Monday 30 September 2013

Some Things Around Here Need to Change...

You may have noticed that I’ve not been blogging much lately. I’ve lost count of the number of reviews I’ve started and then given up on half way through, unable to find anything to say that even interests myself, let alone anyone else. We’re more than three quarters through the year and I’ve achieved none of my reading challenge goals, nor am I going to, and that’s starting to get to me. Blogging has never been a burden to me, it never will be. I won’t let it because this is what I do for fun, so I’m making some changes

1.       I am no longer going to put any pressure on myself to review everything I read, or even most of the things I read. I plan to do a lot more mini reviews, and if I really have nothing to say about a book I will just mention it in my Saturday posts and say whether I liked or disliked it.

2.      I’m going to do a weekly Saturday post. It might be about books, it might not, but I do miss blogging. I miss the rhythm of regularly writing and getting everything out there, and I miss the interaction, so I’d like that back please!

I’ve been a totally crap host of The Telling Tales Challenge this year. There will be a link up post going up tomorrow for the first time in three months, and I will keep hosting the challenge because I love it. I will probably keep running it in 2014 as well, but (drumroll please) aside from that and The Classics Club, I am, from this very moment dropping out of all of the challenges I’ve signed up for. No more pressure, no more lists, no more feeling like I’ll never get to read the books on my shelf because of all the other books I ‘have’ to read.

Today we went for a wander round Waterstone’s before Benji’s bedtime, and it was just us and the staff in there and it was so quiet and relaxing. Rhys took Benji off to the kids section and read him The Very Hungry Caterpillar and played with Gruffalo hand puppets, and I just browsed, and this will probably sound ridiculous but I was so happy. I kept thinking this is my place, why have I stayed away so long? It’s been ages since I just browsed in any book shops really, without having to worry about what Benji was doing and if he needed to eat or whatever, and then I went to find him and he was giggling his head off to The Very Hungry Caterpillar finger puppet book and a noisy book about farms and it makes me so happy to see that he’s growing into a love of books just like I have, and I feel that I’ve lost that a bit lately and I’d like to find it again.

I’m making another list, which will be on a separate page in the blog, just so I can keep track of it, and it’s a list of all the unread books I have in my house. From now on I plan to read from my shelves and from the library. I think the library (and the Ninja Book Swaps throughout the year!) will give me the freedom to read things that I really have to read right now, and reading from my shelves will let me read all those books I just had to read right then when I bought them a year or two or five ago.

I feel better and more relaxed just from having written this post.  You’ll probably notice an increase in personal and craft related posts around here, as well as participation in memes and suchlike. There will still be reviews, of course, but only of the books I felt really strongly about probably. Keep your fingers crossed that this works for me :-) 

Saturday 21 September 2013

Banned Books Week Rant & a GIVEAWAY!

This year the Banned Books week event hosted by Sheila at Book Journey is taking place a week earlier than usual, and I thought I'd extend last years' rant into something more personal. As usual I was meant to be reading a banned book but haven't managed to finish it and so instead I'm going to talk about some of the most frequently challenged books (according to the American Library Association; aside from the whole Fifty Shades of Grey thing you don't hear too much about banning here in the UK thank goodness!) of 2012-2013. These books are all books that I've really enjoyed or which have affected me in some way, and bear in mind that these are only the books from one year - there are a hell of a lot more of my most influential books which have been banned or challenged in the past!

Firstly: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood was challenged as required reading for high school students but not banned, for being "sexually explicit, violently graphic and morally corrupt". Admittedly I'm well overdue on a reread of this, but when I first read it as a teenager (I think I was about 15 or so) I don't remember it being needlessly sexually explicit or violently graphic. Atwood usually doesn't put things in her books for them to just be there; there is generally a point to it. Also I love when things are accused of being 'morally corrupt'. What does that even mean? Just because a book doesn't preach a certain morality and ram it down your throat doesn't mean that it has no morals. A lot of books (and this is definitely one of them!) encourage you to start thinking about certain issues for yourself and working out what your own opinions are. How can that be a bad thing to teach teenagers? 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was also challenged by not banned in Ohio for dealing with alcohol, sex, homosexuality and abuse. So if a book contains issues which affect teenagers, they should be banned from reading it? Obviously if you stop them reading the book none of them will ever drink, have sex or be gay. If you don't let them read about abuse they won't know that it happens. Of course. I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the first time this year after seeing the amazing film and I thought they were both just beautiful pieces of storytelling, and captured brilliantly the way teenagers can be affected by things, and also a lot of what it feels like to be a teenager. It would be lovely if nothing shit ever happened to anybody, but let's be honest that's probably never going to be the case and so how does pretending that it is help?

Looking for Alaska by John Green was banned as required reading for high school students for its' use of 'inappropriate language'. I literally cannot get my head around this. I just read Looking for Alaska this year, and there is no language in it that your average teenager wouldn't hear walking down the street or hanging out in McDonalds! Also, because people in books talk a certain way that doesn't mean the people reading the books have to speak that way? Although this wasn't my favourite of John Green's novels so far, I did really enjoy it and again it has subject matter which could be helpful to people going through certain situations.

And finally, the one that absolutely blew my mind. Drumroll please!.......
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi was removed from Chicago high schools for various silly reasons. I have quoted directly from the list for this as the students basically kicked ass and got the book reinstated. Here's what they did:
As the news spread of the directive, students mobilized a media campaign in opposition to “banning a book that’s all about the freedom of speech.” Students took to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, checked out all library copies of the book, wrote blogs, sent e-mails, wrote investigative articles for the student newspaper, contacted the author, staged protests, and appeared on local radio and television programs. Eventually, the school issued a letter telling high school principals to disregard the earlier order to pull the book.
Quoted from

I love this! I just reread my own review of Persepolis from when I first read it over two years ago and my final thought on it was that I loved the quote about how you have to educate yourself. This is just basically a direct illustration of that, and of every point I've been trying to make in this post. Banning books is silly - by banning a book you are not going to stop the issues it addresses from existing, nor are you going to stop your children from coming into contact with them. Instead of getting hysterical about things and trying to have them banned, try having an honest discussion. Kids aren't stupid and they usually appreciate not being treated like morons.

As it's a banned books week event and I want to CELEBRATE our right to read, I'm offering you a chance to win your choice of one of the four books I've mentioned above :-D To enter all you have to do is to fill in the form! I will pick a winner one week from today, and you can live anywhere the unholy shop of evil (aka Amazon) ships to. Enjoy!

Tuesday 17 September 2013

A Little Bit of Poetry

Some of you guys will know that I have a bit of a soft spot for poetry, and also that I've been itching to take another literature related course for a while now. Currently I'm taking a Coursera course in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, mostly because I have very little knowledge of American literature in any form, and I'm really enjoying it. I do feel kind of uneducated in it though, because (and I've been saying this to people for years) I'm pretty sure that the American education system encourages the development of the brain much more than ours does. People seem to be always asking questions and comparing things to other things and just generally knowing a lot, but anyway. The reason for this post is that for the first weeks' classes I had to read quite a bit of Emily Dickinson, which I love, and I read this and couldn't get it out of my head. It's much better than the Philippa Gregory book I've yet to finish my review of, so you can have it to fill in the gap :-) 

I dwell in Possibility – (466)

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

Saturday 14 September 2013

A-Z Reader Survey

Lots of you will know how much I love lists, so when I saw this on Melissa's blog I had to give it a go myself!

Authors you've read the most books from:
Neil Gaiman,Joanne Harris, Alexander McCall Smith, Jane Green, Terry Pratchett, Jodi Picoult, Dorothy Koomson, Philippa Gregory, Douglas Adams, Noel Streatfeild, Enid Blyton, Scarlett Thomas. 

Best sequel ever:
Actually, my favourite is possibly The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris, sequel to Chocolat. The third book, Peaches for Monsieur le Cure is pretty great too. 

Currently reading:
Waaay too many books....The Fearless Treasure by Noel Streatfeild, The White Princess by Philippa Gregory, The Book of Christmas by Jane Struthers, The Historian by Elisabeth Kostova & been carrying around Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter in my bag as well...

Drink of choice while reading:
Tea or water usually. Coca cola if we have it, but we don't very often..

Ereader or physical book:
Physical books all the way. Hate reading electronically and I love the feel and smell of books and being surrounded by them :-) 

Fictional character that you probably would have dated in high school:
Ok, don't kick me. I kind of hate the books now, but probably Jacob from Twilight.Sorry.

Glad you gave this book a chance:
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and everything I've read so far by Dickens. All massively hard work in the beginning but SO WORTH IT in the end. 

Hidden Gem book:
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor or Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas. Both awesome and gorgeous. 

Important moment in your reading life:
Reading Little Women on my own in one sitting on my back step, the summer I was eight. 

Just Finished:
I hate that I have no answer to this. It feels like aaages since I finished a book! I'm just about to finish The White Princess, does that count?

Kind of books you won't read:
Fifty Shades of Grey. I tried to make myself just so I could actually judge it for itself, rather than based on other people's opinions, but I just can't make myself when there's so much in the world that I actually want to read.

Longest book you read:
Probably Anna Karenina. That was a few years ago now though. I probably should start reading bigger books again!
Major book hangover because of:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Harry Potter and Little Women. Nothing comes close. 

Number of bookcases you own: Plus one built in to the wall...

One book you've read multiple times:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Preferred place to read:
Curled up in my armchair, the bath, or bed. 

Quote that inspires you:
Not from a book, but "If you have enough book space, I don't want to talk to you" - Terry Pratchett. My inspiration for continuing to buy books despite having nowhere to put them!

Reading Regret:
The Da Vinci Code. That was bad. 

Series you started and need to finish:
Many! Game of Thrones by George R.R Martin, several by Robin Hobb, the one about the mirror by Ian Irvine (lots of fantasy here, can you see?), Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich & the Isabel Dalhousie ones by Alexander McCall Smith. I never read them in order though so I forget which I've read and which I haven't!
Three of your all-time favorite books:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis

Unapologetic fangirl for:
Neil Gaiman (I'm going to seeeeeeee him in a few weeks!!!!!!)
All things Harry Potter related. Except Daniel Radcliffe. 

Very excited for this release:
The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas

Worst bookish habit:
Dogearing. Can't stop it. 

Xmarks the spot! Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:
The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling by Lawrence Block

Your last bookish purchase:
The Hive by Gill Hornby 

Zzz-snactcher. Which book kept you up way to late:
The Night Circus and also The White Princess and Harry Potter every time I read it. 

Monday 9 September 2013

It's Here! The Trick or Treat Ninja Book Swap!

I've been hinting about this for a while on Twitter, but after days of discussion Hanna and I are delighted to announce The Ninja Book Swap: Mark Two. It's going to be amazing, and this time we have come up with a few little twists. 

For those who didn't participate last time (and why not?!) the basic idea behind it is that everybody who wants to participate is matched up with somebody else and sends them a parcel containing a couple of books from their wishlists, plus a card and a little present of some description. During the summer it seemed to go off very well with bloggers around the world opening parcels with glee (yes, glee), so we're hoping it will be similarly great this time. 

If you're happy with how it went last time and just want to sign up to do a straight Ninja Book Swap (books from wishlist, present based on likes and dislikes of the person you're sending to) then we are really happy for you to do that, however.... we have also come up with a 'Trick or Treat' option this time, in honour of Halloween. If you'd like to participate in the Trick or Treat swap, the idea is thus: 

  • As well as all the usual info we ask for, you tell us what your three favourite books of all time are, plus a genre that you would like to read more of.
  • We will then match you (hopefully) with somebody who has a favourite book in the genre you want to read more of, and they will send you that book as your 'trick'. 
  • As your 'treat' they can either send a book from your wishlist as well as a little present (which can be a silly halloween themed gift, or something more serious, up to you), or just the present depending on finances! 
There is also the option to sign up to send and receive two parcels (double the fun, double the shopping, double the glee!)

Sound good? Want to join in? Of course you do! Here's what you do:
  • Send us an email at ninjabookswap(at)outlook(dot)com with either 'Ninja Book Swap' or 'Trick or Treat Book Swap' as the subject, depending whether you want to do a straight swap or the trick or treat version. You are very welcome to sign up for one of each, or two of one, but please send us two separate emails as it's easier to keep everything straight that way! You need to send us you sign up email by 30th September. 
  • In the email/s we need the following information: your name, address, blog link, wishlist link, list of likes and dislikes (e.g. I like chocolate, bookmarks, and Harry Potter, I dislike pink things, sparkly things, dogs), whether you're willing to send internationally (yes/no/if I have to), and whether you mind your person buying something that isn't on your wishlist. FOR THE TRICK OR TREAT SWAP please also send us your three favourite books and a genre or two that you would like to read more of. 
  • We will then match you up with your swappee and send you the information. You then need to do your shopping, make a lovely parcel and send it out no later than October 14th
  • Once you have sent your parcel please send us an email letting us know, and another email when you have received your parcel. This is so that we can make sure that nobody is left out. 
We would really appreciate it if you would like to blog/tweet/facebook/whatever other social media type things you do about the swap as the more people who take part, the more fun it is, and last time lots of people posted once they'd received their parcels which was great, but is by no means obligatory! Happy swapping!

Sunday 8 September 2013

How I Fell Off the Book Buying Ban Wagon, Into a Heap of Books...

Let me preface this by saying that in my mind, I have succeeded with the task I set myself. I set out to beat 3 months without buying books for myself, and I did SIX. This is amazing to me. Unfortunately then we went on holiday, and I allowed myself to buy books 'just while we were away', which then turned into 'all the time, whenever I leave the house'. So yeah.

Before you all have heart attacks, this is my pile from the last two months, so it's not as bad as it looks... (it is missing a few of the children's books that I bought though,as I've put them away, and a couple I bought on holiday as my sister now has them!)

They're stacked weirdly because they're the result of several different shopping trips, so I will go from top to bottom:
  • The top two, The Price of Fame by Maisie Mosco and When It Happens to You by Molly Ringwald were bought on holiday in Devon  (along with a couple of chick lit type books and a James Bond that I can neither find nor remember which one it was), Maisie Mosco because it is the third book in a trilogy I already have one of, and Molly Ringwald mostly because I love The Breakfast Club and was curious...
  • Just Listen by Sarah Dessen and The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst were bought from a lovely second hand bookshop in Lewes when we were there recently. I was killing time while Rhys was at an interview (which he didn't get, so we'll still be living next to the sea for the forseeable future!) and there were a few bookshops. It would have been rude not to go in!
  • Fairy Stories by E. Nesbit was a local purchase (Oxfam Bookshop in Canterbury). Although I'm massively failing at it, she is my author of the year and I've never seen this before, so it's a nice addition to my fairytales collection. 
  • The Enormous Room by E.E Cummings, Farewell Miss Julie Logan by J.M Barrie & The Hive by Gill Hornby were purchases from a recent trip to Deal & Folkestone with my sister and her boyfriend (and Rhys and Benji, obviously). We discovered a second hand bookshop in Deal that I've never been to before and were ridiculously excited to find the Barrie book, as I don't think I've ever found any of his work that isn't Peter Pan anywhere! The Hive is by Nick Hornby's sister and I wanted to get it after I heard her talking (via Radio 2) at the Edinburgh Book Festival. It sounds interesting and I want to see if she's as enjoyable a writer as her brother. 
  • The Crimson Fairy Book by Andrew Lang was an addition from our day out in London minus baby for Rhys' birthday. I got really excited when I found it as you don't see them very much. So far I only have one and being the massive geek I am, I'm obviously trying to get all of them...
  • Elephants Don't Sit on Cars by David Henry Wilson (which is part of his series of books about Jeremy James and seriously, if you have children/know any children/need to buy presents for children you should be buying these books. They are absolutely hilarious and amazing), The Wandering Wombles by Elisabeth Beresford, Nights with Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris (another addition to the folklore collection and one I've never seen second hand before), and Santa: A Life by Jeremy Seal were all acquisitions from my favourite charity bookshop in Margate. 
So yes, that happened. I'm madly busy this week/month/year as (yay) my business has started to pick up a bit so I'm knitting like a madwoman, as well as which I'm taking a course on Coursera in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, because I miss literature, as well as trying to read The Historian for the RIP readalong at the Estella Society and organise the Halloween Ninja Book Swap :-) I am busy, and I love it! There will hopefully be some reviews/bookish posts in between this madness. I will try to be here as much as I can, but in the meantime, who's excited about Halloween swapping? I know I am! Look out for sign up details which will be going up soon!