Monday 29 February 2016

#Weirdathon Sign up and TBR!

I saw Julianne post about the month - long Weirdathon a while back and was intrigued but thought it probably wasn't my kind of thing because I don't read that much weird stuff, but then I looked again and she defines weird as "anything that's weird to you" and so I thought I could probably pull together a list (and maybe use it as an excuse to purchase some more books for me, because I still haven't got over that whole 9 months without buying books thing) and here we are!

I have the Re-Readathon (10 days for re-reading everything you want to re-read but never get time to - come join us!) happening at the end of the month so this TBR is probably (definitely) wildly overambitious but what would a reading event be without me making a wildly ambitious TBR pile? A non-event, that's what. Some of this list are books I already own and some are ones that I added from Julianne's posts of weird books she's read. I'm sure I'll add to the list as the month goes on and I see other people reading awesome books!

Diving Belles by Lucy Wood *
Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi *
The City and the City by China Mieville *
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov *
St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell *
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (library hold)
Black Hole by Charles Burns
Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann (library hold)
You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman
Allll the Murakami stuff, but particularly 1Q84 since I actually own it. Might hit up Laura for some recommendations too. *
Possibly Saga: Volume 4 because I want an excuse to buy it.
The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley
Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link *
The Character of Rain by Amelie Northumb
The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman (library hold)

and crossover with the Re-readathon...
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Peter Pan by J.M Barrie
Little Old Mrs Pepperpot by Alf Proysen

Additions (from browsing other people's TBR stacks)
What Is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
The Serial Garden by Joan Aiken

I am so excited for this event and I think I'll be kicking off with Diving Belles which is beautiful and which I received from my OTSP Secret Sister this month. I hope I get a lot of reading done, because this list is the most exciting one I've made for a while! Come and be weird with us - sign up at Outlandish Lit!

Sunday 28 February 2016

February Wrap Up

Ahhh February! I've decided the only way to keep up with my goals, particularly the indie one, is to go back to doing monthly wrap ups, and this month has been pretty eventful! Here's what's happened:

Books Read:
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Wicked and the Divine: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen
Captain Marvel: Higher, Further, Faster, More by Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez
The People of Forever Are not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu
They Were Sisters  by Dorothy Whipple
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

and ones I'm still reading
The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman
The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich
Geek Girl: All That Glitters by Holly Smale

So when I tell people I'm an eclectic reader and read anything besides horror, I'm clearly not lying. Of these only three were published by independents (They Were Sisters and The Making of a Marchioness by Persephone and The Wicked and the Divine by Image).

Favourite Books of the month -  So much great stuff this month! My favourite was Captain Marvel until it was The People of Forever Are Not Afraid which was usurped by They Were Sisters which remains tied with Station Eleven. All the awesome.

Books Acquired:
This month was the month of epic awesome that was the London Bookshop Crawl, which I have posted about. From that I hauled fourteen books for myself, and as a result of it I have also acquired Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M Delafield from the lovely Lauren who bought it from Persephone on the bookshop crawl and passed it on to me when she was finished.

So far this year I've bought nineteen books of which fifteen have been either published by or bought from independent publishers or bookshops. Not bad going so far!


Parcels of Joy

I started this project around a month ago, mostly as a way to get rid of excess baked goods and not have them sitting round the house tempting me! So far I've sent out four parcels - peppermint creams to Tracy, a book and bookmarks to Sarah, They Were Sisters and a box of brownies to Laura and another that I won't talk about as it hasn't arrived yet and I don't want to ruin the surprise! There are also about 20 other people who signed up and want to send stuff too, so it's turning into a nice little random acts of kindness project which I love! If you want to get involved all the details are here, just fill in the form and I'll be in touch!

Make Mine an Indie

Despite the Bookshop Crawl madness February has been pretty good for Make Mine an Indie posts. I've discovered the wonderful world of independent graphic novels with Self Made Hero, the 'strokeability test' of Bluemoose Books, and some brilliant sounding translated fiction from Pushkin Press.

I've also been compiling an all - indie wishlist on Wordery, which I'm going to link to on my wishlist page when I remember...


Of the books I've started this month, eight out of ten were books I already owned or bought during the month. Only The Painted Drum and Geek Girl are library books, so that's waaaaay better than January! I've also passed on three to other people!

Other Events

Sign up for the Valentine's Ninja Book Swap opened and closed this month and we're all in the throes of getting parcels together and figuring out all the little technical hitches which undoubtedly occur every swap! I'm really enjoying chatting to people on twitter though and loving that so many bookshop crawlers are taking part for the first time! As ever, if you missed the swap but want a reminder for when sign up opens for the next one email ninjabookswap(at)gmail(dot)com and I'll add you to the list!

In light of so many of us now loving and adoring Persephone after our visit on the bookshop crawl, I'm thinking of bringing back the mini book swap that I did in replacement of the Summer Ninja Swap last year, but making it a Persephone swap. Let me know if that sounds fun to you!

In other bookshop crawl related news, I'm taking it on the road over the summer and am in the early stages of planning the Bath Bookshop Crawl! Dates and itinerary have yet to be decided, but if you'd be potentially interested in joining us do let me know here or on twitter.

Finally, the Re-Readathon is back! In case you missed the two I hosted last year the Re-Readathon is exactly what it sounds like - 10 days dedicated to re-reading favourites, old and new. There will be mini challenges, giveaways, possibly a twitter chat if people are up for that, and it will be hugely fun! Check out the announcement post for sign up details.

I'd like to give a big massive shout out to Evie Seo and her shops on Society 6 and Redbubble which have taken all my money this month! Evie's designs are absolutely beautiful (like, seriously stunning) and all book related. I bought the Alice in Wonderland mug for Rhys and then caved and bought the Peter Pan mug for me just today because the Alice one is so gorgeous! I also ordered a load of notebooks and stickers from her Redbubble shop today for Ninja Book Swap. The Society 6 links are affiliate which means I'll get a teeny amount if you use them but I promise you won't regret it!

And that's my February! Lots of fun stuff going on in March, all being well, including a trip to meet up with Katie and Laura (I got your text Katie, I'm going to reply to it, I'm just horrible at remembering to!) and a couple of days in Cambridge with Rhys while my mum babysits the boys! Also Rhys has most of the month off as he hadn't taken any holiday, so that will be brilliant. That said, I'm a teeeeeeny bit worried that Ben might be getting some kind of horrible illness, so I'm keeping a very close eye on him and hoping it'll be cured by a good night's sleep (ha!). Keep your fingers crossed for us!

What have you been reading and doing this month? If you were on the bookshop crawl, have you read any of the books you bought yet?

Saturday 27 February 2016

Make Mine an Indie: Pushkin Press

Another Saturday, another Make Mine an Indie! The list of posts in this series now means that really neither I nor anyone else has any excuse to not know where to start with independent publishers, and although I'm discovering some brilliant stuff and have a few go-to indie publishers now, I still feel like I've not even touched the tip of the iceberg... I've also been struggling recently with how I define 'independent', because a lot of the publishers I want to feature have a few imprints and the purist in me wants to argue that they're no longer independent since they own these other imprints now, but I've finally decided that if the publisher itself isn't owned by a big corporation or another publisher then it counts. 

Pushkin Press logo

This week's publisher combines two of my great passions for 2016: independent publishing and literature in translation. Founded in 1997, Pushkin Press publishes pretty much anything and claims to publish "the world's best stories". The vast majority of Pushkin's titles are translated, from a dizzying array of different languages, and that's particularly exciting for me as I've struggled with how to discover books in translation. Their imprints are One, which publishes one exceptional fiction and one non-fiction book per season, or two a year, and Pushkin Vertigo, publishing crime and mystery books. 

Also, and if you know me you'll know how excited this makes me, they have the option to subscribe. I did this with And Other Stories this year but have decided to subscribe to a different indie each year and will be seriously considering Pushkin for next year! You can pay £95 and receive a Pushkin title each month for a year, or you can do the teaser subscription, which is one title a month for three months for £30. I just love the option this gives to easily add something new and exciting into your reading. You don't have to do any choosing, and something random turns up on your doorstep, which may even push you out of your comfort zone a little! (always a good thing, in my opinion!) 

Another thing to mention is that the design of their books is gorgeous. A little one you may have heard of, demonstrating that when they say that One publishes one exceptional title they really do mean exceptional, is Chigozie Obioma's The Fishermen which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year and which I almost managed to finish before another library patron snatched it from my hands. 

As usual, some titles I'm excited to get my hands on:

One Night, Markovitch by Ayelet Gundar - Goshen
From the Pushkin Press Website:

One Night, MarkovitchIn the late 1930s, two men - Yaacov Markovitch, perennially unlucky in love, and Zeev Feinberg, virile owner of a lustrous moustache - are crossing the sea to marry women they have never met. They will rescue them from a Europe on the brink of catastrophe, bring them to the Jewish homeland and go their separate ways. But when Markovitch is paired with the beautiful Bella he vows to make her love him at any cost, setting in motion events that will change their lives in the most unexpected and capricious of ways.

This sounds like it could be really hilarious, and I'm on a bit of an Israel kick at the moment, after finishing The People of Forever Are Not Afraid.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg
From the Pushkin Press website:
The million-selling, award-winning classic novel - finally available again in the UK!
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerNew York City girl Claudia, a mere month shy of being a twelve-year-old, has resolved to run away from home with her younger brother, Jamie. She knows that she could never pull off the classic spur-of-the-moment departure without a destination (inevitably involving having to eat outside with the insects, and cupcakes melting in the sun); so she plans everything to perfection, including their destination: the grand, elegant, beautiful, all-encompassing Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, no sooner have Claudia and Jamie settled into their new home, than they are caught up in the mystery of an angel statue bought by the museum for the bargain price of $225. Is it in fact an as yet undiscovered work by Michelangelo, worth millions? Claudia is determined to find out, and her quest leads her to the remarkable, secretive Mrs. Frankweiler, who sold the statue to the museum - and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself. Since its first appearance nearly 50 years ago, The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler has gained a place in the hearts of generations of readers - and has rightly become one of the most celebrated and beloved children's books of all time. 

I actually picked this up already on the London Bookshop Crawl and loved the edition - it's extremely beautiful. I've been hearing about the book for years and never read it as a kid, but I'm looking forward to reading it to my own kids!

Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda
From the Pushkin Press website:

Bonita AvenueProfessor Siem Sigerius-maths genius, jazz lover, judo champion, Renaissance man. When Aaron meets his girlfriend Joni's family for the first time, her multitalented father could hardly be a more intimidating figure, but somehow the underachieving photographer manages to bluff his way to a friendship with the paterfamilias. With his feet under the table at the beautiful Sigerius farmhouse, Aaron feels part of a perfect family. Until, that is, things start to fall apart. A cataclysmic explosion in a fireworks factory, the advent of Internet pornography, the reappearance of a discarded, dangerous son, and a jet-black wig-all play a role in the spectacular fragmentation of the Sigerius clan... and of Aaron's fragile psyche.Bonita Avenue is a suspenseful, incendiary and unpredictable debut-of relationships torn apart by lies, and minds destroyed by madness.

I really love a good story about a family, particularly when it's as drama filled as this sounds to be!

Butterflies in November by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
From the Pushkin Press website:
A hilarious and moving road trip around Iceland in an old car, told by a recently divorced woman with a five year-old boy 'on loan'
Butterflies in NovemberAfter a day of being dumped-twice-and accidentally killing a goose, the narrator begins to dream of trop- ical holidays far away from the chaos of her current life. Instead, she finds her plans wrecked by her best friend's deaf-mute son, thrust into her reluctant care. But when a shared lottery ticket nets the two of them over 40 million kroner, she and the boy head off on a road trip across Iceland, taking in cucumber-farming hotels, dead sheep, and any number of her exes desperate for another chance. Blackly comic and uniquely moving, Butterflies in November is an extraordinary, hilarious tale of mother- hood, relationships and the legacy of life's mistakes.
I actually nearly bought this on the bookshop crawl, but it was at the last stop of the day and my pile was already making me over budget so it was bumped in favour of the final installment of The Sandman. I really want to read it though, it just sounds like fun. 
I seem to say this every week now, but I could have gone on forever this week! I've signed up to the mailing list and will be spending lots of pennies on Pushkin books in the very near future, I forsee!
Find Pushkin Press at their website, twitter or Facebook page. Catch up with the rest of the Make Mine an Indie series here and add your own suggestions on twitter via #MakeMineanIndie. 

Friday 26 February 2016

Little House Read-Along: Little House on the Prairie

I can see a pattern emerging here... Each month I will dutifully read and enjoy the book and then entirely forget to actually post about it until right at the end of the month! Ah well, at least it's still February!

This month we read Little House on the Prairie for the Little House Read-Along hosted by Lynne and myself and although I'm sure I must have read it as a child I have absolutely no memory of it. I really loved the cosiness of Little House in the Big Woods, but although this has something of the same feel to it it's definitely a more danger-filled book.

At the beginning of the book the Ingalls family sell the house in the big woods and head for the prairie, where Pa has been reliably informed that the government will be 'moving along' the native people and giving the land to the white settlers. When they leave the woods they don't take the bed or the furniture because Pa can make new ones. This remains one of my favourite things about this series so far, and a strong reminder of how generally useless the majority of people are nowadays. I know maybe one person who could make a bed without thinking about it, let alone build a house by himself (or with occasional help from neighbours), but how fantastic to be so sure of your ability to provide for your family - not just financially but actually. It inspired me to learn more useful practical skills.

There was a lot of fairly casual racism in this book - at one point one of their neighbours says that the only good Indian is a dead Indian, and various characters make really broad generalisations about people that they freely admit to having little to no actual experience of, but then I suppose this is one of the things about reading the experiences of somebody at that time, and especially somebody who was a child at the time.

I did think that Pa Ingalls was much more open minded and tolerant than most of the characters in the book, despite basically just hanging round til the government kicked the natives out so he could steal their land. He explains a lot to Laura throughout the books so far, and especially in this one, and it meant that as a reader I got at least a little background about the tribes and the situation. Although obedience is strongly encouraged in Laura's family, I really like how much time her parents spend talking to her about things.

I felt that this book had a lot more actual storyline than the previous one - a lot more happens in it, and because of its setting I felt like I was learning more about actual events than I had in the previous book. I'm fairly involved in Laura's story now and slightly don't want to veer away from it to read Farmer Boy next month, but I'm sure it will be great!

Apologies for the fact that Lynne's and my linky doesn't seem to be the same this month, my fault entirely, but I will make sure that everyone's posts are linked up on both blogs.

We didn't do a craft this month, because our skills don't extend to house building or well digging. We are going to have steak with cornbread at some point, like they do when Pa helps out the cowboys, but I was really encouraged by Little House on the Prairie to fill in the vast gaps in my knowledge of Native American people and history. The only characters I've ever come across in literature that are of Native American descent are Jacob from the Twilight series, Jonah from If I Fall,If I Die by Michael Christie and Junior from The Absolutely True Diary of  Part - Time Indian, so I asked twitter for recommendations and have come up with a bit of a reading list which I'll share here in lieu of lovely craft pictures!

* The Painted Drum and The Round House by Louise Erdrich
* Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
* If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth
* Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

If you have anything to add to this list, please feel free to let me know in the comments, I appreciate recommendations!

Make sure you check Lynne's blog next month, where she is the host for Farmer Boy!

Wednesday 24 February 2016

They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple

I've been hearing about Dorothy Whipple since I first discovered Persephone Books a few years ago and have always been mildly intrigued but never enough to actually buy one her books, until the Classics Club Womens Literature Event and a glowing recommendation from Lydia at Persephone conspired to make me buy They Were Sisters. It was the description of her books as 'hot water bottle books' that made me cave to the wonders of Whipple... There's something extremely comforting about Persephone books anyway and the (completely fantastical for me) image of curling up on the sofa on a rainy afternoon was too compelling to resist!

Somewhat as the title indicates, the book is about three sisters; Lucy, Charlotte and Vera, who all marry very different men. As Persephone books often are, its' focus is fairly domestic and as time passes the sisters' lives are shaped by the marriages that they've made and the people they become, often as a result of that. One of the sisters marries an awful man who is emotionally abusive and the book eventually centres around her daughter and her bid to extricate herself from the messes made by her mother and aunt.

Of the three sisters the only one I actually liked was Lucy,which I think is very much as Whipple wanted it. Lucy is the eldest sister and pretty much brought up the other two after their mother died, and throughout the novel she is portrayed as the sensible one, the saviour of her sisters (and more importantly, their children). She is eminently practical and entirely reliable and she is the only one who married well, by which I mean that the man she married is both lovely and loves her. Lucy and William's house is a haven for her relatives and is the safe space within the book.

The novel takes turns to focus on each of the sisters, starting with Lucy which may have something to do with my being so strongly on her side throughout. I struggled with Charlotte as a character. Having been in an emotionally abusive relationship myself as a teen I can slightly relate to the difficulty of leaving someone you love, but Charlotte literally never stands up to her horrible husband, Geoffrey, not even when he's terrifying their children and I find it hard to forgive her for that. It's difficult because at the time leaving him probably wouldn't have been the immediate thing to spring to mind, and she probably would have felt as if she had nowhere to go to get away from him, but all the way through I wanted to shake her and shout at her that she had her sisters! Lucy at least, but probably even flighty self-absorbed Vera would have taken her in and consequences be damned.

I am aware that I am judging her from a very 21st century position, but having been brought up with the knowledge and had the experience that the people who love you and want you to be happy will help you to get out of awful situations, if you're lucky enough, as I was and as Charlotte is in the book, to have good people around you, I find it very hard not to judge her for failing so hugely to do a single thing to help herself.

Vera, the youngest sister is a whole different kettle of fish. Because Charlotte married such a horrible man, she, the most incredibly beautiful woman, accepts the proposal of a very nice man whom she doesn't love and find extremely boring and then carries on a series of affairs and is generally shockingly selfish, to the detriment of her marriage and her children.

I feel like I'm being very negative about a book I actually have nothing but good feelings about. Whipple does an amazing job of showing the really bad bits of people and how they treat each other and I think part of the reason that I loved Lucy so much was because she is a worrier, and as the eldest of a large family I totally relate to her need to help her sisters and constantly worry about how they're doing. In the end it is her worrying that leads to action and her actions that reassure her nieces and nephews that Auntie Lucy is the one to go to when you need help. I hope that every family has an Auntie Lucy.

There was so much in this book. Some of it shocking, some uplifting and some heartbreaking, but all of it fantastically well observed and beautifully written. The more Persephone books I read the more I trust them to always be fantastic, and if you haven't read one I strongly urge you to try!

Tuesday 23 February 2016

It's Re-Readathon Time!

Last year I hosted two re-readathons. The first was a week long, which we all agreed wasn't long enough. The second was two weeks which was a little too long, so the third re-readathon will last for 10 days, from Monday March 21st to Wednesday March 30th.

The rules are very simple: re-read. Grab your favourites that you've read twenty times or the brilliant books you've been meaning to read again but haven't had the time and make time with us! There will be mini challenges (and Instagram challenges, for those who are into Instagram - I am!), all of which will have associated prizes, because we all like bookish swag, am I right? And hopefully you'll get to revisit a bunch of favourites and make some new friends!

To sign up just post about the re-readathon on your blog (or on twitter if you don't have a blog) and link up that post or tweet in the linky below. Feel free to use the image I've created or make your own. Please do not just link your main blog link. I'd really appreciate the help spreading the word about the event, and if you've posted specifically about the readathon then I can come and say hi! If you want to post your TBR for the event or make goals or whatever you're very welcome to do that too!

You don't have to dedicate the ten days exclusively to re-reading. I will, and I know some of you will want to do that, but the idea is just to allow time for the re-reading that so often gets pushed out by the overwhelming amount of awesome new books we want to read, so you can re-read one book, five books, ten books, whatever you want!

Everyone who signs up between now and March 21st will also be entered into a giveaway to win a book of their choice, so don't forget to link up! Also if you use #rereadathon on twitter and Instagram it makes it easier for us to find each other and chat :-)

I'm so excited about this event - I'm formulating a TBR and I'll be posting it shortly!

Link up below!

Saturday 20 February 2016

Love-a-Thon Questionnaire

I missed Book Blogger Appreciation Week last week and I was super annoyed about it, so when I saw that Love-a-Thon was happening this weekend (hosted by Alexa, Cee, Hazel and Mel) I decided to sign up. This post is late because I hopped on the bandwagon just before the twitter chat this morning and haven't had time to write it til now, but here is my questionnaire for those who are new or just need a reminder!

1. What's your name? 

It's actually Rebekah and in real life everyone calls me that or Bekah - only family call me Bex, but somehow I just decided I was going to be Bex on the internet which meant it took me about a year of Hanna and Laura calling me it before I started to actually respond.

2. Where in the world are you blogging from?

I'm on the coast of Kent, UK

3. How Did you Get into Blogging in the first place?

This is pretty well documented here on the blog, but basically I started the blog because I'd just moved away from all my family and friends and wasn't working a lot and needed a way to keep track of the stuff I was reading. 

4. How Did You Come up with Your Blog Name?

I have this brilliant armchair which we bought for 99p off eBay and it's pretty much famous with my family and friends because it's super comfortable and amazing and it was the only decent piece of furniture we had when we first moved down here so I used to spend a lot of time sitting in it. Also from our old flat you could see the sea, and thus, An Armchair by the Sea.

5. What Genre Do you Read and Review Most on Your Blog?

Hmmmm *consults review archive* contemporary fiction or graphic novels, I would say. 

6. What Other Types of Posts do you Do on Your Blog, apart from reviews?

I don't really do reviews anymore as such. I more just kind of talk about books in an unstructured kind of way...  I also post quite a few life related posts, and I'm doing a weekly series on indie publishers at the moment featuring a different publisher each week, which you can check out here if you so desire. 

7. Best Blogging Experience So Far?

This is definitely a tie between going up to Leeds to meet Ellie and Charlotte for the first time (and see Hanna and Laura again) and the London Bookshop Crawl the other week. Both were awesome bookish experiences during which I met fantastic people and bought way too many books, and both were entirely enabled by blogging. 

8. Favourite thing about the blogging community?

How ready people are to sympathise or send virtual hugs, thoughts, prayers etc to people they don't know all that well in times of need. Yes it can be bitchy and dramatic at times, but on the whole the majority of people I've met through blogging are pretty awesome. 

9. Name the 5 books you're most excited for this 2016!

I don't ordinarily do a whole lot of anticipating, unless Scarlett Thomas or Rainbow Rowell has a new book coming.. I'm sure there are things but I can't think of them off the top of my head.

10. Name the 5 books you want to read that you didn't get to in 2015

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem... Ummm... There's a lot of stuff I see in hardback and I'm like 'oooooh' but then I remember I dislike hardbacks so I think I'll wait til they come out in paperback and theeeeen I forget to add them to my wishlist and forget what they were until years later when I'll discover them in a charity shop. Basically I'm the worst at keeping up with what's happening in the world of books. 

11. What's an underrated book or series that you think everyone should read?

Sounds weird to pick a Giller longlisted title for this question, but If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie was one of my favourite reads of 2015 and I've heard exactly nobody else mention it at all. Read it, read it, it's so good!

12. Which book boy or girl would be your BFF?

Honestly? Probably Cath from Fangirl. We both worry waaaay too much about ridiculous stuff, I feel like we'd bond over it. 

13. Which book boy or girl would be your boyfriend?

Can I have Chaol please? *fights everyone*

14. Who would you recruit for your apocalypse squad?

Hmmmm... I have to say The Comedian from Watchmen. Also Jaim Grymauch from Ravenheart, but now I feel like I'm just picking muscle men... Tiffany Aching of Wee Free Men fame, and probably September from Catherynne M. Valente's Fairyland series, because they're both brilliant with the making the best of a bad situation. 

15. Apart from reading, what are your other hobbies and interests?

Other hobbies?! Don't be silly. 

I knit. I'm also going to learn to crochet this year. I play piano and guitar, and I like singing. Walking is good, particularly in the countryside or near the sea, and I really enjoy discovering new places. I love planning trips, particularly epic round -the -world ones I'm never going to take. I also love organising ridiculous and seemingly impossible events such as the Ninja Book Swap and the London Bookshop Crawl. I'm the only person in the world who doesn't have Netflix but I'm majorly into Once Upon a Time and my sister also got me into Grimm - I love and adore all things fairytale and folklore. Huge fan of Friends and Gilmore Girls. Feminism. Feminism is a thing that I think is important, and I aspire to dreams of self-sufficiency. I grow lots of fruit and veg in my garden. I also enjoy coming up with harebrained schemes to set the world to right. Guerilla kindness operative and attempted letter writer.

16. Apart from book shopping, what else do you like shopping for?

Not much really. I'm really not a big shopper besides books. I do quite enjoy buying craft supplies and gardening stuff if I'm in the right mood but that's about it. 

17. At a party, the DJ suddenly changes the song – and it’s your song. What song would be playing?

Sweet Child o' Mine by Guns n Roses. I don't know quite how this became my song but I've loved it ecstatically since I was about 16 and it's the only song that's got through horrible situations with me without reminding me of the horrible situations. I still love it. 

18. Pick out either a book you want turned into a film/TV show, or a film/TV show you want turned into a book.

I really want a film of The Night Circus, but only if they're going to do it properly. 

19. What would your dream library look like? 

20. Author you want to meet and sit down to tea with?

I'd have said none because I get ridiculously tongue tied, but having briefly met her last year I'd go with Scarlett Thomas. I think we'd have things to say. 

So that's me! Hopefully I'll get some time to check out everyone else's posts and say hi!

Make Mine an Indie: Bluemoose Books

Happy Saturday everyone, and welcome back to another edition of Make Mine an Indie; my weekly series featuring independent publishers and bookshops. Since starting this project I've been keeping a list and whenever I discover a new indie through browsing in bookshops, people tweeting stuff, blog posts or just idle googling, they get added onto the list. It's currently a little bit obscene, and the more publishers I add to it the more ashamed I am that only 30 or so of my 300 strong TBR is published by independents. There is no reason for this besides laziness really and I shall rectify it!

The Bluemoose Books logo (a drawing of the head of a blue moose)

Which brings me onto this weeks publisher. Bluemoose Books have an absolutely incredible logo, as you can see, but as well as that they publish some brilliant sounding books! They were founded by Kevin and Hetha Duffy in 2006 in response to a deluge of celebrity biographies taking up all the shelf space and most of the budgets of the big publishing houses. Bluemoose exists (in their words) 'to publish cracking stories that engage and inspire'. They work very hard on the design of their books and want them to pass the 'strokeability' test (come on, we've all done it) and they operate as a family of readers and writers. So far while researching this series this has been my favourite thing about independents vs. the big publishing houses - they feel so much closer knit and like you as the reader can get much closer to them. 

Sometimes when I'm browsing catalogues looking for things to put in this section I have to push myself a little - not that I'm ever not looking forward to the things I say I'm looking forward to, but some more than others- but this week there was no pushing. It was difficult to make myself stop at four!

Beastings by Benjamin Myers

The cover of 'Beastings' by Benjamin Myers'.A girl and a baby. A priest and a poacher. A savage pursuit through the landscape of a changing rural England. When a teenage girl leaves the workhouse and abducts a child placed in her care, the local priest is called upon to retrieve them. Chased through the Cumbrian mountains of a distant past, the girl fights starvation and the elements, encountering the hermits, farmers and hunters who occupy the remote hillside communities. Like an American Southern Gothic tale set against the violent beauty of Northern England, Beastings is a sparse and poetic novel about morality, motherhood, and corruption.

I have to say I really love the cover of this novel and that was what first caught my eye, but when I read the synopsis it sounds fascinating. 

If you look for me, I am not here by Sarayu Srivatsa
The cover of 'If You Look For Me, I Am Not Here' by Sarayu Srivatsa.When Mallika loses her longed-for daughter at birth, it is not the only loss in the family: the surviving twin - a boy - loses the love of his mother. He grows up needing to be the daughter his mother wants, the son his scientist father accepts, and more, with the guilt of being the one who survived. In a recently independent India, haunted by its colonial past and striving to find its identity, he struggles to find his own self. Sarayu Srivatsa has created a moving family portrait, richly-coloured by the vibrant culture and landscape of India, where history, religion and gender collide in a family scarred by the past and struggling with the present.

This sounds really fascinating and ties in with my challenge to read more diversely as well as to support indies. 
A Modern Family by Socrates Adams
The cover of 'A Modern Family' by Socrates Adams.Television’s most popular car show presenter lives his life in the shadow of his career and his persona. He has the perfect job. He doesn’t have the perfect family. His wife retches in the bathrooms of exclusive restaurants; his daughter’s obsession with a friend is consuming her; his son lives a double life selling pornography by day and gaming on-line by night. The presenter views his family from the outside and watches as they slowly disintegrate in front of him, unable to control anything that is not scripted.
Socrates Adams perfectly mirrors what magazines sell to their readers in a bleak, satirical look at what modern families might think they want to be.

I love the sound of this. I'm always interested in books that have famous people as their protagonist, especially when they centre around the family dynamics. Honestly I just enjoy books that are about families and the way they work (or fail to) and this sounds fantastic. 
King Crow by Michael Stewart
The cover of 'King Crow' by Michael Stewart.Paul Cooper is an outsider. When he looks at people he wonders what bird they are. He finds making friends difficult especially when he has to move from school to school, so he obsesses about ornithology until he meets Ashley.
Ashley is everything that Cooper isn’t, he’s tough and good looking, with so much street cred he can divvy up some for Paul as well. When they get into trouble with a local gang they steal a car and head for the Lakes – Ashley because he thinks he may have killed somebody, and Cooper because he wants to see ravens. Their flight is hectic and intense, and in the middle of it all one of them meets a girl and the other feels pushed out. The three of them find refuge for a time in Helvellyn, but things are falling apart and soon their road trip makes national headlines… for all the wrong reasons.

This just sounds awesome to be honest. I have no better reason than that. 

Find Bluemoose Books on their website and twitter
Catch up with the Make Mine an Indie series here.

Saturday 13 February 2016

Make Mine an Indie: Self Made Hero

I've been doing this feature for almost six months now and I thought it was about time that I mentioned a graphic novel publisher! A few weeks ago I was up in London and browsing in Foyles. I'd given myself a one book allowance and couldn't decide between The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman and Scott McCloud's The Sculptor, which I've been hearing incredible stuff about for ages. Then I remembered my Make Mine an Indie goal this year, and so I went with The Sculptor which is independently published. The Sandman, while still incredible, is Vertigo. It had the added bonus of bringing another independent publisher to my attention, and so I give you this week's feature!

SMH Winner Logo

Self Made Hero was founded in 2007 by Emma Hayley, who was named UK Young Publishing Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008. She saw a gap in the market for high quality graphic novels and now publishes "independently minded, commercially successful" work along with graphic novels in translation, which is something I am always interested in! 

The nice thing about Self Made Hero is the range of things they produce. As well as original fiction and non-fiction, they have a series called Art Masters, currently consisting of Pablo, Vincent and Rembrandt, with Munch forthcoming this May, and Graphic Freud, which is Sigmund Freud's most famous case studies in graphic form. Besides these they publish Manga Shakespeare and a wide range of graphic biographies, Sci Fi & Horror, Crime, Humour and Short Stories, which really dispells the myth that graphic novels are all about superheroes...

On browsing their website it transpires that a lot of the fiction they publish is things I've already been eyeing up in the indie section of Forbidden Planet for the past year or so, so without further ado here are a few of their titles I'm looking forward to! 

Ruins by Peter Kuper

Samantha and George are a couple heading towards a sabbatical year in the quaint Mexican town of Oaxaca. For Samantha, it is the opportunity to revisit her past. For George, it is an unsettling step into the unknown. For both of them, it will be a collision course with political and personal events that will alter their paths and the town of Oaxaca forever. In tandem, the remarkable and arduous journey that a monarch butterfly endures on its annual migration from Canada to Mexico is woven into Ruins. This creates a parallel picture of the challenges of survival in our ever-changing world. Ruins explores the shadows and light of Mexico through its past and present as encountered by an array of characters. The real and surreal intermingle to paint an unforgettable portrait of life south of the Rio Grande. 

I don't remember where I first heard about this but it's been on the ridiculously big pile of graphic novels I carry round the shop with me and then put back more times than I care to remember. I think this year is probably its year...

Celeste by I.N.J Culbard

In London, the moment two commuters, Aaron and Lilly, lay eyes on each other on a packed Monday morning tube train, everyone else around them vanishes. In Los Angeles, Ray is sitting in gridlock on the 405 Freeway when he receives a call from an LAPD officer about his wife. Ray fears the worst. But just as the officer is about to give Ray the news, he is cut off. The caller has disappeared, and so has everyone else around him. Everyone except for a badly beaten man tied up in the trunk of another car. In Japan, comic artist Yoshi has come to the demonhaunted Aokigahara Forest to die, but the spirits of the forest have other ideas. Taking us through the deserted streets of London, the empty freeways of Los Angeles, and the dream world of the Aokigahara Forest, Celeste is a compelling and profound graphic novel about the choices we make and the courage it takes to make them.

I'd never heard of this before I started browsing Self Made Hero's website but it sounds like an extremely intriguing concept! I love it when things sound quirky and this definitely does!

Terra Australis by L.F Bollee and Philippe Nicloux

Over two centuries ago, a fleet of ships set sail from England led by Admiral Arthur Phillip. Of the thousand men and women on board, most were convicts, sentenced to transportation for crimes against the crown, and banished to exile. They were bound for Botany Bay, on the other side of the world, in the freshly charted territory of New South Wales. The journey to their new home would take them across three oceans, cover 15,000 miles, and leave them on the shores of a vast and virgin continent.
Five years in the making, LF Bollée and Philippe Nicloux present Terra Australis, the vivid and sweeping tale of an epic journey and an unflinching account of the founding of modern Australia.

I have family in Australia and I've been there and it just seems wrong that I don't know more about it besides that we send all our convicts there. Graphic form for me is a great way to learn things in an absorbing and interesting way, because it's usually quite a quick read. I'm looking forward to this. 

A Chinese Life by Philippe Otie and Li Kunwu

Already a modern classic, this remarkable book traces a personal journey through modern history, from the creation of the People's Republic of China in 1949 to the present day. Li Kunwu has created a timely and compelling memoir of state and self that is at once epic and intimate, comic and tragic, in scope.

Another one I've picked up so many times before. It's no secret that I'm obsessed with Chinese history and the artwork for this is beautiful as well as the subject being fascinating to me. I may have bought this already by the time this post goes up!

As well as these titles I should also include The Sculptor by Scott McCloud, which I'm going to start reading next, and Bryan Lee O'Malley's Seconds which I read in 2015 (without paying aaaaany attention to who published it!) and really enjoyed. 

Catch up on the Make Mine an Indie series here

Find Self Made Hero at their website, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday 7 February 2016


Back in September of last year I decided it would be really fun to go book shopping with lots of like minded people who wouldn't stop me from buying alllll the books. I also thought that since I know from my own experience that January and February are often slow months in retail, it would be great to go around this time and support lots of independent London bookshops, so I asked twitter and lots of people said they'd like to come, and here we are.

Yesterday was the first London Bookshop Crawl, and I think it's safe to say that it's going to become an annual event. A few things were learned from it - eight bookshops in a day is too many, maybe try to walk less than 7 miles over the course of the day next time, and definitely delegate to someone else to do the actual direction from place to place! Overall it was an absolutely amazing day though, and I want to say a massive thankyou again to all blogging and twitter friends who agreed to come book shopping with the crazy lady, and another thanks to the incredible bookshops that helped make our day wonderful!

Here's the blow-by-blow:

Having commandeered my book loving family to come with me in case everyone dropped out (and because I love them!) my sister, brother and I headed out to Foyles after saying goodbye to a wailing Sam and Benji (who couldn't care less - he got to spend the day with Grandma!). Because I'm usually slightly late for things I overestimated how long it would take to get there and we ended up arriving before the shop was even open! Hilariously another of my sisters, Ruth and brother-in-law Michal turned up a few minutes later and we had a somewhat blurry picture and much hilarity about how geeky we were!

At Foyles the lovely people in the cafe had reserved a couple of tables for our group, which I of course didn't notice until we'd sat somewhere else, but never mind! Ellie was the first to arrive, which was awesome as she's one of the bloggers I've been following for the longest so it was fantastic to finally meet her in the flesh! Over the course of the next hour people drifted in, and I actually recognised most of them from twitter or blog photos, although I think there were some Foyles customers who thought I was slightly strange as I stared at them trying to work out if they were with us or not! I didn't get to browse in Foyles, but I'd gone preparatory shopping there last week in anticipation of that, so after much tea, pastries and cake and books (for some people) we headed off to our next stop, Orbital Comics!

I think quite a few people in the group hadn't been here before, but most people ended up finding something to purchase, even if comics and graphic novels weren't their usual reading material! The staff were lovely and helpful in recommending things and made sure we all had a copy of the London Bookshop Map, which everyone was extremely excited about and will definitely provide inspiration for future crawls! I managed to narrow myself down to two graphic novels (leaving behind Y: The Last Man, Rat Queens, The Wicked + the Divine Vol 2 and another whose name I currently can't remember, which looks great and I need to ask Elena what it was as I want to add it to my wishlist!) and bought Captain Marvel: Higher, Further, Faster, More! by Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez and Saga: Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I started reading Captain Marvel last night and feel a little like it might be the initiation into the world of superhero comics that I've been looking for! Orbital was also the only place I remembered to ask to stamp my sheet!

After rounding everyone up (sorry for the sheep comparison, people!) we headed back around the corner, where some of us went in to Any Amount of Books, and some headed off to Cecil Court. My sister bought a couple of beautiful Arthur Rackham prints from Marchpane, but other than that I think we just enjoyed browsing the beautiful antiquarian bookshops along Cecil Court, and I headed back to Any Amount of Books with Ailsa, Rachelle and Marc. I hadn't been in before and wasn't sure what to expect, but it turned out that although it is a second hand bookshop the books are a mixture of more traditionally cloth/leather bound yellowed pages and newer stuff in really good condition! I ended up with four books: Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg (which I had to stand on a stool to reach! Thanks Cathryn for spotting me!), The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, Boy,Snow,Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, and The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by E.L Konigsberg. 

Because I had no idea how long to allow for each stop, we ended up with over an hour for lunch and headed off to Costa (though I was a bit jealous when I saw that some of the rest of the group were having Byron!), after which we wandered to the National Gallery and killed a bit of time in their bookshop - an unexpected stop! 

After lunch we reconvened in Leicester Square, slightly oddly all arriving at pretty much the same time, and (led by someone else at this point! I feel like credit goes to Ellie Lit Nerd but I might be wrong) meandered towards Persephone, eventually arriving after an adventure on a crossing with a group of women with wheely suitcases who wouldn't move for anything. I feel confident in saying that Persephone was an unexpected high point of the crawl for a lot of people. Personally I have been there before and have owned Persephone books for a while before that, so I knew a little what to expect, but they had offered to give us a talk and I think it's important to mention that a lot of people only bought books there because of recommendations from Lydia who gave us a really interesting and informative talk about the publishing side of things and the books themselves and let us poke all around their offices! I picked up They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple just because she called her books 'hot water bottle books' and that was extremely appealing to me. I also bought The Children Who Lived in a Barn by Eleanor Graham, the first of two books that Katie is responsible for!

It took a while to get everyone back out of Persephone, but once we did we had a little debate about which direction to go in to get to London Review Bookshop and I eventually deferred to my sisters' judgement, which turned out to be a good call as she got us there! I was probably the most excited about visiting this bookshop as I've never been there before, and because of the way they go about selecting their stock I was expecting to find some brilliant stuff. It's really nicely laid out and I could have spent way longer in there, but I eventually picked up St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised By Wolves by Karen Russell, Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel and The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and headed to the till to redeem my discount and awesome goody bag they had generously provided for us. Ellie (and various other people) were very excited about my purchase of Station Eleven and I am planning to read it really soon!

By this point we were all pretty knackered, and as we'd been advised, the cake shop was extremely busy so only a couple of us had managed to get seats. The rest of us were fairly strongly in need of a cake stop and so we decided to leave Daunt Books for another time and head over to Waterstone's Piccadilly, which I visited for the first time with Laura and Katie almost exactly a year ago and really like. Once there we squidged as many people as possible around a teeny table for two and Laura and I consumed slices of cake as big as our faces, while Ellie, Tina and Cathryn were much more moderate. After a rest and a chat we resumed our browsing and as usual I picked up too many books. I did have an almost full stamp card though, meaning I got £10 off and as I wanted to buy a book for Rhys and something for the boys I don't think I did too badly! I ended up with The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (I'd mentioned to Katie that I wanted to get it after she'd raved about it and she shoved it into my hands, along with everyone else who stood near her for long enough! It's almost like she works in bookselling...), Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M Montgomery, which I've had on my wishlist a while but never actually seen in a shop before, and The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman which was the thing to finally take me over my budget, but it's Neil Gaiman and it's Sandman and there was no way I was leaving it on the shelf. Then I got Tintin:Explorers on the Moon for Rhys and Oh! The Thinks you can Think! by Dr Seuss for the boys to add to their collection (we already read it, they love it). 

After we'd had a sit down and a bit of Laura-Bex-Katie chat time we headed off to Pizza Express with the other people whose feet hadn't fallen off yet and had a really nice, low key dinner where we all basically looked at each other dazedly and tried to make sentences. Then we ran back through the rain to the station and after many hugs went our separate ways. 

clockwise from bottom left: Katie, Laura, Ailsa, Cathryn, Ruth, Michal, Esther, me and Rachelle
Personally I had a brilliant day. I loved pretty much everything about it, had waaaay less anxiety than expected and generally feel like I didn't make toooo much of an idiot of myself! The twitter hashtag exploded a little towards the middle of the day, with people disappointed they'd missed out, bookshops tweeting us to come visit them, not to mention crawlers themselves sharing their pictures, thoughts, purchases and trying to track each other down! Matt's storify of the day was a brilliant thing to look through once I'd settled myself with a cup of tea at my parents. I also seriously cannot say how much I appreciated the support of the amazing bookshops that I got in touch with and who really made the day special. People kept thanking me but the day wouldn't have been anything without all of you guys agreeing to come book shopping with a random stranger and being brilliant and making it what it was.  Bring on the next one!