Sunday 31 May 2015

Currently: May in Review

How how how is it the end of May already?? This year is passing insanely fast! There were a few posts I wanted to write this evening and so I thought I'd try to tie them all together into a big review post of the month of madness that was May and some about what I'm looking forward to over June  and July and thennn link up with Ellie's Things That Made Me Happy post because everything in this post is a thing that makes me happy.

Time and Place 8:02 in my chair in my living room. It is actually exactly the same time as it was when I wrote my monthly wrap up for April. I am nothing if not predictable.

Reading A lot. May was the month of the Re-Readathon and Bout of Books which both provided a lot of motivation! In total I finished eleven books and am part way through another four.

The books I finished were:

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life and Scott Pilgrim vs the World by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery (all for the re-readathon)
The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton (both during Bout of Books)
Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood (Confession: Ellie, I already owned this and saw it on your wishlist so wanted to give it to you but also really wanted to read it myself so it has been very cautiously read by me first! Sorry!)
The Artful Parent by Jean Van'T Hul
Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Saga Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Apparently I only actually reviewed one but oh my God so many book I loved this month! All the re-reads were massive winners and The Rehearsal was so incredibly good. And then Saga. Just still so good. If anyone wants to buy me volume 3 (and 4 and 5) for my birthday that would be totally fine.

I'm going to write about The Artful Parent at some point as well because it was incredibly inspiring. I think I convinced our librarian that she should take it out straight after I returned it too, so that's a win. While I'm getting around to it though, you should check out Jean Van'T Hul's blog of the same name here. Probably only if you're interested in kids or creativity or creativity for kids though.

Watching Glee, Glee, all the Glee. We hadn't watched any since Cory Monteith died and were stuck at the end of season 3 but we decided to buy season 4 as a treat to ourselves and then we got season 5 cheap on eBay and are part way through it. I feel like they did a good job with losing an actor part way through and I still have a soft spot in my heart for it. That said, I can see why it finished with much lower ratings than it started with. Obviously we're getting season 6 so we can finish it off and I think we'll probably keep all the box sets once we're done for a big rewatch in a few months. What can I say? We're big fans of anything musically inclined around here!

We also rewatched Into the Woods the other day, which I wrote about for Fairytale Fridays. God I love that film.

Blogging apparently I am still in love with blogging which is awesome. I've blogged a lot this month so I'll try to group the posts together to make it easier in case you missed anything!

Inspiration on Monday (TBR Tin and Resources to Inspire Creativity)
April Wrap Up
Five Things That Have Made Me Happier
Bout of Books
Some book awards to help fill my TBR with diverse books!
Armchair BEA (Intro, Graphic Novels, Characters, Book to Movie Adaptations)

Cooking Carbonara for the first time in years. It was incredible. We've also baked biscuits a lot this month. We have a big bag of cutters and Benji likes to get them all out and we have to make a biscuit in the shape of each cutter. His favourite are tar-is (tardis) and 'angul' (weeping angel). I feel like we're raising him well...

Loving Our garden! Every time I step out the door there are more potato plants! We honestly have about thirty, if they all do well I have no idea what we're going to do with all the potatoes! Anybody want some? :-p

Sam, sweeping outside the tent

Also loving it being warm enough to be outside a lot. We took a trip to the zoo (the big on 30 miles away not the little one we visit all the time) because we have a year long pass and actually managed to go on the safari bus this time which takes you right through the giraffe enclosure. It was pretty awesome. If you follow me on Instagram you'll probably have seen our outdoor reading tent made of curtains and bedsheets. One day we had sausage sandwiches for breakfast in it while reading stories. The boys loved it.
Not sure what's going on with Ben's face, but yay, sausage sandwiches!

Anticipating So much! June is the month of everything! This week coming I'm taking part in the #TBRTakedown (announcement video here). There are five challenges which are: 1. A book that's been on your shelf more than a year, 2. The first book in a series, 3.An unread sequel 4. A book outside your comfort zone, 5. A book from your most recent haul

Mine fit the bill from top to bottom, the top being 1, the bottom being 5. Crown of Midnight is being replaced by Heir of Fire though, as I finished it today!

Also starting this month is Allie's Victorian Celebration. Although I'm not going to be starting it until the second week of the month at the earliest I have plans for a Charlotte Bronte - probably The Professor or Villette - and an attempt at finally starting Middlemarch. We'll see.

Non-bookishly I'm also taking part in The Wildlife Trusts' #30dayswild challenge. Pretty much what it says on the tin; do something 'wild' every day in June. This can be as small as taking a walk in a wild place or photographing a butterfly. I'm looking forward to it.

******Fundraising Update******
It's now been over two months since I last bought a book for myself or the boys! I'm reading from my own shelves and loving it. I still have about £30 outstanding (grrrr come on family!) sponsorship from the Readathon but I'm at £118.45 of my £300 target by December. If you'd like to support me by donating to Beanstalk and helping children's literacy programs around the country you can do that here or you can see the books I'm currently selling in aid of the charity here.

What did your May look like? Did you read anything great? Go anywhere amazing? Watch anything I should have seen? Tell me about it!

Saturday 30 May 2015

Armchair BEA: Book to Movie Adaptations and a Giveaway!

Ok so something happened yesterday which had me posting three times in one day; unheard of in the history of my blog but it was necessary. Anyway today I am back to just the one post, focusing on the topic for Armchair BEA: book to movie adaptations!

Honestly I love to see adaptations of the books I love. Some of my favourite films are adaptations of books, but if I could give just one piece of advice on seeing adaptations of books you love it would be this:

Please please please DO NOT read the book just before going to see the movie. Just don't do it. You will be disappointed. Even if the movie is the best adaptation ever (and especially if it isn't). 

The only way that I was able to enjoy most of the Harry Potter films (sorry I'm going to switch between using film and movie, because that's what I do in life) was because I hadn't read any of them immediately before going to see them and so was only vaguely aware of what they'd missed out or added in (except in the sixth film because practically the whole thing was made up). Anyway, that's my tip.

Some books I've reviewed since I started blogging which have been turned into movies that weren't awful:

We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee - So the film was set in the US and starred Matt Damon as opposed to being set on cold and rainy Dartmoor and starring this guy:

hair aside, I can see the resemblance actually...
but it was still pretty good I thought. 

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien. I haven't actually seen these except the first one but I enjoyed that, and I do own The Desolation of Smaug but haven't geared myself up for the extended edition yet. 

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes. Actually I think I might like the film of this more than the graphic novel, although that's really good too. The cast of the film are just perfect. 

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore. The first book I ever reviewed on this blog and an amazingly amazing film. If you haven't seen this film yet you really should, it's so clever. 

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. This film was really great - what's not to love about a book and film set in a circus? Beautiful with a really touching storyline and Robert Pattison was unexpectedly good. 

And two I'm looking forward to: 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed - love love love the book and I also love Reese Witherspoon so I need this film!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Not sure why I haven't seen this yet because The Hunger Games movie was so much better than I thought it would be, but they have the film in the library now so I have no excuse!

And as a little added extra you can win your choice of one title from this list! Just leave a way to contact you (twitter, email) in the comments and I'll pick on at random next week sometime. Happy Armchair BEA!

Friday 29 May 2015

Fairytale Fridays: Into the Woods

I don't talk about movies a lot here but in honour of this month's Fairytale Friday I thought I'd give myself a chance to branch out and talk about Into the Woods while obviously also giving myself an excuse to rewatch it!

For those who don't know, Into the Woods is a musical originally written for the stage by Stephen Sondheim (he of Sweeney Todd fame) and James Lapine which has recently been turned into a movie starring the likes of Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, James Corden, Emily Blunt with support from Johnny Depp, Chris Pine and that kid who played Gavroche in the movie of Les Mis. In it the stories of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk are tied together by the (invented) tale of the baker and his wife who must undo a curse in order to have a child. To undo the curse they have to find four things, and to find the things they must go into the woods...

The woods are such a big theme in fairytales that it seems the obvious setting. They represent fear, the loss of innocence, the unknown, losing things, finding things, self doubt, self knowledge, the list goes on and on. The woods in this movie are the setting for all of this and more as the fairytales have been adhered to in truly Grimmian style, ugly stepsisters being blinded by birds and all.

Visually Into the Woods is stunning, primarily set against a dark and often bleak backdrop with splashes of colour illuminating the magic. Personally I really liked the way that a lot of the effects were done in a very theatre way, for example Johnny Depp's wolf is just Johnny Depp in a wolfish kind of costume rather than a CG wolf. One of my favourite things about fairytales is how the magic is rooted very firmly in a familiar world and the theatricality that the film held onto made the feeling that although these magical things were happening, actually they could just as easily be happening to me very much stronger.

And let's talk about the cast! Musically (and lyrically) Sondheim's work is difficult to learn and to perform well. This is my third Sondheim experience, behind Sweeney Todd  (film and stage), and Assassins (stage) and although a lot of Sondheim fans have said that they disliked the cuts that were made from stage to film I have to say that when we watched the DVD we have of the stage show I fell asleep due to sheer length, so in my mind any cuts were for the better! There's always a hell of a lot going on and you do have to pay attention to the lyrics to get what they're singing about. Going into this I was slightly concerned about everyone except Johnny Depp and Anna Kendrick. Don't get me wrong,Meryl Streep is an incredible actress and I love Mamma Mia but nobody in that film really blew me away with their outstanding vocals and it's not particularly challenging singing, but I needn't have worried. Honestly there wasn't a weak link in sight!

Personal favourite moments include Johnny Depp's creepy creepy creepy rendition of Hello Little Girl, Meryl Streep's awesome performance of Children Will Listen and James Corden and Emily Blunt's duet of It Takes Two. I also thought Lilla Crawford who plays Red Riding Hood was incredible and hilarious and just played the part extremely well. Ohohoh and that song where they're all blaming each other. Awesome.

If you haven't seen it yet and need convincing, here's the trailer.

Fairytale Fridays is about to become a two weekly link up, the next one will be June 12th! Link up your posts for this week here.

Fairytale Friday #2

Hello everyone! This post was meant to go up at the beginning of the day but it's been craaaazy here and I didn't manage to get it done. There will be my thoughts on Into the Woods later this evening hopefully but right now both the boys are taking a nap and I expect one or both to wake up any second so I thought I'd get the linky up so you can link up anything you've written! Just to remind you, it doesn't have to be a new post, just related to fairytales or folklore in some way - books, characters, movies, visits you've taken, anything really! If you're on twitter or Instagram please use #fairytalefridays to spread the word :-)

Armchair BEA: Character Chatter

The topics for Armchair BEA today are Character Chatter and Blogging Q&A. Honestly I wasn't sure what to write about for today as I gave up on a lot of the traditional book blogging stuff (regularly reading/requesting ARCs, writing reviews of even most of the stuff I read etc) but I didn't want to just skip it so I'm going to talk about character.

Yesterday I wrote a long involved post for Visual Expressions but today I've been at work all day and our car just cost almost as much to fix as it did to buy so it's going to be a quick one!

Here are some of my favourite characters. Let me know if any of yours are the same!

* Eleanor and Park from Eleanor and Park. I need to re-read this book but I remember both of them feeling so absolutely real to me when I read it, I just loved them. Separately, together, they are the greatest.

* Meg from Our Tragic Universe. I love how everything in her life is a little bit shit and she finds solace through sock knitting and actually just crafts in general. I feel like Meg and I could be friends.

* Vianne from Chocolat. Ignore the film for a minute, Johnny Depp aside I feel like Vianne would be an awesome friend to have. She entirely kicks ass and also she can make amazing chocolate. What's not to love?

ok but also, Johnny Depp...
* Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre. Forget about Jane, I want to know what's going on with the man who keeps his mad wife locked up in the attic! I've always loved Rochester and I'd love to know what's actually going on in his head.

* Anne (of Green Gables). I recently revisited Anne and discovered that I still love her just as much as I ever did. How could I not? She talks all the time and is absolutely distraught over the fact of her red hair, as was I as a child, and is incredibly over the top about everything, again, as was I. She and I are kindred spirits.

I know I've missed some out but I'm writing this Thursday night and I still have a post to write for Fairytale Fridays and I just don't have enough energy right now! Hoepfully someone else will post about the ones I've missed out!

Thursday 28 May 2015

Armchair BEA: Visual Expressions (or Why Graphic Novels are Great)

Today's topic for Armchair BEA is Visual expressions which means I get to talk about graphic novels, hooray!

Guys, it's no secret that I love graphic novels but in the history of my reading I was a pretty late convert to them. As a kid I read comics - The Beano, The Dandy etc - but I never progressed from kid comics to comics aimed at older age groups. I was never that into superheroes and thus I became intimidated by the very concept of graphic novels. Also when I was a teenager being a girl in a comic book shop tended to be a difficult experience, much similar to being a (the only) girl in Game. I had to be in the mood for it and often I wasn't.

I could have drifted through life and not realised that great graphic novels were a thing, at least until I started blogging. The reason I didn't is, of course, down to one Mr. Neil Gaiman. I honestly do not remember how I discovered Neil Gaiman originally, only that my ex and I read Neverwhere practically at the same time (from the same copy too) and he then nicked all my Gaiman when we broke up at the end of the first year of Uni. This means that I didn't get my introduction to the wonderful world of Sandman until I was at least seventeen, but eventually get it I did and I loved it. There's something amazing about graphic novels and I'm still not sure what it is except perhaps obviously the combination of written storytelling with graphic - it's like getting a double dose of story. Instead of just being able to see it in your head you can actually see it and for me that makes it last that little bit longer and hit that little bit harder.

Yes a lot of graphic novels are quite graphic - Sandman, Fables, Saga, even the Scott Pilgrim books all have their moments of intense violence and/or graphic (ish) sex - but it never feels gratuitous, in the same way that it wouldn't in a standard novel. When I talk to people about why they don't read graphic novels the reservations seem to be thus:

1. Graphic novels are for people like this guy:

Either you have to be like him to read them or reading them makes you like him, I'm unclear, but either way it's understandably a great deterrent. (p.s look guys! My first gif!)

2. All graphic novels are about superheroes.

3. Graphic novels are a waste of money as they take half an hour to read and are more expensive than other books and less easy to get hold of second hand. 

4. They don't like fantasy/ there are no graphic novels in their preferred genre. 

I have responses to all of these points. Honestly, unless your reason is 'I just don't want to' you should give graphic novels a go because they are awesome. 

So firstly, just no. I don't know where this stereotype has come from unless it was just that in the 90s graphic novel shops were often full of vaguely unwashed teenage boys who couldn't make eye contact with the opposite sex except to glare from somewhere behind their hair/glasses at you for being in their shop, and so my local still is if you go there on a Saturday afternoon. The rest of the time it's totally fine, and honestly even then if you stare back at them for long enough they will retreat. In reality people who read graphic novels look like this:

One of these people is a famous author, the other three are not. Spot the celebrity!

Apologies to Katie for cutting your face out of the photo, I thought Hanna would appreciate my using this one more than the two year old one I have of her slightly frowning in Leeds!

Secondly, also no. Superheroes are publicised because they are superheroes but just because superhero graphic novels are the ones you know about doesn't mean they are the only ones that exist. For a great list of places you can start check out Rolling Stone's list of The 50 Best Non-Superhero Graphic Novels.

Thirdly, OK I kind of get the reasoning behind this. Some graphic novels are more expensive than standard novels (some however aren't. For example when I bought the first volume of Saga recently that was only £7.50, so a similar price to a full price brand new novel) but they have (often full colour) art in them so of course they're going to be more expensive. I imagine they're more expensive to produce and also have a smaller potential readership. People who know things about figures could probably give figures at this point, but I'm just using what seems like logic to me. I would say that buying graphic novels isn't a waste of money to me pretty much because they're so beautiful. It's like having an art collection but without having to find wall space for it (just bookshelf space). Also because they're so short you're probably more likely to reread them, thus value for money.

And fourthly, also no. Although a lot of popular graphic novels do fall into the fantasy genre there are graphic novels that fit into almost every genre. For example if you're a fan of biography try Naming Monsters by Hannah Eaton (you can even buy it off me for 50p plus postage!) or Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. If you'd like to learn more about other cultures I can't recommend Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi highly enough and Palestine by Joe Sacco is also good. For the foodies try Relish by Lucy Knisley. If you like your classics (or slight reworkings of the same) try The Rime of the Modern Mariner by Nick Hayes.

A couple of lists to help with ideas:
AbeBooks 50 Essential Graphic Novels
A Goodreads list of Comics & Graphic Novels by Women
Another Goodreads list of Graphic Novels featuring LGBTQ themes
30 Graphic Novels that will Make you Fall in Love with Graphic Novels

So all of that said I've been so excited to see the exponential growth of graphic novel readers, particularly around the blogosphere but also in general in the past year or so. I love to see people stretching outside of their comfort zones and finding something fantastic! If I've missed any of your favourites here please let me know in the comments, I'm always excited to add stuff to my TBR!

I didn't intend for this to be a 'smash all your reservations about graphic novels' kind of post but I'm quite glad it ended up that way, and I'm super excited to check out everyone else's visual expressions posts today!

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Armchair BEA: Intro Questions

Today kicks off Armchair BEA, an event for those of us who can't get to actual BEA for whatever reason. I've taken part a few times before and it's usually a really fun, relaxed event. Here are my intro questions, if you've taken part link your post in the comments so I can come and say hi!

Armchair BEA

So we have to answer five of the questions that they've provided over at the Armchair BEA website. These are the ones I've picked:

Tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been blogging? Where are you from? How did you get into blogging?

Probably lots of you will know all this already but for those who don't, hi, I'm Bex. I'm from the South East coast of England (although originally a Londoner) and I've been blogging four and a half years. I started blogging when we moved to Kent from London, away from my family and friends and I was only working part time and needed something to do basically. Also I'd got to the stage with my reading where I'd totally forgotten what I'd read and couldn't recommend stuff when people asked for recommendations because of that. I thought it would be helpful to keep track of my reading somewhere and so it has proved to be!

What does diversity mean to you? 

This is such a difficult question because diversity can mean so many things, but basically for me diversity, and I'm talking specifically in literature here, is anything written by an author or featuring main character/s who are different than me - i.e not white, straight, and British or American (obviously I am not American but I feel like British and American culture has a lot in common so I'm looking to read outside of that). I am making an effort to read more diversely this year and the things I track are ethnic heritage (i.e if a person is from or has parents who were from a country other than Britain/US), sexual orientation, whether a book is translated or not and the authors' gender, although I'm actually not focusing so much on gender as I tend to read a pretty even split. If anything, more women than men.

What is one book everyone should read?

Difficult question, there are so many! I'm going to go for The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern though. It's amazing.

Share your favourite post on your blog

I can't narrow it down to one, but I think this post about bedtime stories or the post I wrote the first year I took part in the Banned Books Week event are my favourites.  Oh oh, or this post about libraries to tie in with today's other topic - library love!

What book are you reading right now?

I'm terrible for reading two or three things at a time, so right now I'm reading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki aaaaand Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Because I'm reading three things at once I'm not moving awfully fast with any of them!

So that's me! If you want more info about Armchair BEA you can find it here.

Monday 25 May 2015

Armchair BEA!

It is all going on during May this year! First there was the awesome Re-Readathon, then Bout of Books and nowwwwww Armchair BEA! I'm glad I'm all into the reading and blogging at the moment or I might be feeling overwhelmed by now.

Armchair BEA

For those who don't know, Armchair BEA is an annual blogging event which coincides with BEA (Book Expo America) in New York and is specifically designed for those of us who are unable to attend. Each day has a couple of fun topics for us to engage with and write about and it's a brilliant way to connect with other bloggers and discover fantastic new to you blogs! This is the agenda for 2015:

If you want to join the fun (and why wouldn't you?) you can sign up here. Also this year's theme is diversity which is just awesome for me and I'm so excited to work it into my posts! Are you taking part? What are you most looking forward to? 

Saturday 23 May 2015

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

I want to say so much about this book; there are so many pages I've turned over at the bottom (my way of remembering a quote) it's verging on the ridiculous. I don't like writing long reviews though so the chances are that I will say very little of what I actually have to say about The Rehearsal here and leave you to discover the rest for yourselves.

I put this book on my wishlist because I wanted to read some Eleanor Catton and was scared of the size of The Luminaries so I used The Rehearsal to test the waters, so to speak, and they passed the test with flying colours.

I can't really give you a synopsis of the book but the general idea is that there is a play based around events which have actually happened and both the story of the play and the actual events are told through the novel. Really The Rehearsal is about (at least in my reading of it) the nature of reality and whether something can become a fact just by a person believing it enough. It's about what people say and what's true and whether what people say can ever be true. It blurs the lines between pretty much everything and maybe it's just me but I found it difficult to get everything straight in my head until the end. I mean this in the best possible way - the story was so intriguing and thought provoking and well told that it was difficult to know what was the play and what was reality. Basically this book is just incredible. The writing is fantastic and the plot is so well thought out and just read it. I'm going to go see if the library has The Luminaries now because I need more. Such a fantastic writer.

Monday 18 May 2015

Diversity TBR: Literary Awards

In case you were unaware, I really like lists. I particularly like impossibly long longlists for literary awards which I have little to no chance of ever completing a full read before the shortlist, and eventual winner, are announced. In pursuit of that elusive diversity that I'm after this year I've been doing a little research into some awards which are non-UK or USA based. There are a few whose past winners I'd love to add to my (ridiculous, unmanageable and once again ridiculous) TBR.

The Hans Christian Andersen Award

This is a pair of awards presented by the International Board on Books for Young People to a living author and a living illustrator for their lasting contribution to children's literature. It does include a lot of British and American authors/illustrators but also a lot from other countries. Some I'm excited to explore include Erich Kastner, Tove Jansson, Eleanor Farjeon, and Uri Orlev. Unfortunately a lot of the authors who have won don't seem to have work available in translation which (due to the fact that I'm rubbish at languages) limits the amount I can read. I shall do my best though!

Etisalat Prize for Literature

Established in 2013 (so not too much backlist to catch up with!) this is the first Pan-African prize for a first-time African writer of a fiction book. There are only two winners so far one of which (We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo) was already on my radar but I'll definitely be keeping my eyes on it!

Asian Literary Prize (Formerly the Man Asian Literary Prize)

Awarded yearly from 2007 to 2012 to the best novel by an Asian writer, written or translated into English published in the previous calendar  year. I like the look of a lot of the winners. For reference, they are thus:
* Wolf Totem - Jiang Rong (2007)
* Ilustrado - Miguel Syjuco (2008)
* The Boat to Redemption - Su Tong (2009)
* Three Sisters - Bi Fieyu (2010)
* Please Look After Mom - Shin Kyung-sook (2011)
* The Garden of Evening Mists - Tan Twang Eng (2012)

Caine Prize 

Awarded for the best original short story by an African writer written in the English language. I have an issue with the majority of the African authors I've read being of Nigerian heritage and although that's great as it's still a culture I know very little about, it would be good to broaden my reading to some of the many other African countries. Also short stories are great. I'll be searching some of the winners out!

Scotiabank Giller Prize

Awarded for excellence in Canadian fiction. This has been running since 1994 so there's quite a bit of choice, but hey Margaret Atwood's won it so I'm excited. Past winners I'd most like to read include:

* Half Blood Blues - Esi Edugyan
* A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
* Barney's Version -Mordecai Richler
* The In-Between World of Vikram Lall - M.G Vassanji
* Runaway - Alice Munro
* Late Nights on Air - Elizabeth Hay

Do you follow any of these awards? Anything I'm excited about that you've loved or hated? As usual, any non white/American/UK authors you love that I've not heard of and need to be reading?

Saturday 16 May 2015

Resources to Inspire Creativity

In case you haven't been around these parts long, I'm a very big fan of all things creative. Let me reassure you that my #yearofmaking project is still going strong, although I'm not succeeding with every single day as I was at the start of the year I am still making things waaay more regularly than I used to and now instead of buying things my first response is 'can I make this?'. Often, the answer is yes. There are days, however, when inspiration runs dry and so I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite creativity inspiring resources! 

To be honest this is probably most people's go-to resource for inspiration and I've never heard anybody who uses it say anything bad about it besides how easy it is to lose hours (days, weeks) on it. Starting to look at pinterest is like falling down a rabbit hole of things you'd like to do, buy, make, cook, places you'd like to visit, books you'd like to read,activities you'd never thought of doing before but which are suddenly the most fascinating thing you've ever heard of. Also it's full of pretty pictures and quotes and all the stuff I love.

If you're a knitter or crocheter and you're not already familiar with Ravelry you really need to be. It's free to sign up and they have patterns for literally everything. Some you have to pay for but there are a vast amount of free ones as well and you can stick everything that takes your fancy in your queue or library so you'll remember it.

I find that when I'm in a creativity slump and can't motivate myself to do anything sometimes that act of sitting, watching a video lecture and learning about something - anything really, doesn't have to be in my comfort zone and sometimes it's especially good if it isn't - can really help my brain to start whirring again. All the courses on Coursera are free and it's free to sign up (although if you want verified certficates of completion you have to pay). Courses are run by major universities worldwide and cover a massive range of subjects. Expand your word. learn something new! They also have 'On Demand' courses now so you can learn at your own speed. Perfect for me


I'm a huuuuuuge fan of magazines. Not the stuff I used to read as a teenager though - now I'm way more into craft magazines and home/lifestyle and writing ones. Favourites at the moment are Mollie Makes, Pretty Patches, The Simple Things, and Mslexia. Often they bring up completely new ideas and spur me into action. 


Ah books. Of course books had to be on here! There are a plethora of creativity related books available. Currently I'm reading The Art of Doing by Alison Arden which is full of activities to help increase your creativity. I'm also a fan of The Right to Write by Julia Cameron (I have her book The Artists Way on order at the library) and Crafting Creativity by Colin Salter among others. Other books which have inspired me to do things include Little Women (after reading which I always want to start growing all my own food, sewing, and generally being productive), The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton (just finished it and oh my god do I want to write again!), Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas (sock knitting. All the sock knitting), and The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (start this blog!). Also Wild by Cheryl Strayed (hike. a lot.), The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell (visit every single independent bookshop ever),Teach with your Heart by Erin Gruwell (be an English teacher) and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (become self-sufficient). And now I'll stop although I could probably go on and on. That will do for now I think. 


For the sake of brevity I'm not going to mention all the book bloggers I love who inspire me to do book -related things or blogs I love that have inspired me to do one thing once, but there are a few blogs I really love which are just generally inspiring to my life. These include:

Orangette, an incredible foody blog which always makes me want to cook stuff, eat stuff, visit places and take better photos, 

Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity. Trish's blog is always inspirational to me whether she's talking about books, craft stuff, motherhood or something else altogether. She always makes me want to get up off my bum and do things. 

Sophisticated Dorkiness is the blog which inspired me to read more nonfiction and continues to inspire me to read outside my comfort zone and about subjects I thought I had no interest in. An extra shout out to Kim for being the one who inspired me to jump on the One Little Word bandwagon this year. Love it. 

The Daily Create 

TED Talks (specifically on the subject of creativity

Where do you get your inspiration? How do you rejuvenate your creativity when you're in a slump? I'd love to know!

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Bout of Books: Master Post

There is so much going on in the blogging world at the moment it's unreal! I didn't get a change to write a wrap up post for the Re-readathon so just let me say it was a big success from my point of view and I loved it and all of you who took part. I got four books finished and half way through Attachments which was awesome, and if you wrote a wrap up post you still have time to link up here for an extra giveaway entry before I draw a winner or two later tonight or tomorrow!

Bout of Books

And now on to the business of the week, Bout of Books! I didn't get chance to post this yesterday as I was working all day and then we had to get the boys to bed and have date night, but I did get a lot of reading done: almost the entire of The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi which I'm loving! Here is my pile for this week:

And some goals:

* Visit at least two new to me blogs per day and say hi
* Read every day
* Talk to a few new people on the twitter hashtag
* Finish a couple of books
* Take part in all the daily events (although I unfortunately won't be able to make the twitter chats)
* Have an awesome time!

I'll be updating this post daily and reposting it on twitter so if you want to follow my reading feel free to follow me there (I'm mostly @NinjaBookSwap now, but also @fairybookgirl)

Monday's event was a bookish survey hosted by Writing My Own Fairy Tale which I'm going to answer despite the giveaway associated being closed, because surveys are fun.


Pages read:276
Books read from: The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi and Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
Books finished: None yet but I'm not far off finishing The Icarus Girl
#todayinsixwords: Large amounts of buses and postcards

Bookish Survey

1. How do you organise your shelves?

I have separate shelves for my nonfiction, graphic novels, children's books (the ones that are really for me because they're too old for my boys as of yet), my 'keeper' shelf (books I love so much I never want to let them leave my house!), and fiction tbr. Then the fiction is organised alphabetically, nonfiction by subject (ish) and then alphabetically within that, and graphic novels currently keep getting rummaged by everyone who visits so they're in absolutely no order at all.

2. What is one of your favourite books that's not in one of your favourite genres?

I loved The Shining by Stephen King despite really really not being a horror fan. I only read it because my book group at the time made me but oh my god, so good.

3. What is the last five star book you read?

Saga Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Amazing

4. What book are you most excited to read during the readathon?

Probably to finish Happier at Home or maybe Americanah as I've heard such good things!

5. What book do you recommend the most?

Either The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern or We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.


Pages read: 79
Books read from: The Icarus Girl and The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
Books finished: The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
#todayinsixwords: Playing outside isn't conducive to reading

Today the weather was gorgeous and Rhys was only working a short shift so we decided to go into town with him and spend the day walking by the river, feeding ducks, playing in the playground and generally being outside. That obviously didn't lend itself to much reading and then when we got home after having dinner out and eventually got the boys to bed Rhys and I did some music stuff so I only read for about an hour in the evening.  I finished The Icarus Girl in the morning before we went out though and I really enjoyed it, although it wasn't comfortable reading at all. Review will be coming soon!

Wednesday & Thursday 

Pages read: about 240
Books read from: The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton and Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
Books finished: The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
#todayinsixwords: lots of tv and some work.

After all the activity on Tuesday we basically stayed home on Wednesday which meant I didn't get to read much as the boys require a lot of attention! We had fun though, and then on Thursday I was at work so I read a lot but didn't get a chance to blog about it! I am absolutely adoring The Rehearsal although I'm still not 100% sure what's going on but I'm really actually looking forward to reviewing it and I haven't looked forward to review writing for aaaages, so that's good!

Saturday 9 May 2015

Five Things That Have Made Me Happier

This post is inspired by Ellie from Lit Nerd and her 'Things That Made Me Happy This Week' posts. I hope she doesn't mind me borrowing her idea!

Back in January I posted about my One Little Word project for the year. I planned to write monthly updates about how it was going with my word (gratitude) but, as with many things it hasn't quite panned out that way. However I just finished reading The Happiness Project and I've been listening to Gretchen Rubin's podcast and both of these have inspired me to keep my word in mind at all times and give me ideas for new ways to incorporate it into my life!

One of the major ways I'm feeling myself being more grateful and thus happier is by thinking a lot more about the things that make me happy rather than focusing on those that don't. It may sound like such a simple thing but it's so easy to get bogged down in little things that piss me off and easy to forget to think about the positives and I think it's time to change that, so here are five things that have made me happier!

1. One Little Word - When I first heard about this at the end of 2014 I hesitated to actually join the class. I thought I could just kind of pick a word and take part unofficially, but I'm so glad I paid the £20 whatever it was because this community and the prompts and the experience have just been fantastic so far! As a lot of the people who take part are scrapbookers it's very that way oriented and I started off the year convinced that I wasn't going to have a scrapbook but by the time we got to March I'd totally caved and I now have a scrapbook of sorts. It's full of washi tape and scribbling and collage so it's waaaaay less organised and pristine than some of the others I've seen but I love it. I feel like it's very reflective of me, and I absolutely love having a more visual creative outlet again, it's been years!

The community surrounding it is amazing as well. There's a facebook group that I'm part of and on it people share their work on each months' prompts, their journey with their word and just things that happen or that they're struggling with or happy about on a daily basis. I have yet to see a single person respond negatively to anything anybody says no matter how trivial it may be. Everybody is really supportive and friendly and so willing to share their experience and try to help, it's an amazingly uplifting place to be.

The title page from my One Little Word scrapbook
2. The Happiness Project & Happier Podcast - It's all about the women this year. Along with Ali Edwards (founder of One Little Word), Gretchen Rubin is the other woman rocking my world at the moment. I finished The Happiness Project and picked up Happier at Home just before the rereadathon and I'm dying to get back to it on Monday! I'm thinking of officially starting my own happiness project, but in the meantime I've been trying to implement little things from the book and podcast such as the one minute rule - anything that can be done in one minute or less doesn't get left. Just do it! Little things, it transpires, can have a big effect on my levels of stress!

3. Our Garden - On the back of The Simple Things magazine last month there was a quote something along the lines of 'all you need to be happy is a garden and a library' and I so so agree. Our garden is full of things we've planted that are just starting to come out or which are now big enough to be planted outside and I love it. Just walking around it makes me feel productive and hopeful, and as well as the stuff growing there I love that the boys love it and run/crawl around like crazies and can ride their bikes and play hopscotch and stuff, and that it gives me and Rhys something outdoorsy to do together on our days off when we're not actually feeling that energetic. Gardens are literally the best.

I feel I should add that this was our strawberry basket like, months ago. It's now overflowing with strawberries!

4. M&S Dine in for 2 for £10/£20 - This is going to sound stupid but we did this for our second wedding anniversary because we couldn't get a babysitter and then Rhys surprised me the other day with some yummy food and drink he got on this offer and we've decided to do it from time to time as we attempt to reinstate some semblance of date night. It's just a really nice way to have a bit of a special meal without anybody having to make too much effort and a special meal makes the whole evening feel much more relaxed. Plus it's nicer than takeaway, and cheaper.

5. Podcasts in general - I've been listening to podcasts on my bus commute to work a couple of times a week and I love it! I'm so relaxed by the time I get to work, plus I've got food for thought for the upcoming day, amazing. Some favourites: The Art of Simple Podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, The Bookrageous Podcast, Book Riot


And actually, writing that post! What makes you happy? Got any recommendations for great podcasts or favourite happiness related reading?  

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Re-Readathon Challenge!

We're almost half way through the re-readathon and I'm having the best time with it! I've loved chatting to people about it and discovering new to me bloggers and I decided it was time to announce a mini challenge, participation in which will get you another entry into the giveaway I'm running this week. The challenge is thus:

As some of you may know, I reread Little Women generally at least once a year. I've done this since I was approximately eight years old. It was the first book I ever read in one sitting and I remember sitting on our back step in the sun and when I got up I couldn't feel my legs. Somehow it always makes me feel better about the world and calms me down - I call it my comfort reading. The thing I want to know is, do you have a book that you read over and over (or one that you collect multiple copies of)? Why do you read it so much? What is it that keeps you coming back to it? Basically I want to know whatever you want to tell me about this particular rereading experience! 

You can blog about it or just tweet - be as lengthy or brief as you like! Once you're  done enter your link (as 'Your Name - Challenge entry) into the linky for an extra entry to the giveaway! 

Monday 4 May 2015

Re-Readathon is Heeeeeere!

You'll have to forgive me if I'm a bit excited, I've been looking forward to this practically since I came up with the idea! Today is the first day of the re-readathon; a week long readathon dedicated solely to reading things you've already read before, and yes that is literally the only criteria for taking part. You must read things you've already read. You don't have to have a blog, you can take part on Twitter and Instagram (using #rereadathon) or Tumblr or wherever. 
Here are the rules (in handy bullet points so you won't forget);

* Starts Monday 4th May 2015. Ends 11:59pm Sunday 10th May
* Read stuff you've read before
* Talk about it on your blog/twitter/instagram/tumblr/in the comments of other people's posts/not at all. Silent re-readers are welcome too! (although I do like to chat)
* Post daily, a couple of times, just once, or not at all. Link up your posts here - each link gets an entry into the giveaway!
* Twitter chat Wednesday 6th 9pm GMT (@NinjaBookSwap/#rereadathon) 
* A challenge will be announced during the twitter chat. This is just for fun, obviously. 
* Use #rereadathon on social media so I can wave at you all :-) 

I'm hoping there will be a few people joining in, mostly because I don't want to be chatting to myself on Wednesday evening, it wouldn't be good for my anxiety, but also because I've already been so excited to see people's TBR piles for the week and some of the fantastic stuff that's going to be read! Please feel free to leave comments on my posts telling me what you're reading, what you're loving about rereading or just generally share your excitement, keep the conversation going!

I'm diving in with Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley; the first in the series of books which became the amazing Scott Pilgrim vs the World movie. Happy rereading everyone, give me a wave if you're here!

Day 2 & 3

Pages read: 462

Books read from: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan and Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery

Favourite rereading moment: Everything about Anne of Green Gables. I think I'm appreciating Marilla as a character so much more this time around!

I've read a lot this last couple of days which has mostly been because Rhys had an extra day off work today so I was able to finish Maine which was just as good as I remembered, and start Anne, which I've not reread for years and years! I'm having such a good time with this readathon so far and now I'm just hoping at least one other person remembers the twitter chat in half  an hour so I'm not talking to myself!

Day 1

Pages read: 368 (technically today and yesterday as I cheated slightly by reading Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life mostly yesterday)

Books read from: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life and Scott Pilgrim vs the World by Bryan Lee O'Malley, and Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Books finished: Both of the Scott Pilgrim books.

Favourite rereading moment: "Bread makes you fat??". I get hysterics every single time I see this scene in the movie but had totally forgotten about it until I read it in volume 2 today and couldn't stop laughing for about forty minutes. I have no idea why it's so funny but it is. 

There will be a picture or two added to this later this evening after I've charged my phone as my charger is currently in the room that Rhys is trying to get Ben settled down for bed in. 

I love how many people are taking part. I'm trying to get around to everybody's blogs but if you could let me know you've posted/tweeted/instagrammed by linking up here or commenting that would be seriously helpful. How's everyone's first day been?

(just to clarify, I count pages because I'm a geek. I like knowing how much I've read, it gives me a sense of achievement. You in no way have to do this or even keep track of your reading in any way at all. Do whatever makes you happy)

I'm here, on twitter, Instagram and Facebook and I'll be talking about this all the time this week. Consider yourselves warned. 

Sunday 3 May 2015

Currently: April Wrap Up

I like doing these posts in the form of monthly wrap ups, despite not having done one since about February. It's good to keep track of what's been going on!

Time and place 8:20pm in my armchair in my living room, as always.

Reading Well that's a big question! April was 24 hour readathon month and it was the first time I'd participated since 2012. I wasn't expecting great things and yet great things happened! In total I finished eight books in April and started another three. Of those, one was by a diverse (in my definition) author - Every Day by David Levithan - which is total crap for my aim of one in four. Honestly I'm not doing great with my diversity goal this year but I aim to step it up a bit during Bout of Books in a couple of weeks. However on the plus side it's been over a month since I announced my charitable book buying ban and I have bought no books and six of the eight I read were books I own so that's a win!

The books I finished in April were:

* The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison : I liked this book, it was really thought provoking in parts and made me reconsider how much I subconsciously judge people. I don't think I loved it as much as some people did though, and I'm not sure why that is.

* Uprooted by Naomi Novik

* Flight by Isabel Ashdown : Really enjoyed this and will be reviewing it once the ReReadathon madness is over!

* Every Day by David Levithan

* The Diviners by Libba Bray

* Fairest: Wide Awake by Bill Willingham : I read this during the readathon and really enjoyed it. Another graphic novel series to keep up with!

* The Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo : Another readathon read and once I'm glad I finally read, but he's written better stuff.

* Saga: Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples : I think this is tied with Every Day for favourite book I read this month. Everyone's been going on about Saga for so long and I've been holding back... I don't know why? Oh wait, I do. Because I'm on a book buying ban and my library don't have the next one in the series! (I did just request that my library service buy it though, so we'll see)

Watching Lots of My Mad Fat Diary which I still absolutely adore. Also a rewatch of Our Zoo which was even better this time around after having been to Chester Zoo (which I highly recommend a visit to if you're a person who enjoys visiting zoos) and we watched Mirror Mirror last night, which Rhys had never seen but I had and it was as gorgeous and enjoyable as I remembered. That film is visually awesome. We also watched the recording of the stage show of Billy Elliot the Musical and that was pretty brilliant too. You've got to admire the stamina of the kid who played Billy - he has a pretty epic song interspersed with a pretty rigorous ballet section and finishing off with the highest of all the high notes. I was impressed.

Ben with his stack of 'werfun' (readathon) books. Hearbreakingly cute.

Blogging Allll the things! This year has been crazy (in the most awesome way) for blogging, I really seem to have hit my stride with it again. I think since I've been way less focused on my craft business that blogging has regained its special place in my heart (awwww. vom, right?). Anyway, here's what I blogged about in April:

- Re-Readathon
- Preordering: Yes or No and Why?
- Stuff I Want to Make Soon (for Inspiration on Mondays)
- Some idea of topics to post about for Fairytale Fridays (the next one is May 29th)
- On Being a Mother with Anxiety
- A post on Terry Pratchett adaptations for #TerryPratchettBlogTour
- Fairytale Fridays: How Does a Fairytale Become a Fairytale?
- Readathon, Readathon Challenges, End of Readathon Update
- Starting post for Re-Readathon and Bout of Books

So yeah, looooots of blogging! I like it :-)

Cooking An accidentally vegetarian meal of the 'can't be bothered to go to the shop, what's left in my
cupboard?' kind. Awesome chickpea curry with sweet potato chips and garlic bread (??). It was brilliant. Also not cooked but we went out with my mum and sister the other day when they visited and I had an amazing spicy calzone full of different kinds of meat, chillis and tomato sauce. Incredible.

Loving Visits. This month my best friend has visited, my sister and her lovely boyfriend, my other sister and lovely brother-in-law (yes, both my sisters are lovely too!), my mum and another sister for a day and father-in-law and his friend for the weekend. We've had so much company, so many lovely days and lots and lots of wonderful photographs taken for, by and of us.

How cute is Sam?? Taken by my friend Rachelle
Also really loving The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin which I technically finished in May but I really really loved it, only about two years after everybody else really really loved it but still. I'm finding myself still thinking a couple of days later about the things she changed to make herself happier and occasionally employing some of them myself. It's nice and I've just started her second happiness book, Happier at Home which I'll have to put aside for the Re-Readathon, but I'm really engrossed so far! They both tie in so well with my One Little Word project for this year too!

Anticipating The Re-Readathon this week! A few people have signed up to take part and I've already been chatting to people on twitter and instagram about their potential reads, it's so exciting! If you'd like to join in all the details are here and there will be things going on throughout the week as well as a giveaway of a book of your choice : every link you enter on to the master link up for the readathon (also at the above link) will gain you one entry to the giveaway!

Also excited about Bout of Books the week after as I've just decided while writing this book that I'm going to create my TBR for that readathon entirely from my shelves of diverse authors. It's always such a fun event, if you haven't signed up yet you really should!

That's it for my April, a pretty great month all around really! What are you most looking forward to in May?

Saturday 2 May 2015

Inspiration on Monday: TBR Tin

Inspiration on Monday

Inspiration on Monday is an awesome creative link up hosted by Trish at Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity.

Because this week is the Re-Readathon I decided to post about this a couple of days early rather than missing it (again).  

For this week's link up I decided to post about my recent excursion into making a TBR tin. A few weeks ago, when I made my resolution not to buy books for the rest of the year, I decided that I also needed a fall back for when none of my books were really calling to me, and after perusing Pinterest I decided the time had come to make myself a TBR jar. I will say that during the course of making it I did slightly come to regret that decision, but now that it's done it's already been immensely awesome so it's definitely worth the effort. 

So I looked at various people's posts about making beautiful jars and being really crafty, and then I decided to just be lazy and use this awesome tin we had lying around (there is minimal actual craftiness in this post). 

Honestly I thought that the addition of 700+ unread book titles to the tin was work enough without starting up with the paint and glitter, but I applaud those who do! 

After I found the tin I stared writing all the titles of my unread books out, then cutting the papers into strips and folding them like so:

I set myself a routine of doing at least one shelf per day and finally I was finished! I did make a lot of extra work for myself by putting each book in a series in, whereas it would have made sense to just write the name of the series instead and then keep putting it back in the tin until the series was finished (thanks instagram friend for that tip!) Ah well, we live we learn. 

Here's what it looked like when it was done:

I have already used it to pick out books for the 24 hour readathon, one and a half of which I actually ended up reading during it, so it's been successful so far, and having it does make me feel less stressed about what to read next and less likely to rush off to the library and get twenty books (although that does still happen from time to time!). Weirdly I think having it may be making me less wary of what to read next, if that makes any sense at all? Because I know I have something to make the decision for me, it's easier to make the decision for myself...

Anyway! If you'd like some examples of how to actually make your own TBR jar/tin/whatever, rather than just using what you have lying around and being lazy like me, here are some other posts:

How to put book pages on a jar (actually a candle tutorial but just don't do the cut out and it would work amazingly for this!)