) and so until my first paycheque creates the ability to afford home internet, I'll only be able to post one day a week. Please bear with me, I promise I'll get back on track with the posts soon, I'm missing blogging lots!

Aaaanyway, what this post is really about is announcing the winner of the Autism Awareness Giveaway Hop!
The winner of my giveaway of House Rules by Jodi Picoult is......*drumroll*

I have emailed her, and she has until Sunday evening to get back to me with her details. If she doesn't, a new winner will be drawn. Congratulations!
I just want to say thankyou to all my new followers for taking the time to have a look around the blog, and thanks to all the old ones for putting up with my absenteeism! April's Fairytale Feature will be up soon - I've done all the reading, now I just have to find the energy to write it! I'm off to pick up the last installment of Noel Streatfeild's autobiography and struggle home to read it!

Happy Spring everyone!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Autism Awareness Giveaway Hop!


April is Autism Awareness Month, and KathyLindsayHeather, and Pixie are  hosting another awesome giveaway hop to promote it!
When I was sixteen, I spent three years working as basically a childminder for children with special needs, mostly children who were on the Autistic spectrum. During this time, I had some of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far. I also saw some things which broke my heart: the one that springs to mind is a full grown woman backing away from a nine year old child on a bus with a look of disgust on her face, just because he was singing to himself.
Many many people still do not understand, and are therefore scared by, autism. In the U.K alone, currently 1 in 100 people are on the autistic spcectrum, so it’s really important that people understand it. For people who don’t know, here is a basic definition of autism. It’s difficult to define, as it manifests in many different ways, and many people with autism don’t display ‘classic’ symptoms (non-verbal, repetitive behaviour, inability to engage in reciprocal relationships etc). One of the children I looked after for example, I developed a very good relationship with, and he was prone to giving me random hugs, which was lovely. Anyway, basic definition, paraphrased from www.autism-awareness.org.uk:
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability, which affects the way a person communicates and relates to the world around them. People with autism often have a limited ability to relate to other people or to understand other people’s emotional expressions. They have difficulty making sense of the world around them, and often live within a world of their own.
The main 3 characteristics of autism are difficulty with social communication (i.e. not understanding facial gestures, tone of voice etc), social interaction (difficulty with relationships – people with autism often seem aloof and indifferent to others, and have problems expressing feelings), and imagination (autistic people often have difficulty with inter-personal play, and developing imaginative activities. These are often limited and repetitive).
I feel that the most important thing for people with autism, both adults and children, is that it is not made any harder than it already is for them to live their lives. I am very conscious of not sounding patronising when talking about this, so let me just say that I have always thought that people with any kind of disability at all should be entitled to the same kind of life experiences as fully able people, and I think that raising awareness about any kind of disorder is a hugely important part of this.
For more information or to help raise awareness about autism visit http://www.autism.org.uk/.

So, onto the giveaway! As my personal contribution to achieving this, I’m giving away a copy of House Rules by Jodi Picoult. I will add at this point, that it is my copy of the book, and so is not brand new, but is a hardback in good condition, I will post anywhere in the world, and it is a brilliant, emotional, informative and riveting read.
House Rules is a book about Jacob Hunt, a teenager with Aspergers Syndrome. It paints an amazing picture of what it is like to live in a family with somebody with Aspergers. Picoult uses her trademark of telling the story through the eyes of all the different characters, and she’s brilliantly believable. The major plot point is the murder of Jacob’s tutor, and the way that the police react to the typical behaviours of Asperger’s with suspicion, believing that he is responsible for the death. I read this book, and I loved it with every single emotion I had. It made me laugh, made me cry, and was just so real.
This is my first ever giveaway and I’ve not quite got my head round the entry form thingies soooooo to enter, please just leave a comment with your email address. It isn’t obligatory to be a follower of the blog, but please do feel free to have a look around and follow me if you like what you’re reading! The winner will be drawn via random.org on April 14th, and I will notify them by email.
Also, a question. You can win if you don’t answer it, it’s purely for me. Have you read any great books focusing on physical or mental disability?
Once you’ve entered my giveaway, hop on to the next blog on the list!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Affinity Readalong Post 2

So, I'm late for the last post of the readalong, but I have an excuse! I had the most disgusting virus alllllll last week, and just felt like I didn't even want to move, let alone read. Also, I went home to my mums over the past weekend for bridal shopping, plus my sisters were in a show, plus I invited my future in-laws and my fiance's neice to stay at mums for the weekend = totally mental! Aaaanyway!

I finally finished Affinity last night, and the opinion voiced in my parts 1&2 post was completely upheld. I loved this book! It was gripping, passionate, dark, intense...all the things it set itself up to be. I really enjoyed the character development in parts 3&4, and for me, the twist in the development of Margaret Prior's character especially, really made the whole thing believable. Although I didn't feel that everything was completely tied up and fully explained by the end of the novel, I did think the way that Waters tied the strands of the story together was very clever and seamless. The whole way through, she kept me guessing at what was real and what was illusion, and I loved that! I've already got several of my friends, who I think will love the book, lined up to pass it along to!

Sorry about the shortness of this post, and the totally sporadic and basically rubbish amount of posting I've been doing recently. What can I say? Life keeps taking over! And I'm still in my whole only being able to access the net at the library thing, which just makes it that much more difficult. I planned to post loads last weekend at mums, but every time I sat down, someone would ask my opinion on something, and then by the evening, when I was looking forward to being alone with an actual computer for a few hours, I was so exhausted I was just falling into bed... I'm planning that this week will be better, starting off with the Autism Awareness Giveaway Hop on Monday. Check it out for a chance for a FREE BOOK! I'm excited!

Oh, and speaking of free books, I have to say thanks to Rebecca at The Book Ladys Blog, for the copy of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, by Michelle Young-Stone. I got a lovely little note from the author with it, and can't wait to start reading, as it looks amazing!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Maaaarch!

My reading speeds have been awful the past week, as I've been ill, and March generally has been a pretty terrible month for reviewing, but a fairly good one for reading. I am very behind on my reviews! Saying that, I have failed to finish The Three Musketeers for Allie's readalong - I got stuck somewhere around chapter 40 due to the interference of Tender is the Night. I'm also still in the process of finishing Affinity for Andi's readalong, but my slowness on this is due purely to illness, a visit home to my family, and shopping for wedding and bridesmaids dresses, rather than any problems with the book - I am really enjoying it, and hope to finish it this week.

My book buying ban is still going strong (it's been nearly 2 months!) and I'm supremely proud of myself. I've also managed to acquire a fair amount of free books this month - 7 from my fiance for our anniversary, Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners from Booksoulmates Random Acts of Kindness scheme, from the lovely Susan, and one from teadevotee for World Book Night. Still on the way to me, I've won a copy of The Handbook for Lightining Strike Survivors, from The BookLadys Blog, and have another RAK on the way. A very lucky month! :-)

I read 16 books this month, mostly due to re-reading some really short childhood favourites! These are:

  • Apple Bough  by Noel Streatfeild (bookswap)
  • When the Siren Wailed by Noel Streafeild (own)
  • The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett (library)
  • Goodnight, Beautiful by Dorothy Koomson (library)
  • The Wild by Esther Freud (library)
  • Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (library)
  • Gallery Girl by Wendy Holden (library)
  • Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm (own)
  • A Vicarage Family  by Noel Streatfeild (library)
  • The Comfort of Saturdays by Alexander McCall Smith (library)
  • Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (library)
  • Five Go Off in a Caravan by Enid Blyton (own)
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (library)
  • The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (library)
  • Slam by Nick Hornby (library)
  • Anastasia, At Your Service by Lois Lowry (own)
  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (own)
  • Away from the Vicarage by Noel Streatfeild (library)
So that's how terrible I've been with the reviewing, I hope to catch up a bit this month! Having said that, I've got people coming this week so won't be able to post much! But should be back to normal after that.
Quick wrap up of my challenges for the first quarter and how I'm doing with those (mostly not great)....


The Canongate Myth Challenge  (1/12)
Back to the Classics 2011 (2/8)
Graphic Novel Challenge (4/11)
Historical Fiction Challenge (2/10)
Global Reading Challenge (3/14)
Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge (2/20)

At least I've made a start, and summer's on the way! Now I'm off to apply for tickets to the Olympics next year! Happy reading everyone!