Friday, 30 May 2014

Armchair BEA Day Five: The Importance of Discussion

Today is the final day of discussion topics for Armchair BEA, which I'm pretty sad about to be honest. It's been great having prompts to make me think and blog more, and getting to browse through some great blogs I'd never heard of before. Today's topic is open, so I thought I'd talk a little bit about something that's sprung up a lot in the last few days; discussion. 

If you're in the UK, or on Twitter, or just generally around, you will probably have heard about the recent changes made to the GCSE English Literature syllabuses by our wonderful (heavy, heavy sarcasm) Education Secretary, Michael Gove. Basically what's happened is that certain works of literature have been removed from the new syllabus, apparently in the interests of 'broadening education'. Such works include Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Crucible among others. I'd like to clarify at this point, because there are a lot of people going round saying they've been banned and they haven't. THERE IS NO BANNING ISSUE HERE. The issue is one of narrow mindedness, ethnocentrism and why on earth Michael Gove, a Conservative politician and somebody who is not involved in the actual teaching of children and never has been, has the power to just have books removed from the syllabus because he doesn't like them. 

My initial reaction when the story broke was fury. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favourite books of all time and without doubt the book I've heard people say has made them fall in love with reading the most often. I don't think there are many works of literature which have as much to teach and offer children in terms of expanding their world view and helping them to learn to empathise as it does. As the days have passed and I've read more about the story, I've been thinking, and I've decided that the thing that I really have the problem with is the inherent... I don't want to say racism, but British - centric attitude being promoted by these syllabus changes. Yes, literature from the British Isles is important, and of course students should learn about our literary heritage. In all honesty I quite like the new list, but I don't think it offers as much variety and insight into other cultures as previously, and in these mad days of the UK Independence Party gaining so much support, I'd rather we were 'broadening education' to be more, not less, inclusive. I don't want my children growing up in an education system where all the people they learn about are exactly like them. I have to say, though, that if 90% of kids are really studying Of Mice and Men for GCSE, I'd also see that as a problem as it suggests that teachers and students are taking it as the easy option, as it's such a little book and there are so many past exam papers/SparkNotes etc for students to use. There's a whole world of literature out there, use it!

However, the thing that really bugs me is how intelligent people have stooped to just shouting at each other and hurling insults in the comment sections of online articles. This week I had a chat on twitter with somebody because I've been reading Steinbeck since the story broke, and she really dislikes Steinbeck. We talked about the issues she had with him, and the issues I had previously had with him and why I loved him now, and neither of us felt the need to insult the other or bash their reading tastes. I don't understand why so many fully grown adults in the UK are incapable of having a rational debate without resorting to name calling and abuse. For me, possibly my favourite thing about reading, and especially about reading works such as those which have been removed is that they stimulate thought and discussion. Freedom to read is freedom to think and freedom to express yourself and this is so vitally important to teach kids and teenagers. 

I could go on about this for a while, but instead just in case you're interested in reading more about the story, here are a few links for you! 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Armchair BEA Day 4: Beyond the Borders

Today's topic for Armchair BEA is Beyond the Borders. Actually I've just been looking at lists of World Literature and trying to improve my whole reading of non-British or American authors, but there are a few things that spring to mind already and fit the subject:

Books Which Taught Me About Another Culture

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz 
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Maus by Art Spiegelman

Books Which Transported Me to Another World

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Inkheart, Inkspell & Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

Also represented in this category in a slightly different way, books about books, which make me dream of all the different places I will be transported to while reading:
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

Books Which Made Me Step Into the Shoes of Someone Different

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Naming Monsters by Hannah Eaton
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Apologies for the listishness of this, but due to my current stage of pregnancy and exhaustion, lists are pretty much as far as I get now. If it helps, all the titles link through to Waterstone's website where you can read a synopsis :-) 

For me, this list kind of sums up one of the major points of reading, which is to expand your experience beyond the things you have actually physically experienced and to give you understanding and empathy of the situations of others, as well as providing total escapism when necessary. Whether it be from the point of view of a child with Asperger's syndrome, a teenager living with abuse, a repressed Iranian woman, or literally transporting you to the magical land of Narnia, they all take you out of your own experience and add somebody else's to it. There's not much more magical than that!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Armchair BEA Day 2: More than Just Words

I don't normally double post, but this morning's post was a list so I thought I'd complement it with another list! For Armchair BEA today there are two topics; Author Interaction and More than Just Words. Since I don't really do much author interaction (beyond getting slightly hysterical one time Rainbow Rowell favourited a tweet of mine, or the time Jon McGregor tweeted me back), I thought I'd stick with the More than Just Words category, which gives me a chance to talk about graphic novels! Yay! 

 My husband and I are both big fans of graphic novels, so we've compiled a little list of our favourites for you :-) They really are worth reading and there are so many spanning so many genres that even if you're convinced you won't like them, I can pretty much guarantee you'll be able to find something. All titles link through to Goodreads as I'm not very eloquent today!

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (and also watch Hugo if you haven't already. Such a stunning film.)
Scott Pilgrim vs the World (series starts with Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life and continues through 5 more books) & Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O'Malley - The film of Scott Pilgrim vs the World is another one you really ought to see, EVEN if you don't like Michael Cera. 
The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman & various - starts with Preludes & Nocturnes and continues through ten more volumes plus three spin offs. This is the series that originally got me into reading graphic novels and it contains lots of fairytale and folklore references as well as being quite graphically violent in parts. Don't let that put you off, though, it's worth it!
Fables by Bill Willingham 
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi - this was the first non-fantasy graphic novel I read and it is amazing and hilarious despite it's super serious subject matter. Read it and thank me later. 
Naming Monsters Hannah Eaton
The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman - it should be pointed out that this only applies to the first four volumes written by Gaiman. There are a load more written by other people, but Rhys tried a few and didn't like them much...
Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons - Brilliant film too :-) 
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons - the first book I ever reviewed on my blog! Also a truly excellent film you should see if you can. 
Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo & K.G Campbell - we're currently having a debate about whether this counts, as it's not fully graphic, but it does have fairly regular pages done in graphic novel style, plus it's awesome and about a superhero squirrel. Enough said, really.
Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba - Awesome series about a group of superhero siblings. 

Also lots of things I'm looking forward to reading & have heard tons of good things about:

Peter Panzerfaust Kurtis Wiebe & Tyler Jenkins - recommended to me by a friend at work, it's basically Peter Pan in the Second World War as a resistance fighter and it sounds epic. 
Fairest by Bill Willingham & others - a spin off of the Fables series, focusing on the female fables. 
The Unwritten by Mike Carey & Peter Gross - originally recommended to me in a Twitter conversation I think. The series just sounds really cool. 
Blankets & Habibi by Craig Thompson - So many people love Blankets and I keep eyeing up Habibi in Waterstone's...
Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds - I saw the movie for the first time over Christmas and I'm just really interested to see where the book is similar/different 

I love graphic novels because they are such a different form of expression and there is so much beauty in them and complexity of experience. They're really worth reading, and not just because they're short and make you feel great about having finished an entire book in an hour, but because you can get so much from them, and different things each time you read. Anybody else a graphic novel fan? What's your favourite?

My Summer Reading List

A few days ago I posted about the idea of making a summer reading list and then linking them up and either picking someone else's reading list to read from, or taking suggestions from their reading lists to add to your own. I've been thinking about mine a bit, and I've divided it into two halves. The first half are books that I would recommend to other people to read, and the second is books I'd like to make a start on myself over the summer. It would be great if you wanted to join in, you can see the initial post and linky list here or use #srlchallenge on twitter to talk about what you're reading :-) 

Also, I spent this morning trying to make a button for this event, but I have realised that I suck at making graphics, so if anybody else feels like making one, please do!!

Here's my list:

Recommended for others:

- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Despite all the recent Michael Gove idiocy, I still think this is one of the most important books you can read, at any age. It teaches so much about justice, bravery, self-awareness and a plethora of other things. Also Atticus Finch is my hero. 
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Just beautiful writing and the story is incredible. 
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor. A story of an event which happens on a street one day, told in the most amazingly poetic way. Aged 18, this book blew my mind. 
- Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. This book will be on both my lists, because I read it as a teenager and thought it was amazing, but don't remember a lot about it. 
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
- Wild Swans by Jung Chang. This is a hefty autobiography and tells about three generations of Chinese women; Chang herself, her mother who was a member of the Communist party, and her grandmother who was involved in the Royal Court. It looks like it's going to be heavy going but I promise it's not and the stories in it are just incredible. 
- The Good Women of China by Xinran. A little non-fiction book, really important reading if you're interested in hearing the stories of things which happen to women in China. 
- Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. Brilliant memoir of Nafisi's experiences reading banned literature with her female book group in Iran. 
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. A graphic novel, and the first I read outside of the fantasy genre. Also about Iran it somehow manages to be intensely moving and hilarious. 
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. 
- Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I love the way he writes characters and especially the ones who are a bit damaged. Beautiful writing. 
- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. Actually has a lot more to it than I expected and is vaguely hilarious at various points as well as having a pretty strong female protagonist. 
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Beautiful, beautiful writing and a gorgeous story. Especially if you're interested in fairytales and folklore, like I am, read it!
- Maus by Art Spiegelman. Another graphic novel, and yes, it is about the Holocaust which put me off reading it for a long time, but it shouldn't have. It's beautifully told and very cleverly drawn. 
- The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke. 
- This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. Really little volume of awesome short stories, all of which are somehow intertwined and very well written. 
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan. In my opinion, much better than The Fault in Our Stars. 

So that's my recommended list, and here's a (much shorter) list of things I'd like to read this summer:

- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and  
- The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (for Mental Health Awareness Month)
- 1Q84 Parts 1,2,& 3 by Haruki Murakami 
- Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
- Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs by Jeremy Mercer

Five I've already picked, and five I plan to pick from other people's lists :-) Why not make your own list and link up? Join in the fun!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Armchair BEA: Introductions and Literature

To distract from the fact that I've not yet managed to review Geek Girl or Second Chance or finish reading Peter Duck, I'm going to be participating, at least sporadically, in Armchair BEA this week. This is the online event for those of us who can't get to BEA in New York. I participated last year and it was lots of fun so here's hoping this year will be the same! 

Today is introduction day, so here are a few questions and answers to let you get to know me a little better!

  1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from? 
Hi! I'm Bex, I've been blogging for about 3.5 years now (eek), since relocating to a different part of the country over 100 miles from my family and all my friends with my then - fiance. We're now married with a 19 month old and another on the way any day now and still living on the coast of Kent, England, while all of my family are still in London. Blogging's really been my support and escape since moving and although I don't get to blog as much as I'd like since having kids, I love the fact that this is still my space to ramble about the books I've loved and connect with other literary minded people. 

     4. What was your favorite book read last year? What’s your favorite book so far this year? 

I can't choose one favourite book of last year so it will have to be a three way tie between Wild:A Journey from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. My favourite book of this year is probably Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, which was a reread so kind of extra exciting because it was still as good as I remember. 

      7. Spread the love by naming your favorite blogs/bloggers (doesn’t necessarily have to be book blogs/bloggers).

Ooh this is always a fun question! There are a fair few blogs that I really love, mostly run by bloggers who have become friends and whose opinions on books are my first port of call. These include Laura of Devouring Texts, Hanna of Booking in Heels, Ellie of Book Addicted Blonde, Charlotte of Lit Addicted Brit, another Ellie of Lit Nerd  and Katie of Katie Who Can Read. There are many other lovely bloggers out there, and other blogs I read every post from include Estella's Revenge, Book Riot, Nylon Admiral, Etudesque, Reading Rambo, Sophisticated Dorkiness and Tiny Library

      8. Share your favorite book or reading related quote.

I have a fair few, but in light of the recent controversy with Michael Gove and To Kill a Mockingbird, this one is probably my favourite this week: 
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."

      10. What book would you love to see as a movie? 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. There's been talk about it for a while, but nothing concrete yet and I just love it. It would be an amazing film if done properly. 

The second topic of the day is literature. They've left it pretty open to us to interpret what we want to talk about here, and I love that. I studied literature for my entire academic career until five years ago, and I still don't know what the difference is between 'literature' and 'books'. I'm starting to think there might not be one... For me, what keeps a book on my shelves once I've read it and makes me recommend it to others left right and centre is that it makes me think more deeply about myself and the world around me, or that I fell in love with the characters, or that the storyline blew my mind, or that the writing was incredibly beautiful, or that it just gave my brain cells a workout! There are a lot of things. I think that literature should be widely defined because the more widely we read, the more we learn and the more empathy for others we gain. Literature is a brilliant way to learn to connect with the world around us, to imagine unimaginable situations, and to relate to unrelatable people. Examples of books which have stayed on my shelves for years and are recommended to everyone who asks me what they should read are:

- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (made me think about myself, social justice and the world at large)
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (fell in love with the characters, especially Jo and Marmee)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K Rowling (the story line was incredible. The first time I read it I couldn't believe how she'd linked up tiny things you barely remembered from the first book and made them into major plot points in the seventh)
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (beautiful, beautiful writing)
- Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas (brain workout)

These are just the first books I thought of for each category. There are lots more! Now I'm off to catch up with some other first day posts :-) 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Summer Reading List Challenge

I put a thought out on Twitter a few days back about the idea of making myself a summer reading list, like the ones you used to get for school/college/university, or getting someone else to make one for me. Because I'm a massive geek I really loved the fact of having an actual physical list full of titles - some of which I'd inevitably already read, some I already planned to read and a few I'd never heard of, and heading off the library to see what they had from it. Crossing books off of it gave me a bit of a thrill. I know, I'm making myself sound super cool here, right?

Anyway, a few years back my sister, whose coolness factor is similar to my own, asked me to make her one of the books I'd recommend her to read over her summer break. I know that most of us don't get summer breaks now, but it's still nice to have a list and use the summer to try out books we wouldn't necessarily read otherwise, and I know lots of bloggers are as weird about lists as I am myself, so I had a thought. Although making lists for yourself is fun, and I'm sure there are hundreds of lists already on the internet, I thought it might be fun to have a challenge where we all make a list of books we'd recommend as summer reading and then we could look through each others' and either pick someone else's to read from or create one for ourselves from everybody's suggestions, whatever we prefer.

Obviously this is designed to be fun and nobody's saying you have to read exclusively from the list, or really from the list at all if life doesn't go that way. The geeky kid in me just really wanted an excuse to make a list :-p Also in light of the whole stupid Michael Gove situation here in the UK, this seemed even more fitting!

If you're interested, leave me a comment saying hi, and link your list through the linky below :-) Happy summer, everybody!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Mental Health Awareness Month


Because I'm on Twitter like a fiend at the moment touting for Ninja Book Swap sign ups (you have till Sunday to get your sign up emails in, you know you want to), I was lucky enough to see a tweet about this event being hosted by Uncorked Thoughts and Blog of Erised and of course I had to join in. Mental health is an incredibly important topic to me, purely because of the amount of people I know (myself included) who have been or are being affected by mental health issues, and because of the stigma attached to that. 

The basic idea is that bloggers dedicate time during the month of June to read, review and discuss books dealing with mental health issues. Despite my imminent baby having (and probably resulting slight mental health issues!) I am going to attempt to read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, which I got a couple of Ninja Swaps ago, and also The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, which I saw the film of years ago but have never read. Both are not that long, and I'm hoping to be on twitter a lot joining in discussions using #MHAMJUNE and helping to spread awareness :-) 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

A Bookish Few Days

My last few days of Bout of Books have been totally rubbish, and while that sucks as I'd hoped to read lots every day while it was on, I have lots of good reasons. 

We've been in London visiting family and on Friday my mum looked after Benji all day so Rhys and I could have some 'alone time'. As we had quite a few theatre tokens saved up and are both massive musical fans, we decided to head up to Leicester Square and see what we could get tickets for on the cheap, and then I remembered that the Comics Unmasked exhibition is on at the British Library at the moment and I haven't been to the British Library since it relocated from the British Museum which was apparently in 1997 (!!) so obviously we had to go. 

Day started off with a minor glitch, as we were planning to use the 2 for 1 ticket offer for the exhibition, which requires the use of a National Rail type actual paper train ticket and they've changed the zoning on travelcards since the last time I bought one. This *might* have led to a minor strop at the station, for which I entirely blame my pregnancy hormones and not my levels of maturity. at all. 

So anyway, once that was sorted we got overly excited by the power of being able to use all the types of transport and go pretty much anywhere we wanted, we randomly jumped on the train to Paddington and went to find.... Paddington. Unfortunately I do not have a picture of him, because he was surrounded by people drinking coffee, but he's super cute and little and awesome. So that was a good start. 

The morning we spent wandering around Covent Garden, visiting Pollock's Toy Shop which just inspired us to make loads of toys for Ben and the new little one, taking pictures of the Moomin shop for Laura despite being convinced she must have been there (she had), and getting pretty cheap tickets for that evenings' performance of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Because it was a gorgeous day we went to have our picnic lunch in Hyde Park and had a bit of a wander, and then Rhys convinced me to get on a bus (!) in Central London (!) to get to the British Library to meet my sister. I don't get buses in Central London despite growing up in Greater London, because I never know where they go and am worried I'll get lost. Anyway, we got two buses and didn't get lost and my eyes were opened to the wonders of bus travel... (not really, but it was better than I thought). 

This is the British Library from across the road, and while we were waiting for my sister, who works up the road, we wandered up the stairs in the impressive entrance to see what a lovely shiny grand piano was doing there and saw a tiny sign tucked away in the corner saying that a few tickets for that evening's event with NEIL GAIMAN and DAVE MCKEAN had been released. Frantic moments ensued when we realised we already had tickets for Charlie that evening, so we rang round everyone we could think of who might want to see the fabulous Mr Gaiman, but nobody could go. I never thought there would be a day when I would pass on the chance to go to such an awesome event, but I did. To console ourselves we went into the exhibition, which is this one and if you have any interest in comics and are anywhere near London, I'd really recommend going and also checking out their programme of extra events which is pretty fantastic. Aside from the slightly creepy gangs of mannequins wearing V for Vendetta masks hiding round every corner, I added a large amount of graphic novels to my TBR list, including pretty much everything by Alan Moore, as all I've read is Watchmen and V for Vendetta. I did really well resisting all the graphic novels, books about graphic novels, and general literature related gifts in the awesome gift shop though, but then obviously we had to go over to the Forbidden Planet for a serious browse around their basement book department, during which time I picked up a silly amount of books and was (eventually) convinced to put them all back again. 

To console me for my lack of books, we headed back to Covent Garden because we'd been craving burgers for a few days and this guy said that Meat Market in Covent Garden was awesome, so we went and he was right. This is me with our food. The chips had cheese and onions on them and they were literally the greatest. 

I had a cheeseburger and the one closest to the camera is a mushroom cheesesteak which was also incredible. Food was gorgeous and not badly priced for London :-) And finally! Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you like musicals, and are a fan of the 1964 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film, you should see this. It's beautifully staged and the cast was impressive, especially the beautiful rendition of Pure Imagination towards the end. Here's a spectacularly attractive photo of me with a programme:

So that was yesterday. Today we went to Milton Keynes to meet up with a friend and while we were waiting for her we went to Collectomania, which Rhys used to go to when he was little with his parents, and we had a brilliant time. This is a picture of the hall full of stalls of graphic novels, comics and general memorabilia

I found a lady selling graphic novels at 50% off and bought a couple, of which I am very proud :-) There is a photo on Twitter, which I won't post here because let's face it, there's probably enough pictures in this post! Then we went a hung out in the sun by a lake and Benji played with a little girl who's two weeks older than him and gave her a kiss and it was adorable. 

So that's where I've been. How's everyone else's weekend?

Bout of Books: Days 4 & 5

Bout of Books

In all honesty there's not that much point in me really updating you on the past two days of Bout of Books as we're visiting my family and on Thursday I read two pages and yesterday I read about 10 :-( Hopefully today I will read a bit more, but we're off on an expedition so I promise nothing! On the plus side I did do a ton of amazing stuff yesterday, which you will hear about in another post :-) 

Pages Read: 12
Books read from: Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell
Number of books finished: 1!
Time Spent Reading: 20 minutes or so :-/

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Bout of Books: Day 3!

Bout of Books

Yesterday was day 3 of Bout of Books and I actually finished my first book, woo! Hospital appointments meant I spent the morning going in and out of rooms (into one to have my blood pressure taken, back to the waiting room, into another to have my blood sugar taken, back to waiting room, in for a scan, back to waiting room, into another to see the diabetes team, home) but did allow me some time to get some reading done and I managed to finish Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo which is amazing and I WILL be reviewing it in the not too distant future. The rest of the day was pretty much a write-off reading wise because due to a neighbour complaining about the fact that our child makes noise and occasionally we slightly raise our voices in order to hear each other, I now feel like I can't stay in at all during the day in case Benji annoys someone, so we spent the day walking in the pretty countryside, which was lovely but knackering and didn't leave much time for anything else!  Thursday might be better as we're off to my parents house for a few days, meaning there will be a lot more people around to cuddle Ben and pay him attention :-) 


Pages Read: 96 
Books read from: Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Number of books finished: 1!
Time Spent Reading: about an hour on and off


'This Made Me Think of That' hosted by My Overstuffed Bookshelves. For this challenge we have to take our current read and pair it with something. Currently I'm reading Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome which is the third book in the Swallows and Amazons series and its' obvious pairing in book terms is probably Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss. Otherwise, I'd pair it with cake. Any kind of cake, but probably fruit cake would go the best. Anybody who's read the books will see how they are cake. 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Announcing the SECOND Summer Ninja Book Swap!!

I am super excited! Sign ups for the Summer Ninja Book Swap are officially open and Hanna and I have been running the swaps for an entire year :-) The eagle eyed among you will notice that this is the same button we used last year, purely for continuity's sake of course. Feel free to nick it to put on your blogs. 

In case anybody doesn't know what a Ninja Book Swap is yet, here are the basics:
You sign up to send a fellow ninja a parcel containing a book or two from their wishlist (these do not have to be new, but must be in a condition you would be happy to receive yourself), a little gift based on a list of their likes and dislikes you will receive, and a card revealing who you are. There has been a little confusion in the past, but to retain the ninjaness, you won't send your parcel to the same person you receive a parcel from, that way everybody's parcel is a total surprise :-) 

Want to sign up? Of course you do! Here's a little list of what to do and the rules. There aren't many so please make sure you follow them all! 

**** Sign up by sending us an email at In the email you need to tell us:
       - your name and address details 
       - a link to your blog/goodreads/facebook page/twitter or tumblr account/wherever you have an 'internet presence'
        - a link to your book wishlist or alternatively a list of ten books you really want to read
        - a short list of your likes and dislikes (e.g. I like chocolate, Harry Potter and silver jewellery, I dislike pink things, bookmarks and anything overly girly) to help your partner when they're choosing your gift
         - Shipping preference - are you happy to send you parcel internationally or would you prefer to send only within your own country?
         - If you would like to send and receive TWO awesome parcels, please let us know! :-) 

  1. Email us at telling us all the above things by Sunday May 25th 
  2. Go shopping! And post your parcel by Monday June 30th - this is to give everybody plenty of time to shop as lots of people had issues with not having enough time last time. You can of course post it before this deadline if you're ready!
  3. PLEASE buy a book or two from your recipients wishlist as this is the only way (unless you already know them well) you'll know they don't have or haven't read the book already. 
  4. Books can of course be second hand but please do not send copies in a condition you'd be unhappy to receive yourself and PLEASE do not send anything that is obviously a promotional copy (e.g says '£1 with Galaxy Chocolate/The Daily Express) as it makes it seem like you've not bothered!
  5. Email us both once you have SENT and RECEIVED your parcel, so we can keep track and make sure that everyone's playing fair :-) 
  6. Please get proof of postage when sending your parcel, as if you don't and the parcel goes missing you a) won't be able to claim via Royal Mail and b)won't be able to participate in future swaps. 
The swaps are a massive amount of fun and a brilliant way to get to know new bloggers and feel like the world is a lovely place full of lovely strangers who want to buy and send you gorgeous bookish parcels for no reason :-) If you want to keep up with what's going on, follow us on Twitter @NinjaBookSwap, where we will be posting updates and generally making a lot of book swap related noise. Please feel free to blog about the swap and tweet us the links to your posts - we'll be happy to share!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Bout of Books: Day 2

Bout of Books

So... it's day two of the Bout of Books Readathon! I realised yesterday I failed to link to anything useful, so if you want to sign up to join in with the fun, today is the last day to do so and you can do it here

If you're interested, my goals,stats and challenge for Day 1 are here


Pages Read: 23 altogether 
Books read from: Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome
Number of books finished: 2 if you count having read the same Pingu book twice to Benji. 0 of my own books. 
Time Spent Reading: probably about 45 fragmented minutes

It's 1.30pm and so far my Tuesday has been a RUBBISH reading day! I managed to read two pages of Peter Duck early this morning before Rhys left for work while we were all eating breakfast, but the rest of the morning was spent playing with and reading to Ben and since he's given up sleeping in his bed during the day I then spent about three hours walking around doing various chores with him in the pushchair, hoping he'd fall asleep which he has just done and I swear I must have walked about three miles by now, up hills and everything. I'm knackered! Anyway, since I can't use the laptop when he's awake because he likes to 'type' on it (for which read thump the keyboard as hard as he can and occasionally sit on the screen :-/) I thought I'd take advantage of the brief time period to write a post for today, participate in todays challenges, both of which look really good, and have a little read of some other blogs too! 

I'm hoping I'll get to read a lot more later, after Ben's in bed, but I also have business taxy stuff to do, so maybe not.... 

It didn't get a huge amount better, because I had a lot of business stuff to do and some orders to work on (look at me, I'm a busy crafty entrepreneur) and by the time I actually settled down to read it was quite late and I was quite tired. Never mind, bring on Wednesday! :-) 


Bookish Battle Royal Challenge hosted by My Life in Books

For this challenge the idea is to pick 3 characters and have them battle it out! I love it. My three are:
Jo March from Little Women (we don't really need to talk about how much I dislike the Winona Ryder film right now, she is here for representational purposes and that is all)

Hermione Granger from Harry Potter

aaaaand Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series

I think it would be a really close call, but in the end Hermione would win, purely because of the three of them she's the least inclined to get overly emotional about stuff. This may have a lot to do with having been created a century or so after the other two, but still I'm sticking with it! I think Anne would definitely give her a run for her money though, while Jo would be up a tree somewhere, writing about the whole experience!

The second challenge of the day is hosted by River City Reading. For this challenge, all we have to do is to make a list of books we're looking forward to, and I have quite a few at the moment!

1. The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba - not out yet, as far as I'm aware currently without a release date, but when it eventually turns up it will be epic, I can tell.
2. Fangirl & Landline by Rainbow Rowell - because I'm the last person in the whole world not to own Fangirl, but having read and obsessed about and adored Attachments and Eleanor and Park I cannot wait to read anything and everything Rowell ever writes. For the moment I'll settle for the two currently published though!
3. The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris - You guys know how I feel about mythology, and I think I've read all of the novels Joanne Harris has published so far and loved them all, to greater and lesser degrees. Somehow The Gospel of Loki came out without me noticing and I'm dying to read it!
4. The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas - also not out yet but due in 2015 I think. I love Scarlett Thomas for she is brilliant and so I must read all of the things that she writes. Yes. *wanders off to find Our Tragic Universe to read again*
5. Fables: Witches and Fairest:Wide Awake by Bill Willingham - both in print (yay!), I've been reading the Fables series for a while but it's slow going because my local library service only have a few of them and I'm a bit cash - strapped at the moment so I've been awaiting the right moment to buy volume 14 for a while. Fairest is the new series, focusing on the female fables characters and it seems like it's going to be great!

I'm going to stop there, although I could go on forever, because I feel like with the amount of people taking part in BoB this time you lot are going to have more than enough to add to your TBRs already! :-) 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Bout of Books - Goals & Day 1!

Bout of Books

So because I totally suck, I actually didn't realise until this morning that Bout of Books was starting today! Luckily I had three books with me, so I got started on the train :-) At the moment I'm pretty manically busy with work, sorting out my craft business, entertaining an 18 month old, trying to keep the house livable, oh, and being 8 months pregnant and knackered, so i'm going to keep my goals simple! The manic activity is represented in the books I'm currently reading, all of which I'm part way through, so my basic goals are thus;
  • Read every day
  • Participate in at least one challenge a day
  • Visit two new to me blogs a day (and pop across and say hi to EllieKatie and Hanna)
That's it! Seriously simple. Because you've not seen them yet, here are my books:

And here are my stats for day one:

Pages Read: approx 120 
Books read from: Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, Craft Show & Sell by Torie Jayne, and (not pictured) Toast & Marmalade (otherwise known as 'the bacon book') by Emma Bridgewater. 
Number of books finished: 0
Time Spent Reading: Probably about 2.5-3 hours all in. 

After having forgotten, as previously mentioned, that Bout of Books started today, I managed to kick off to a good start reading Flora & Ulysses on the train. I've never read any Kate DiCamillo and it was one of those surprising times where Rhys has discovered an author and pushed her on me, and I'm really glad he has. Flora & Ulysses is about a girl called Flora and a squirrel with superpowers called Ulysses and so far it's hilarious and great. I love it. I also dipped into Craft Show & Sell a bit on the train. Basically it's full of tips on how to run a successful craft business, and probably not all that interesting to those of you who don't do that :-p Toast & Marmalade is not pictured because *mumbles* we sell it at work and I haven't actually bought it, I just read it when it's quiet. It's an interesting, very self-interested account of Emma Bridgewater (who runs the pottery business) and her many talents. It does have great photography though, and recipes, so it's a winner for me despite the self-absorption!


The first challenge for this Bout of Books is a recommendation challenge, and I thought I'd give it a go because obviously everybody needs more books on their tbr... :-/

Here are my recommendations:

If you like Scott Pilgrim vs the World by Bryan Lee O'Malley, try Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo.

If you like beautiful writing and magical fantasy, try The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

If you like mythology and amazing stories, try The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My last one is kind of an anti-recommendation? I don't know, see what you think!

If you don't like Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, try The Radleys by Matt Haig

So that's day one! I'm off to visit a few of you now :-) SO EXCITED to be blogging again!!