Tag Archives: musings

All the Things the Witches in Harry Potter Taught Us (Part 1)

It has been 20 years (20 years!) since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone first made it’s quiet little entrance onto our shelves, who would have thought that kid’s book I pulled out my stocking on Christmas day 20 years (20 years!) ago would turn into what it has today. Books, and films, and spin-offs and theme parks. My first home online, with the old DSL connection, on the very basic Bloomsbury message board where you had to type in your username everytime, was because of Harry. I have spoken often before about how much these books have been so important to me, and I don’t want to just be rehashing old ground (I’ll leave some links at the bottom though). but I do need to do something.

So I was thinking, and I thought about those beautiful new house editions which came out yesterday, and I was thinking about how they are a thing to possess and treasure, rather than just a book to read, but it’s not really the books as an object that are the things you treasure. You treasure the memories, and the stories, and the characters.

Then I started thinking about how J.K has been criticised for her books being too white, too middle-class. Maybe it’s not representative of the whole world, maybe it doesn’t have to be because guess what? There are some amazing characters in there. And, at a time when J.K was being told not to put her first name on books because it would put boys off, she wrote some really amazing, strong women. Harry Potter isn’t a feminist novel, but maybe it should be. Let’s see we have to of course start with…


Copyright Jim Kay


The ‘Greatest Witch of Her Age’. Hermione I think is so many of us, she was certainly the character I would have said I had most in common with, at least early on. She’s smart, and bookish, and ‘good’, and she doesn’t have many friends. She’s not beautiful, she has big teeth and bushy hair (let’s put to the side the idea that she’s black, imagine her how you always imagine her). I even thought that I looked like Hermione. We can all see why she’s bookish, we are all the readers escaping into another world, and think about it Hermione was actually escaping into another world, she was muggleborn, she’d probably read The Hobbit, and The Secret Garden, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, things like that don’t happen to ‘normal’ people. She must have been so excited.

So with this bond of hers of course Hogwarts was exciting, and of course she wanted to do well, so of course she spent days reading the textbooks and anything else she could lay her hands on, it was a dream. I even imagine that it was disappointing to find how much was the same as a muggle school. No wonder she was upset that ‘nobody liked her’ it stopped the place from being an amazing fairytale she had ended up in. The  Harry and Ron brought that fairytale back (maybe more than she would really have expected!).

She was the clever one, Harry may have thought with his heart, but he really needed Hermione to be his head. And she ended up not being such a goody-two-shoes after all.  In first year she set a teacher on fire. In second year she brewed an advanced potion which required taking a book from the restricted section of the library, stealing potions from the Snape’s  personal supplies, and hiding it in a bathroom. And that was just the first two years!

I guess what I’m saying is that she had a sense of being good, and right. She appreciated the rules, but she was willing to break them for the right reasons, and her friends were top of that list of reasons.

She taught us that it’s ok to be clever, and strong, and to stand-up for people (and house elves). She showed us that women can get high up  politics without having to be ‘bitches’ (even if she did have a slight bossy streak).

We are all Hermione, and that’s awesome.

(ok so I got here and realised I’d basically written a mini essay on Hermione….so stay tuned for part two)

Other places where I rave about Harry Potter:

How to Know You’re Still a Potterhead

If You Could Only Remember 1 Book

Chamber of Secrets Forum- In Memoriam

Looking back, teenage reading

Harry Potter Week

Me and Harry

Me and Books


Filed under general, Musings

Birmingham Libraries in Trouble


Library of Birmingham (photo by me)

So what I had feared is happening. Birmingham, yes, cannot really afford its lovely new library. I was concerned from the beginning (well sort of) that the opening of a fancy, new, and- yes- expensive library would effect the libraries in Birmingham as a whole.

First the hours were cut and staff were let go. Now apparently new fiction is not being bought- there’s just no budget. I fact reportedly some Birmingham libraries have been asking for donations for their shelves.

I love the Library of Birmingham. It is a beautiful building, and of course all the books. However I never really saw a problem with the old one at least it terms of it’s purpose as a library. You couldn’t exactly call it beautiful, but it had books, and places to read them, which is the important thing really. It’s nice to have a library which isn’t a concrete monstrosity, but I’d rather have the old old library back based on the pictures I’ve seen, apparently at the time it was too ‘showy’ though, and the knocked it down when the ugly new library (of the time) was built.

Victorian Library (source)

The Library of Birmingham is probably the library I use the most (there are others closer to home, but I travel through town every day. It is certainly a nice library to have as my main library, although the decreased opening hours have meant that it’s often already closed when I am travelling through town on the way home.

That fiction is being cut I think really shows the attitude that libraries and reading are a luxury. Is this true though? Whilst non-fiction may be more intellectually enriching, fiction is, at least generally speaking, more emotionally enriching. Is that the type of society we really want? Where intelligence is rated above compassion or empathy? Plus reading has been shown to have good effects on mental health which is surely a good thing.

Old central library (source)

Again it is the poor that are getting hit. Those for whom the library is their only, or their main source of books. I am lucky. I can afford to buy more books than I really ‘need’. I have a pile of books waiting to be read which could last me a few months, and enough Waterstone’s points to buy three or four books if I’m really desperate.

However I remember a time when I used the library a lot. I did much of my studying for my GCSEs there, and spent a lot of time there during my holidays. I was a frequent visitor at the school library. If it wasn’t for the library- and yes, especially the fiction section I wouldn’t be the reader I am today.

Reading isn’t a luxury. Reading is a way of life, and in a world where there are so many other things to distract potential readers shouldn’t we be putting more into our libraries, not taking away from them. Books create a person, books are a lot of what I am, not just a reader, but my personality too. I hate to think of a world where this access to self is lost.


Filed under general, Musings

How to Know You’re Still a Potterhead


1) The word “Always” “Always” has quotation marks around it

2) Everything can be linked to Harry Potter


3) You’re still half-convinced Sirius is actually alive

4) It takes you hours to write a simple list post because you get distracted by all the Potter stuff online

5) You never give up hope for ‘The Scottish Book’…

6)…or a prequel

7)…or sequel

8) You have a strange relationship with the films, they aren’t the books, but you still can’t quite resist

9)…and when you watch them you “Always” complain about what was changed or left out

10) New covers aren’t right, but you still covet them

11) They are your comfort read

12) You still want to re-read no matter how many times you’ve read them…

13)…even if you practically know them off by heart

14) There are several copies of the books in your house because nobody wants to get rid of theirs (and they are half fallen apart so you needed new copies)


15) When you re-read Deathly Hallows you still cry at Harry’s death, even though you know it’s not really death

16) Getting a tweet from J.K. is a dream

17)…and if you get one you have a mini panic attack

18)…God know what you’d be like if you actually met her

19) You are disappointed in the lack of book based merchandise

20)…but you still own some sort of Potter merchandise


21) Dumbledore is the wisest person you know

22)…even if he is a bit shady

23) And Snape is still a villain (unless you were a Snape fan already)

24) You still ship non-canon pairings

25) You plan on naming your kids after Harry Potter characters (or have already)

26) You’re still waiting for your Hogwarts letter

27) You write posts about how you are still a Potterhead

28) You miss Harry



Filed under general, Musings

On Cover Art and New Covers

This week there have been a few new covers revealed this week. Both the US and the UK covers of Go Set and Watchman  (the ‘new’ Harper Lee novel) were released this week, and so was the cover of the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I had planned to write this post just about the Go Set A Watchman covers, but when I saw the Harry Potter cover I thought I may as well use that too.

US Cover

The first cover I saw was the US Go Set a Watchman cover. My initial feelings were ‘meh’ it’s ok, but not great. There’s something kind of amateur about it I think. It looks like a good indie ebook cover, not remarkable, but better than a lot of things out there. There’s also a bit of an old fashioned air, which I think is probably to reflect the time when it was written. I can see reflections of the original To Killa Mockingbird cover with the tree. Plus apparently a train journey is apparently important, so I suppose it makes some sense at least.

UK cover

I guessed that the UK cover would somehow link with the To Kill a Mockingbird cover too. I was pretty much right, there’s the tree which reflects the original cover, and the bird which reflects some of the subsequent covers, including the longest standing cover. Plus the orange reflects the orange from the original and later covers. Generally I prefer the UK cover, although I don’t like the text on the cover, it’s silly to read, first time I read it as “Go Set A To Kill A Watchman Mockingbird” which makes no sense. Then I began to wonder if the UK publishers are trying to trick people into thinking they’re buying a double edition, then text for the To Kill a Mockingbird bit is just too big to seem to refer to a by the author of note, which is what it actually is. Really I can’t say I like the UK cover so much either, but it is more instantly likeable.

So onto the illustrated Philosopher’s Stone. We’ve seen a few images from this already (if you look at the pictures on the amazon page you can see what has already been released) and I’ve had mixed feelings about them, I can certainly see the appeal, but I’ve grown up with the original covers, anything else just seems strange. I do like the cover art though. It makes Platform 9 3/4 seem more magical than the original covers. Generally I have to admit the illustrations are good. I especially have liked how Hermione is drawn. I think this is a book I would like to posses when it is released.

What do you think of these new covers?

Pre-order ‘Go Set a Watchman’ (UK cover):

Hardcover (£9.00)

Kindle (£7.47)

Pre-order the illustrated edition of Philosopher’s Stone:

Hardcover (£30.00)


Filed under general, Musings

Famous Writers and New Books

I have posts planned to write, reviews, a different musings post, but yesterday the news was revealed that Harper Lee is releasing a new book, after over 50 years.

Technically it’s not a new book, but an old one. It features ‘To Kill a Mockingbird”s Scout as an adult and was actually written before ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, only the manuscript was thought lost.

This got me thinking about authors who are famous for one book releasing new books. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is a modern classic. It has lots of fans who think it’s one of the best books ever written.

So what does this mean for ‘Go Set A Watchman’ (that’s the title of the new book)? Well for one thing it will probably be pretty much required reading. Whether or not it’s any good I should think that it will get plenty of sales (which almost makes one doubt the lost manuscript story).

Then of course there are all the expectations which come with the book. You would expect it to be at least as good as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, so if it isn’t then that would be a great disappointment. You would expect some great moral story, but does it really have to be that, after all authors have worked in different genres before. Although it still featuring Scout suggests that it will at least have some moral standing.

Will it be as good though? It was written before ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ which could suggest that Harper Lee knew less of what publishing wanted (whether or not they know what will make a good, and successful book is a discussion for another day). In fact it was because the editor liked the looking back sections of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was written, and it seems that it was meant as a replacement, rather than a prequel. Does that mean that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is basically the best bits of ‘Go Set a Watchman’?

It reminds me a little of when authors back catalogues are re-released because they have become more popular since the books were first released. The author who springs to mind is Jodi Picoult. I’ve still (generally) enjoyed her older books, but they have been a bit disappointing in comparison to some of her more recent novels.

At the moment I’m reading J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis will know what a big Harry Potter nut I am. So why has it taken me so long to get around to reading The Casual Vacancy. Partly it was that I was worried I would end up being disappointed, or that I would have a bias favourable view just because it’s J.K. I think I might end up the same with ‘Go Set a Watchman’. I certainly want to read it, but I have reservations (not least that Harper Lee may not actually want it to be published). I will probably wait for the paperback.

I’ve always thought that I understand J.K. Rowling wanting to write a novel not as J.K. Rowling, which she did. It means it would be judged for it’s own merit. The Cuckoo’s Calling did get quite good reviews prior to J.K. being unmasked as the real author, but it wasn’t until after then that it got to be a best seller. It’s a shame in a way because it is a pretty good crime story, and so many people read it because it was J.K. rather than because they actually wanted to read it.

So what do you think. Do you want to read the new Harper Lee? Do you think that your reading of books by favourite authors are coloured based on who the author is?

You can already pre-order ‘Go Set a Watchman’ which is set for release on 14th June 2015

Hardback (£18.99)

Kindle (£10.99)


Filed under general, Musings, News

Goodreads, negative reviews, authors, and reviewers.

Okay, so I don’t get much into the politics in the book blogging world. I’ve heard of people having trouble from authors for negative reviews but have little personal experience of it. However the discussion around Kathleen Hale’s article has interested me.

The article talks about Hale’s reaction to this review. The reviewer posted a negative review which Hale thought was unfair and untruthful, and got more than a little obsessed with it. Her article caused uproar in different parts of the book blogging world, and even division between authors.

So what do I have to add which hasn’t been said? I hope some balance.

I haven’t read the book, I cannot say if the reviewer was truthful about the book, however I can see how wires may have been crossed.

For an author their books can be a little like their children, it’s easy to be upset by negative reviews. Goodreads is probably right to say not to talk back to them. It’s something that people will like or won’t, and they should be free to express either of those feelings. Most bloggers will state that their reviews are truthful regardless of whether they were given free copies of the book or not, and authors shouldn’t expect a good review just because someone has taken something off them for free.

Having said that bloggers should be sensitive about how they approach reviewing a book. I hate writing negative reviews, although I have done it. Usually I try to make them balanced, even if the only good thing I can say about it is that the premise was good, if not the execution. I’m the same with positive reviews, if there is something I didn’t like I say. I’m not one for rave reviews.

So was this review unfair? Maybe, maybe not. It wasn’t a particularly strong review. It’s barely a review at all, more thoughts as they come up. Maybe a fuller review by the reviewer would be more balanced, and have more evidence (quotes, description of events) to back up her feelings.

Hale claims that the main reason she was upset was that she didn’t think there was rape in the book. The reviewer says there is, and that it’s ‘justified’ by the characters, and a whole handful of other things, slut-shaming for example, are used in a throwaway manner. But isn’t that realistic? When people do things like that they aren’t thinking of political correctness. Yes, I think Hale should have found a way to show that wasn’t right. I don’t know if she did. To be honest I don’t know if the reviewer herself knows. She claims in comments that:

“What I’m doing with this book is basically just reading until I find something offensive, but since that’s normally every other page or so, I try to make it through a chapter. But I’ve been busy reading better books lately, so this is not one of my top priorities, ha.”

And later

“Ha, read the above comments and status updates. I finally gave up. I’m going to ask my co-blogger who killed whom and promptly rid this book from my mind.”

Which suggests she could have missed things which make the things she didn’t like be better. She might not have too. (It is worth reading at least a few of the comments by the way, they go into more of a discussion and some people who liked the book show how they read it.)

Hale wanting right of reply isn’t wrong. If she thought the reviewer had read something in her book which she didn’t think was covered then I think Hale did have the right to ask for clarification. I think it’s decent for the reviewer to enter into a discussion, but I don’t think they should have to.

The real problem was the extremes of Hale’s reaction. Wanting to know on one thing. Asking on twitter, okay, asking on goodreads, okay. Trying to pressure a reviewer to interact, especially when acting like they want to talk about something different, not okay. Finding a reviewer’s address and turning up there, not okay. Finding their number and calling them, not okay. Pretending to be someone else not okay. Goading someone online, not okay. (Hale claims the reviewer did this too, which is not right on the reviewer’s side either).

I am ashamed too that The Guardian published the reviewer’s real name (presuming it is the real name). That is not right. Part of writing on the internet is being anonymous. That does mean you can say nasty things without fear of retribution, but it also means you can be truthful without worrying about the consequences, or at least you can supposedly be. It is okay that the reviewer pretended to be someone else, didn’t give her real name or picture. It’s a fairly vital thing for internet safety.

If she however did do the things which Hale accuses her of doing then she does seem to be looking for conflict, and you could even go as far as to call it cyber-bullying, and that is not okay. Whatever you say online you still have to be mindful that real people are reading it, and real feelings are involved.

Others have written negative reviews, or critical comments based solely on Hale’s article. I don’t feel this is right either. Hale’s reaction was wrong, but reading should be based on the book, not the author. At least that’s how I feel.

Hale blew everything far out of proportion, and if I have to pick a side I will go with the reviewer, however I do feel some sympathy for Hale, and I do think both sides did things which aren’t right.

As far as Hale’s article goes. It’s what really caused the trouble. Does that mean she shouldn’t have written it? Maybe, but it seems to have done more damage to her than anything else.Maybe it was a form of confession for her, or maybe she hoped more people would read the book and make up their own minds. Part of me does want to read it to see if I agree with the reviewer, but at the same time I wouldn’t want to ‘reward’ Hale for her behaviour.


Filed under general, Musings, News

What to do with old ARCs?

The other day Jennifer (from The Restless Reader) was asking on twitter what other bloggers do with ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) once they have read and reviewed them? It’s always something which I have been a little unsure about, meaning that the majority of my ARCs are sitting on my shelves still, and most of them I am unlikely to read again.

I have in the past bookcrossed old ARC copies. It seems to be a pretty good solution to me. It’s sharing bookish love but means that you’re more likely to get someone who would not buy the book if they didn’t find it. Pretty much anyone can pick it up, and in a way that’s a sort of promotion of the author, and seeing as you’re meant to pass bookcrossing books on they may still buy the book if they enjoyed it.

Then there’s the rather popular blogger option of having an ARC giveaway. It’s not one I’ve ever done myself, mainly because of postage, I find it easier to just giveaway new books from the book depository. I can see the appeal though. It stands as a bit of a promotion for your blog (I tend to get more hits when I’m hosting a giveaway at least), and it’s again sharing the bookish love. Plus it’s fairly likely that whoever wins the book is a fellow blogger, so that could mean another review for the author.

Another option is to give them to a charity shop. However ARCs are never intended for selling, and although you wouldn’t benefit from it in monetry terms the charity would, which makes it a bit like selling the book on. It’s more acceptable than selling the book for your own gain because all books come to charity shops free of charge, whereas you’re ‘payment’ for the review is supposedly the book itself.

Then there are swapping options. Things like bookmooch, and read-it swap-it. Again you’re getting a sort of payment for this in the form of other books to read.

So what do you guys do with old ARCs? If you’re an author/publisher what would you like to see happen with ARCs?


Filed under Musings

Chamber of Secrets Forum- In Memoriam

This week has been a sad week for Harry Potter fandom. First, Richard Griffiths (who played Uncle Vernon in the Potter films) dies, and then I find out that the wonderful Chamber of Secrets Forum is to close.


I joined Chamber of Secrets forum almost 9 years ago. It was after the Bloomsbury Harry Potter forum closed down and when I was still insisting that Sirius was not actually dead (and yes there is still a part of me that believes that).

I’ve spoken before of how Harry Potter was my introduction to the online life, and this was mainly through The Chamber of Secrets Forum (CoS)

I enjoyed discussing various theories there and found that Harry Potter was more than just an imaginative and engaging book. There is so much behind it that once I did not see but soon learnt to discover for myself. Many an evening was spent talking about the various details of each of the books and what they meant. I didn’t even need the books to help my theorising, I lived them enough to know even small details off by heart.

But CoS was more than just a Harry Potter forum for me. I spent more time in general discussion threads than I did in the Potter threads most of the time. I made my first online friends, some of whom I met later during the release of Deathly Hallows.

I used the spend lunchtime at school on CoS, I stayed up late on CoS at weekends, when I started at 6th form I often spent free periods there, and even when I started uni and didn’t expect to be able to visit so much anymore I still managed to find a way to chat to my friends.

After the release of Deathly Hallows we all knew things were bound to change. With nothing new to discuss things could only go so far. The owner and moderators opened some new areas for more varied discussion but whilst they were used they never became as popular as the actual Potter areas were, and of course people don’t join Harry Potter forums to talk about other things.

I stuck around for quite a while after Deathly Hallows. At first there were Harry Potter things to discuss. I had my friends to talk to, and I started to explore other areas of the site. However things did start to drop of. Threads seemed to go round and round in circles, less people were visiting, you could wait days sometimes for a thread to be updated. Gradually I started visiting less and less. I still haven;t completely abandoned the forum but I visit less than monthly, and don’t always comment on things when I do visit.

I will be sad to see CoS go. There are so many happy memories there for me. But all good things must come to an end, and this day has been coming for a long time.

The Chamber of Secrets Forum will officially close in July



Filed under Musings, News

On Covers, Readership and The Bell Jar

Recently there has been lots of fuss around the new cover for The Bell Jar (see above). Lots of people have been saying that the cover doesn’t reflect the book, that it makes the book look unsubstantial, that it has an aura of chick-lit around it.

Really this post isn’t about The Bell Jar cover as such, but I feel seeing as it’s what has inspired this post then I should at least make my own feelings on this known. So, in brief. I can see how the cover can be seen as being chick-lit like. The lipstick, the pretty woman, the mirror. However I think if it’s a chick-lit cover then it’s chick-lit about a sad woman, I mean look at those lips, look at that reflection. If it does indeed attract chick-lit readers then once they see the image closer up then they will see that it is different, but may be interested enough to look further.

Anyway Faber & Faber answered the concerns this week. Key in their reasoning was the idea of a new readership, a reader who…

will enjoy its (The Bell Jar’s) brilliance without knowing anything about Plath’s other work.

There’s a certain deja-vu about it all. What was it that Bloomsbury said of the new editions of Harry Potter? What did Headline say of their new ‘chick-lit style’ Austen covers? It always seems to be finding a new readership, but does it work?

Well there could be quite a shock for people who pick up The Bell Jar based on its new cover, especially if they are reading it based solely on the cover image. Whilst I can personally see a sadness there is it just because I know The Bell Jar? If I knew nothing of the Bell Jar would I pick it up expecting something light and easy? Even having read the blurb (which gives no real allusions) would I still expect everything to turn out perfectly (because, you know, there aren’t sad endings in chick-lit)?

Even if this new cover gets people to buy The Bell Jar who wouldn’t have previously will you actually be getting a new fanbase (for want of a better word)? How many of these people will give up when they don’t get what they expected and how many will become Plath convertees*? I imagine that there would be people who wouldn’t have considered Plath before who find they actually enjoy The Bell Jar so look into her other works, However I also imagine that there will be people who go for The Bell Jar expecting something else and feel a little like they have been tricked.

After all that’s what a new cover is about isn’t it? About making a book appear differently. I don’t really think that the new cover for The Bell Jar is too bad for this but whilst Jane Austen is in a way the mother of chick-lit the chick-lit style covers do suggest something other than a classic. If you live in a hole and have never heard of Jane Austen you may actually think they are your stereotypical chick-lit books based on the covers (see right). Just don’t ask me what type of hole you can live in to have access to chick-lit but still not know who Jane Austen is.

So what do we think? Are different covers a good idea because they might bring new lovers to old books? Are they just a trick which might get up sales for a bit but ultimately lead to nothing? Or are they just an attempt which will never do anything?

Have you ever bought a book based on a new cover?




*yes, I do realise that convertee is not a real word, but it works, so I’m keeping it


Filed under Musings

What Would Rory Read?



The Rory Challenge has been my longest standing challenge, it dates from the days before my book blog. The idea is to read books from the list of books which are mentioned or seen in the television show The Gilmore Girls.

Recently I’ve found that I’ve been reading books and thought ‘This is a book Rory would read’ if the show still existed. I think as I’ve read more from the list I’ve started to see a bit more what Rory’s taste is, and what her motivations for reading some books may be. Knowing her from the show certainly helps too.

So basically this post is like an extended Rory list. A list of books I think Rory might have read if the series continued. If you can think of any more I’d love for you to tell me in comments.

I’m including books which were released since the show finished and whilst it was still running, because she didn’t only read current books after all. I’ve only included books I’ve read.  I have some ideas for books I haven’t read which seem like they may fit on Rory’s list but can’t judge so well on these.

So without further ado…

The Etymologicon– What girl who wants The Complete Oxford English Dictionary more than any other book wouldn’t want to read a book all about words?

The Lover’s Dictionary– I can see Rory getting into the understated beauty of this one. It seems like it would fit with the poetic side of her.

How to be a Woman– Not sure how popular this one has been in the US but it’s feminist side would attract Rory I think, and if she had any knowledge of Caitlin Moran through her articles (as with Nick Hornby) I think she  might enjoy her writing style and want to read her book.

Anything by Murakami– How Rory managed to avoid Murakami I have no idea. He’s had quite a cult following for years and his first popular novel was released in the early 80s. She would totally love him. There’s a fair bit of translated fiction in her reading history too, although I don’t think any of it is Japanese.

Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism– There are a lot of feminist books on Rory’s list. I can certainly see her wanting to read a modern feminist’s view of the world.

Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series– would appeal to the book lover in her, I’m sure she would get a kick out of all the literary references.

The Help– Rory seems to like fiction about those who are marginalised (e.g. To Kill a Mockingbird, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). I think The Help would appeal to that side of her, would be quite a good contrast to Gone with the Wind too.

Midnight’s Children– actually I mean anything by Salman Rushdie, but Midnight’s Children is the one I’ve read. I think Rory would enjoy the beautiful and complex language. Links well with her classics.

Oranges are not the Only Fruit– would both fit with her feminist side and her like of stories about the marginalised. Another one I’m surprised isn’t already on the list.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas– There a lot of war writing (mainly focused around the Jews) on Rory’s list. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is one of the most popular in recent years and looks at the same area from a slightly different perspective.


Are you a fan of The Gilmore Girls? What books do you think would have made The Rory List if the series had continued?



Filed under Musings

50 Shades of Grey and Decency

I read a mention of this article from the Boston Globe, about reading 50 Shades of Grey in public, on Bookriot yesterday and it got be thinking about the decency of making your reading of Shades of Grey public.

I’m not sure I can even remember the last time people were telling me about a book this much outside of the book blogging community. My boss has told me I should read it because I “like reading books”, people are on about how much they love Mr Grey all over the place on facebook. Amazon keeps deciding I must want to read it because it’s so popular. Even a friend who I would have said would be the last person to read it has read it- on the kindle, when it was still free.  I’ve even seen people reading it out and about. Including a whole host of staff in HMV who were trying to find out if it was really worth the hype (apparently not).

Now usually I would be all for it. I wish more people read but there is something a bit seedy about being so open about your reading of erotica. I mean it’s not designed for reading pleasure exactly, is it? Of course at first when it was only on kindle it was a bit more discrete. Nobody could tell you were reading it unless you told them, and you could tell whoever you wanted to tell. Yes the book has a level of discretion too, but because everyone knows what it is it looses the discretion of those covers. I suppose what gets to me is that you wouldn’t tell an acquaintance about some great erotica you had read online, or post some amazing porn you had watched on facebook, why has it become acceptable to do that with Shades of Grey?

Plus when it comes to reading it in public. Well either that’s adding an extra thrill or just a bit uncomfortable and inappropriate surely. I would certainly rather feel embarrassed for the person that imagine that it might be giving them sort of thrill to know I know what they’re reading!

So, no I haven’t read it (but would I tell you if I had?!). There is a small part of me which is interested, but from the little snippets I have read/heard I don’t really think it’s worth it.

Read the Reviews:


The Sponsored Lady

Escape into Life

Laura J Moss


Filed under Musings

Happy World Book Night

Hi everyone! Happy World Book Night! Oh what a great day when we can celebrate books!

I always loved the sound of World Book Night, even before knowing anything about it! I brings to mind secret meetings to share a great love of books. I can imagine candles and cellars, and dark corners as people smuggle books to one another. No idea why but I certainly like the idea, and it’s not terribly far from the truth!

For one thing it is about sharing loved books. The main content of World Book Night is to share books. Every year 25 books are chosen by the public to be shared with the world. Readers can then apply to receive 24 copies of these books which they can give away as they choose- although the idea is to try and giveaway books to those who may not usually read or have access to books.

There’s also the link with Bookcrossing which adds an air of mystery. Bookcrossing is about chronicling a book’s journey and all its readers- it’s something that happens all year round (and which I am involved in). The mystery being that you never know where a book could end up, I have journals entries from books which have traveled all over the world.

Unfortunately I didn’t get in early enough to ask for my copies of books this year- but I hope to next time!

There are some bloggers who are posting about what they are doing however:

Jane @ Booketta’s Book Blog

Cassanadra @ Indie Reader Houston

Lainy @ So Many Books, So Little Time

Sherry @ Semicolon Blog


Find Out More:

World Book Night (UK)

World Book Night (US)



Filed under Musings, News

J.K. Rowling new book details.

Image from Little Brown

So today the details of J.K. Rowling’s new book, to be called The Casual Vacancy have been released. How can I as a self-confessed Potter-geek not comment?! So what’s it all about? Synopsis comes from Little Brown

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

I must admit to me that sounds kind of interesting. War in a village. Vaguely political, I can imagine that being quite funny in a sort of Yes, Minister way but smaller scale. All about people thinking they’re fantastic and wanting to do anything for power- which is just made silly by it just being a parish council. Yeah I can see black comedy there.

Of course it’s very different from Harry, but at least it can’t be compared (although I am sure someone will try). A good move by J.K. I think, she really needs to get away from Harry if she wants to be seen as an author who is more than a one-trick-pony if you will. To keep going with Harry it may seem a bit like she’s in it just for the money (and God how I hate when things go past their best and people still keep trying to go with it.)

I probably will read it, although a part of me does wonder if I’m more interested in reading it because it’s J.K. rather than because it sounds like a good read.

You can already pre-order The Casual Vacancy on Amazon

Related Articles:

From The Guardian


Filed under Musings, News

On review requests and approaching the blogger

Mail symbol

Mail symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been meaning to write this musing post for quite a while but somehow haven’t got around to it.

Anyway since getting my kindle I have been getting an increasing number of requests for reviews, understandably seeing as it’s much easier and cheaper to send a digital copy of a book than a paper copy.

This has made me see the different ways authors, publicists and publishers approach a blogger. Part of it I know is that sending an e-mail (especially to a person rather than a company) doesn’t really have a set format. It tends to be less formal than a letter but how informal should it be in order to still be professional. I must admit as a blogger I prefer a more chatty friendly approach, but I’m sure there are bloggers who don’t want o be treated like a friend.

Anyway this isn’t meant to be a post about e-mail etiquette. It’s about the pitfalls and successes of people who approach bloggers. I guess you could call it a bit of a how to guide.

Good Stuff to do:

  • Read the review policy: This is the most important one. I can’t count the number of times I was asked to read an e-book before I got my kindle. It’s a waste of everybody’s time if you are pitching a book a blogger has said it of the type they won’t, or can’t, read.
  • Address the blogger by name: My name is right at the top of my blog but it’s not so easy for everyone. If it’s not easily visible a few places you can look are at the tops and bottoms of posts, about me sections, and the sidebar (blogger blogs tend to have a little blogger profile in the sidebar in particular). If all else fails refer to them as owner of ‘blog name’. Just calling me blogger (or even worse webmaster) suggests that the only way you’ve looked at my blog at all is to find my e-mail address.
  • Tell the blogger about your book: just a simple synopsis will do. Saying ‘hi I have a book will you read it if I send it to you’ won’t get you many reviews. Most bloggers won’t accept every request and if you give no information about the book you won’t make the cut. If you want to put more information it’s nice but not essential. Do tell us if there is a date you’d like us to review the book by, most bloggers will try and do this for you but do give them a chance to actually read it! (Note sending an e-copy with your initial e-mail is a little conceited, it’s like you expect the blogger to say yes).
  • Offer to give interviews, write guest posts, or giveaway copies: not an essential one but sometimes it’s nice to have extra information on the book, or writing, for the blog’s readers. It’s a good way to engage your readers too. I always feel an author who is ready to talk really cares for their readers.

Things to Avoid

  • Adverts: I’m not an advertiser. Maybe you do have a book out but unless I have a history with your books, or have read the book prior to release I’m sorry but I’m not going to start shouting about it just because you’ve told me it’s out.
  • Expecting a good review: unfortunately opinions are subjective, just because you have had good reviews it doesn’t mean everyone is going to like your book. I can understand authors getting upset about negative reviews, I know time, and feeling and effort has gone into it, but unfortunately by putting yourself out there you are going to encounter people who don’t like it.


Filed under Musings

On Series

Recently I posted a review of The Hunger Games (which I loved more than I felt I really should) which is of course the first books of The Hunger Games Trilogy. In the comments I got a comment from Andrew @ Where Pen Meets Paper. Andrew suggested that The Hunger Games lost something simply because of its nature as a first book of a series. It’s never something I have really put any thought into before but Andrew if right in at least one sense, when you read a book from a series it automatically has a predictability just because it is a series book. You know that no matter what happens in the story the main character is going to be okay (at least until the last book in the series) because otherwise the series couldn’t continue.

Does this really mean the book is spoiled though? Certainly it takes a certain level of suspense out of the story, and this is particularly pronounced in The Hunger Games because the main bulk of the story is about a battle to the death. However I do wonder how much you think of it at the time of reading though. If you are caught up in a story do you really start thinking rationally at moments of high tension? When Katniss was in danger can I really say that I thought ‘it’ll be okay, there are 2 more books, she has to survive’? I honestly can’t say I remember for that particular book that I thought it.

Plus maybe sometimes it’s a good thing to be able to think it. When all feels in despair and like nothing can ever save your lead character there is a certain comfort that you can think it will be okay because there is another book to come. I think I used this protectionism for a certain extent when reading the Harry Potter series, at times things looked helpless, I thought there was no way Harry could survive but I gained comfort from knowing there were still more books to come, so he must survive. It’s the same reason that only the last book really made me cry, I couldn’t have that comfort anymore.

I guess as well reading a series really spreads out the suspense, because you know someone will be okay by the end of the first books and the penultimate books but do you really know that they will be okay by the end of the last book?

What do you think does reading a series take something away from the story? Does it add something? Or is it just like reading a very long book with lots of twists and turns?

1 Comment

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So, J.K Rowling is writing again.

Image from The Telegraph

JK Rowling announces new novel – for adults | Books | guardian.co.uk.

Not much to tell really…barely makes an article. J.K will be releasing a new book which is aimed at adults and “very different” from Harry Potter. She is going with a new publishers, supposedly to separate her new novel from from her Harry Potter novels.

In the past I remember her talking about the possibility of writing a crime novel after Harry Potter (although I can’t seem to find the interview so I could be wrong), which isn’t actually a genre that far from Harry Potter, what with the solving of mysteries that tend to happen especially in earlier Harry Potter books- Chamber of Secrets leaps to mind. However in the past Rowling has said that she would want to write crime under another name- maybe she has abandoned this plan, or has been persuaded to- I am sure her name adds a lot to the prospects of a book selling, at least her first novel for adults anyway. Or maybe she already has done this and now that no new Harry Potter books are coming out she has decided to start using her names to sell things.

I don’t really care about her motives for choosing to use her name- or not as the case will be, I am however intrigued to see what she has come up with away from Harry, and it she can pull off writing for adults. Personally I’ve always thought that her writing style had more to it than you would initially see. This I suppose is from years of dissecting Harry Potter on The Chamber of Secrets Forum.

The real question I suppose is will I read it? And that, well, to be honest I really do not know.

There is a part of me that really wants to. The part of my that wants to see what a different novel by J.K. is like. The part of me that wants to read it just because it could be just as good as Harry- and that doesn’t want to miss out on that possibility.

Then there is the bit of me that says, but what if you don’t like it? Won’t that be a great disappointment? The part of my that says I should just judge it as a book rather than a book by the author of Harry Potter.

The thing is can I judge it just as any other book? Even if I try to do into it open minded won’t there still be the bit of my that’s squeeing to have a new book by J.K. Rowling…because I always wanted more Harry, and well isn’t this the next best thing? Will I ever be able to get past comparing it to Harry Potter, when he has been in my life for so many years, and been a big part of my life for some of that?

I would love to walk in to a bookshop, maybe see a book I like the look of, read the synopsis and like the sound of it and not know right till the end that t was by J.K. that way I would have no preconceived ideas. But that’s not going to happen is it?

Related Links:

J.K. Rowling’s New Book: Clues Suggest a Turn to Crime Fiction (Guardian online)

Chamber of Secrets Forums

J.K Rowling’s Site

Accio-Quote (Quotes from interviews)


Filed under general, Musings, News

Looking back: Musings

Again as part of my blogiversary week I wanted to look back at something from my blog. Today I’m going to look at a past musing.

One of my most commented on posts is a post about how the popularity of a book may effect a reader’s perceptions of it.

Well I have a little personal slant to add to it. I don’t want to re-hash old ground seeing as my thoughts are still pretty much the same as they were when I wrote the original post, so you may as well just go back and look at that particular post.

I wanted however to talk about a particular series of books because it is a time when I have been on the outside, or so it would seem. You may have heard of these books The Hunger Games trilogy. They are certainly well known. Lots of bloggers have read them, lots of bloggers have loved them. It’s got to the point where I am cheering to see bloggers saying that they haven’t read them because it means that it is not just me!

Well lets put it blankly. I first heard of these books (may even have been book at that point) before I noticed any big popularity thing going on around them. I can’t honestly say I was interested. Maybe there was something there but the idea just reminded me of Battle Royale, which just makes it a little unoriginal, especially as Battle Royale has such a cult following, it’s not as if it’s a bit of inspiration taken from a generally unknown story. I haven’t read Battle Royale, in case you were wondering. I’ve seen the film (and yes I know as well as anybody that there is rarely any real comparison there), which is pretty horrific in a kind of you don’t want to see but can’t look away sense.

Anyway back to the point. I wasn’t very interested in this book but gradually I was seeing more and more rave reviews of the books, and people who could not wait for the release of Mockingjay.It made me begin to think that possibly I was missing out on something. Maybe it was more that just a calmed version of a gruesome cult classic for a younger generation? So far I have stuck to my guns, but who knows how long. I’m been tempted a few times but not jumped. What if it ends up like Twilight? With a need to keep reading but a hatred of what I was reading?

So there you go, popularity can be seductive. But sometimes it makes you want to resist.


Filed under Musings

eeek excitement POTTERMORE!


Wow this is much much excitement! See I can’t even use words properly!

From the video I am most excited about the extra snippets J.K talks about, anything new always drives me crazy and I still want to know MORE!

It sounds kind of like an online community too, I love forums so am happy in that respect but wonder how much it will actually give us that a ‘normal’ forum doesn’t? And how awesome would it be to be one of the people to be let in early?

There is more information on The Leaky Cauldron

  • You will be like another character, getting sorted and even getting a wand from one of 33,000 combinations!
  • There will be lots of information on McGonnagal’s backstory (which could well be interesting)
  • You will get exclusive information about your house (unless you are sorted into Gryffindor)
  • Will not included the encyclopaedia, this will be a paper book, if it ever happens (WHAT it might not happen…I was hoping for it for so long though!)

Can’t wait for 31st July to try and get in early!



Filed under Musings, News


So I did find out about Pottermore not long after it had been released that Pottermore is the answer to the clues but I thought here I am self confessed Potter addict and I haven’t even mentioned Pottermore on my blog!

Of course there is little really to say, I mean it’s just “Coming Soon” currently which really shows very little about what it will actually be. J.k. has said it’s not a new book but I am still hoping for the encyclopedia (or The Scottish Book).

Still something new that actually comes from J.K. Rowling…very very very exciting! And it means my final Harry Potter straw will not have to be the last Harry Potter film, this make me very happy as I don’t even really like the films.


Filed under Musings, News

Self-publishing and the reader.

Front cover and Textblock (book binding)

Image via Wikipedia

A few days ago I was sent a review request from a self-published author, I won’t tell you the book title because I want to leave that for my review. It got me thinking about authors who self-publish and the effect knowing a book is self published has on a readers perceptions of it before they read it. Personally I get quite interested in the idea of reading self published books simply because I think if someone has worked that hard to get their work published then they deserve some recognition, and I always hope that I will come across that one book which is a gem and really should have been published.

When I started thinking about the perception of readers my first thought was that most readers would look negatively on self-published books. I can see why, if publishers and agents didn’t see the good in a book (and lets face it some awful books have been published, and successful – *cough* Twilight *cough*) then how could readers hope to see it? Having said that the publishing industry is a commercial industry, it needs to make money, and maybe sometimes that means publishers don’t take risks, and maybe that means they are missing out on some fantastic books. Certainly authors talk of how long it took them to get published, including one of today’s most popular authors, J.K Rowling (of Harry Potter fame). Then there are the tales of popular books which started off as self-published books, The Shack by William P Young, Eragon by Christopher PaoiliniStill Alice by Lisa Genova and Necromancer by GP Taylor are amongst the most well known but there are more. They can count themselves amoung some classical greats, Virginia Woolf, William Blake, James Joyce, E. E. Cummings, Rudyard Kipling, D. H. Lawrence,  Edgar Allan Poe,  George Bernard Shaw, and Mark Twain were all originally self-published and their writings still live on.  So maybe actually some self-published books are better than some successful company published books, after all some gainned similar popularity without the type of marketing that goes into lots of books published by publishing houses.

Indeed the road for a self-published author is littered with difficulties. I respect people who do it despite the problems. They must have real faith in their stories to go through it all (which may sometimes be misplaced, but lets give them the benefit of the doubt). It’s not something I could do, I don’t have enough faith in my own writing to spend all that money, time and effort to publish it, and just imagine how much harder it would be if something you had invested so much in was just never bought? So that’s the emotional difficulties, what’s next? Oh yeah getting your books actually in the stores. Online is easiest, for amazon e-books you simply have to upload your books but for Waterstones you need an ISBN, an approved publisher and to have your book listed with Neilson BookData, to have your book in Waterstones stores though they need a copy of your book to review and even if they do choose to sell it instore it might not be all stores. It’s easy to sell e-books at borders too, but paper books are another matter.Then of course there is actually getting that book sold in numbers, marketing takes more money and time, and it could be really difficult to get to the levels of publishing houses, especially if stores aren’t taking your book- no book tours.

So maybe us bloggers are the best people to be supporting self-published authors? We aren’t going to judge on whether we think a book will have mass appeal, just if it appeals to us, and if we love a book we can be its biggest champions.

Do you read self-published novels? Why? Have you found any gems out there? Do you think self-publishing is a viable option?


Filed under Musings

E-book Sales Outstripping Paper Books

A Picture of a eBook

Image via Wikipedia

Amazon and Waterstones report downloads eclipsing printed book sales | Books | The Guardian.

I have heard whispers about this for a while but yesterday my friend Kim posted an article on facebook about the subject and it got me thinking about writing a post on it.

I must admit (possibly unusually for The Guardian) that the headline of this article makes things sound more serious (or hopeful I suppose if you are not a fan of the paper book) than they actually are. Well amazon are saying that sales of e-books in the US outstrip sales of real books (with 105 e-books being sold for every 100 ‘real’ books), Waterstones say that only sales of hardbacks are being outstripped by e-books.

Now I really cannot say I am a fan of the Kindle as an idea. I can see why it’s a good idea, I really can, but while my brain has all sorts of arguments for a Kindle my heart just says ‘but it’s not a book’. I love the way books feel in my hands, I love the smell of the paper and ink- it’s something really satisfying for me (having said that I wouldn’t go as far as buying a perfume that smells like books, it’s not something I would want to smell like. Although I suppose I could buy a Kindle and use it to make it smell right!). Plus I really cannot imagine snuggling us with a computer in bed or on the sofa, no matter how small it is (and from reading occasionally on my i-pod I can tell you there is as much problem from something being too small as from something being too big). Yes despite not liking the idea I do have a couple of books on my i-pod, both were free and since February I have read about 16 pages of one. Partly because I don’t like reading from my i-pod, it’s too small and I have to turn pages much more frequently (I’m just glad I don’t have to scroll as with websites), and partly because it’s more uncomfortable to hold. I think the holding it partly bad design, it’s too curved to get a proper grip on, but it’s also because to get the right level for my eyes I have to carry it about chest height. Try it out, imagine holding something that fits in one hand and is easy to drop at chest level, not comfortable is it? Of course a Kindle is larder so may be more comfortable, I can’t tell.

Hmm I feel I am ranting a little.

Yes anyway my brain can see the logic. E-books are generally cheaper so I could buy more. I would be able to carry as many books as I wanted around with me with no trouble, it would pretty much always fit in my bag and I wouldn’t get that annoying point where you realise your book won’t last you until you get home. Sometimes when I’m reading a big book and trying to cram a million things in one bag I do almost wish I could have a Kindle to make things easier, but I could never abandon my real books, I love them.

I can’t see real books going, at least not yet. There is something about a real book that I think will take a long time to really shake. I would be incredibly sad to see them go if t happened, but, so long as there were still good stories being written, and people reading them I think I could cope with digital books- if with a little sadness.

Do you have any experiences with Kindles? What are your thoughts on Kindles verses real books?


Filed under Fiction review

Post a Week 33% Gone

The logo of the blogging software WordPress.

Image via Wikipedia

Today Post a Day/Post a Week have put up a post to tell us all that we are 33% of the way through our goal (which is a third of the year, can you believe how fast it’s going?

Anyway to honour this time Post a Week are asking about what our favourite posts in our journals have been this year…there are quite a few I’m pretty proud of, in no particular order

Review of One of Our Thursdays is Missing

I was looking forward to this book for such a long time, and I had lots of expectations from having read the rest of the Thursday Next series, from reading other peoples reviews of the book and from going to see Jasper Fforde when it was released, so it made for a pretty good review book I think.

Review of When God Was a Rabbit

I got this book early and I was eager to let everyone else out there know what it was like before it was released, I think I did pretty good in describing how the book was without giving too much away, although maybe I was a little heavier than I would have liked on the spoiler tags. It’s also one of my most frequently visited reviews.

Musings: The Popularity Contest

In this post I talked about how hype and popularity can effects a readers approach to books. This is one of my posts with the most ammount of comments, I think only blog hop posts come higher

What are some of your favourite posts on your journal? On my journal? And on other journals?

Leave a comment

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Characters come to life

Writing samples: Parker 75

Image by churl via Flickr

For once the daily question over on the post a day/post a week blog is one I can actually answer without completely going off topic!


If you could bring one fictional character to life for a day, who would you choose?

Now to answer the question is pretty difficult. I mean there are characters that I’d love to meet and become friends with, Claire from The Time Traveller’s Wife, Luna from Harry Potter, Elphaba from Wicked, Hoshino from Kafka on the Shore. Then there are those who would be interesting to meet, Henry from The Time Traveller’s Wife, Max from The Confessions of Max Tivolli, Cal from Middlesex.

How to choose just one? I guess I could pick Claire, because I think she would be great to have as a friend and  she would have some of the interesting-ness from Henry. I think Cal would be someone I could get on with too, so they would be a pretty good pick.


Filed under general, Musings

An evening with Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde Writes Books

Image by I am I.A.M. via Flickr

Last night was a very exciting night for this reader. I went to a talk by/with Jasper Fforde at my local (and very favourite) Waterstones on Birmingham New Street.

I can honestly say he’s a very entertaining speaker, and just as funny in real life as he is on the page.

Some stuff I found interesting

  • The nursery crime series were written before Thursday Next, I had always presumed they were spin-offs
  • Jasper Fforde never plans his books (this is quite encouraging to someone like me who hates planning their writing), and where things seem very planned out it’s usually that he’s just left some loose ends just incase he needs them later
  • The Eyre Affair was only originally meant to be a stand-alone book but the publisher asked for more. One Of Our Thursdays is Missing is the only one (at least so far) that is really a sequel as in your couldn’t understand it if your hadn’t read previous Thursday Next books.
  • Jasper often gets the root idea of stories from what if? questions (I cannot for the life of me think of what he called them, narrative somethings….see no plans when writing or I would have known that!)
  • He is currently working on the next book in The Last Dragonslayer series…which I haven’t read yet.
  • The next Shades of Grey book won’t be out until 2013 😦

I am really excited about the prospect of reading One of Our Thursdays is Missing now…but reading First Among Sequels first may be helpful!



Filed under general

Kathryn Stockett sued.

Family Maid Files Suit Against Author of ‘The Help’ – NYTimes.com.

This is a difficult one. I must admit that from reading it, and especially from reading the author’s note I got the impression that The Help is based quite a bit on Stockett’s life. As for the maid suing I’m not so sure I agree with her view point. I mean Aiblene is the most lovely character, and I am sure that Stockett identified more with Skeeter and maybe the children, I can only see it as a compliment that she would immortalise her family maid in this way. Having said that if she was going to base a character on a real person shouldn’t that person have a say?

Thanks to chrisbookarama for the link.

My review of The Help.


Filed under Musings

Could you give up a friend?

Migraine Barbie has Snapped!

Image by Deborah Leigh (Migraine Chick) via Flickr

I get these awful terrible migraines. A regular migraine consists of blinding headache, pins and needles in my hands, flashing lights in my vision, aversion to any type of light and sometimes slurred speech, it’s a nasty horrible experience. Last week I got the worst migraine I have got in the last few years. On top of the usual I felt physically sick, I had pins and needles down my right arm and leg, and around my mouth, I could barely move and was really upset. This came on while I was at work, starting just like a bad headache, by the end of my break (which was an hour) I couldn’t move, I had to get someone else to tell my manager where I was because the thought of walking down the stairs in that state was unthinkable, I was sure I would fall. Even when I felt able to move again I asked another member of staff to help me down the stairs just in case.

Now what does this have to do with reading you might ask? Well today the other member of staff suggested that my migraines might be triggered by how much I read, I suppose it makes sense. They say reading can strain your eyes (especially if your eyesight wasn’t right to begin with, like mine), and most of the people I know of who suffer from migraine (and I mean real migraine, not headache) are big readers. Could it be a coincidence, I don’t know. Anyway this colleague suggested that I try giving up reading, just for a month or two to see if it helped. I can completely see the sense in what she says, I really can, and in the grand scheme of things a month isn’t really a long time is it? I know it makes sense but could I actually do it. The idea of giving up my books is like the idea of giving up a best friend, I wouldn’t die without them but I can’t imagine a life where I would be happy without them. Maybe, just maybe I could give up if it guaranteed that I would never get a migraine again, but I’d be more likely to say I really should give up reading everytime I got a migraine but forget about it with the sight of the next book I wanted to read.

So is there anything that could make you give up your books (or something else you love)?


Filed under Musings

The Costa Book Awards 2010

I am not a big person for following book awards, I will look at books picked for awards- or which are awarded awards but I won’t read them just because they are given awards. Even so I happened to notice that The Costa Book Award winners had been announced yesterday and thought it might be nice to do a post on it. I’ve not read any of them but am interested in a few.

Overall Winner

Poetry Winner

Of Mutability- Jo Shapcott

Jo Shapcott’s award-winning first three collections, gathered in Her Book: Poems 1988–1998, revealed her to be a writer of ingenuous, politically acute and provocative poetry, and rightly earned her a reputation as one of the most original and daring voices of her generation. In Of Mutability, Shapcott is found writing at her most memorable and bold. In a series of poems that explore the nature of change – in the body and the natural world, and in the shifting relationships between people – these poems look freshly but squarely at mortality. By turns grave and playful, arresting and witty, the poems in Of Mutability celebrate each waking moment as though it might be the last, and in so doing restore wonder to the to the smallest of encounters. (from Amazon)
Personally I’m not a big reader of poems so this wouldn’t really interest me. I will flick through a poetry book if I have one to hand but I won’t actively seek them out. It may be that this is a fantastic collection but in all likelihood I will never read it.

Fiction Winner
The Hand that First  Held Mine- Maggie O’Farrell
When the sophisticated Innes Kent turns up on her doorstep, Lexie Sinclair realises she cannot wait any longer for her life to begin, and leaves for London. There, at the heart of the 1950s Soho art scene, she carves out a new life. In the present day, Elina and Ted are reeling from the difficult birth of their first child. Elina struggles to reconcile the demands of motherhood with sense of herself as an artist, and Ted is disturbed by memories of his own childhood that don’t tally with his parents’ version of events. As Ted begins to search for answers, an extraordinary portrait of two women is revealed, separated by fifty years, but connected in ways that neither could ever have expected. (from Amazon)
This one sounds vaguely interesting to me. I get the impression that it could drag a little, but maybe that is because the synopsis is a little vague.
First Novel Award
Witness the Night- Kishwar Desai
A highly atmospheric mystery set in India, with the controversial subject of female foeticide at the fore. Longlisted for the ManAsian Literary Prize. In a small town in the heart of India, a young girl is found tied to a bed inside a townhouse where 13 people lie dead. The girl is alive, but only just. She is arrested for the murders she is believed to have committed. Visiting social worker Simran attempts to break through the girl’s mute trance to discover the truth. Hauntingly real, and beautifully atmospheric, this ia a major debut. (from Amazon)
This one sounds much more me. A bit of a mystery, emotional. It may end up being a bit more crime focussed than I like but it doesn’t sound like it will.
Biography Winner
The Hare with the Amber Eyes- Edmund de Waal
In the 1870s, Charles Ephrussi assembled a collection of 360 Japanese ivory carvings known as netsuke, some comical and some erotic, none of them larger than a matchbox. The scion of a rich, respected banking family that “burned like a comet” in Parisian and Viennese society, Ephrussi was an early supporter of the impressionists; Marcel Proust was briefly his secretary and used him as the model for the aesthete and lover Swann in Remembrance of Things Past

The Holocaust swept Ephrussi and his glorious, cosmopolitan family into oblivion, and almost the only thing that would remain of their vast empire was the netsuke collection, smuggled out of their Vienna palace (now occupied by Hitler’s theorist on the “Jewish question”) in the pocket of a loyal maid, Anna—one carving a day for a year.

In this grand story, the renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal, the fifth generation to inherit the collection, traces the story of a remarkable family and a tumultuous century. At once sweeping and intimate, A Hare with Amber Eyes is a deeply personal meditation on art, history, and family, as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves. (from Goodreads)

This one is already on my wishlist, and down as a read for the Take a Chance Challenge. I’m not generally a bit reader of biography but this one sounds really good. There has been a lot of good things said about The Hare with the Amber Eyes in various reviews (and that’s part of the reason I picked it as my reviewer’s choice) and it was favourite to win.
Children’s Winner
Out of Shadows- Jason Wallace

‘If I stood you in front of a man, pressed a gun into your palm and told you to squeeze the trigger, would you do it?’

‘No, sir, no way!’

‘What if I then told you we’d gone back in time and his name was Adolf Hitler? Would you do it then?’

Zimbabwe, 1980s

The war is over, independence has been won and Robert Mugabe has come to power offering hope, land and freedom to black Africans. It is the end of the Old Way and the start of a promising new era.

For Robert Jacklin, it’s all new: new continent, new country, new school. And very quickly he learns that for some of his classmates, the sound of guns is still loud, and their battles rage on . . . white boys who want their old country back, not this new black African government.

Boys like Ivan.

Clever, cunning Ivan.

For him, there is still one last battle to fight, and he’s taking it right to the very top. (from Amazon)

When I first look at this book I didn’t realise it was for children,The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas. I think if it’s done well it could be really good, although it also looks a bit like it could be a little over the top and unbelievable

Have any of you read any of these books? Did you enjoy them? Do you plan on reading any.

You can find the full shortlist here on the Costa Award site.


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The TV Book Club: Room

I watched Channel 4’s TV Book Club on and off last series and added a few books from my wishlist because of it (although the only one I’ve actually read so far that I heard about because of the show is The Help). This weekend they talked about Room which I read towards the end of last year. I was really looking forward to seeing what they had to say about it. Well what can I say I was hoping for a different view, maybe for someone to have some great insight, or to not like it, but it wasn’t so. Their discussion really didn’t cover anything my own review hadn’t. The only new thing really was that for an escapist reader it’s a bit of a depressing- but still great- book, which is something I mentioned in not so many words myself. In fact they really said very little of any substance.

The interview with Emma Donoghue was pretty interesting and made me look at things in different ways. She talked about how the objects in Room were like Jack’s friends which is something I hadn’t noticed, but I can really see now, and it makes me wonder what else I didn’t spot in Room.

The TV Book Club is reading The News Where You Are this series too, I wonder if they’ll have any new insights.


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The popularity contest

So right at the moment I am reading a book which has got pretty rave reviews, both from the press and from bloggers. I can’t say that the blurb of the book made me want to pick it up when I first saw it although it also didn’t sounds like the worst possible idea. It was really my fellow bloggers love for it that made me pick it up. If I’d completely hated the idea of it then I still wouldn’t have wanted to read it, but that wasn’t the case. Anyway I’m about halfway through this book right now and I can’t say I’m especially impressed. I don’t like the characters and it has a slightly chick-litty air to it (I have no particular problem with chick-lit, but I don’t read much of it, and really when I read it I want yo know that that’s what I’m reading). Even though I haven’t finished it it seems to have a familiar formula to it and I kind of know what to expect (I of course could still be wrong).

Anyway I’m not posting a review here, hat can wait until I’m finished. It’s just it got me wondering about what effect hype can have on the reading of a book, or even just choosing (or not) to read a book. I mean this book I pretty much picked up because of the hype. It’s something I’ve done before and often I find myself disappointed. I wonder if really the book is at the level I am reading it or if I expect so much from the book that there is little hope that my experiences will meet up to my expectations?

I’ve had experiences of people not reading books because they don’t want to be part of the crowd, and I’ve read and loved books which have later become the big thing. I can’t imagine not reading something simply because it is popular, after all there must be a reason for people loving it. I do wonder if I would still have loved the books I loved and read before the hype- some of my favourite books- if I had been responding to the hype, or are the books really speaking for themselves? After all I have loved books after the hype too.

Of course there is also something nice about being involved in hype. I’m a big Harry Potter fan. I visit forums, I watch all the films, and criticise them. I’ve even met up with fellow Potter fans, and I was only prevented from going to a release party because of illness, it really gives a sense of belonging, is that part of what I love about Harry? I don’t think so but I do wonder.

You may also want to read my past musings on the effects of negative reviews and blogger responsibility.


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The Book Chat Collective: Picture Books



Cover of "The Tiger Who Came to Tea"

Cover of The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Yay the book chat collective is back. I love this meme.

This month’s topic is picture books. According to this New York Times article parents are no longer buying picture books for their children because they want their children reading in order to pass tests. I must admit I hate this idea, on an intellectual and a personal level. For one thing it presumes that picture books have basic language, that you can’t ever learn new words, or how to read from a picture book. Just for one example the Beatrick Potter books contain a lot of language which is quite difficult, or unusual. In fact for some of the younger children the language may be a bit too difficult unless an adult is explaining as they go. I hate his presumption. I have never seen pictures as making a book ‘easy’. Earlier picture books could maybe be told just from the pictures but in most books the pictures just support the words- the story couldn’t be told with just the words. For picture books for older children just looking at the pictures would even make a boring story, at least in my opinion. Then there are the books where the pictures are part of the story, Jacqueline Wilson’s books immediately spring to mid here, in particular Double Act and The Story of Tracy Beaker, both of which were favourites of mine around the age of 9.

As a nursery worker I can also tell you that kids do pay attention to the words in the books, running their fingers along as they make up a story for example.

On a more personal level I believe my love of books started with the picture books my Mum read me. I can still remember the stories now- and I mean the stories as much as the pictures. The Tiger Who Came to Tea, when the tiger eats all the food in the house and drinks all the water in the tap. The Alfie and Annie Rose stories. I always loved the one where Alfie got in first and all the people in the street came to help because he’s locked himself in. And there was one where he fed all the bears on his bowl breakfast, I used to copy that. And the one where he took his blanket to a party and got it covered with jelly and cake.

Then there’s my very favourite books when I was little, the Pippo books. I loved these books so much that I had to get one for my niece. I was really disappointed to find they were no longer being published, but I managed to get one off ebay, and they’re still great. I love the way that so much that Tom feels comes through Pippo. “Pippo wanted some cheese…but I ate it”


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Pure love or hate?

Projekt 52 - Woche 17 - Book Love

Image by MissTurner via Flickr

I recently read a book that I had read a lot of negative (or at least not positive) reviews of. The subject of the book was one I was interested in so I didn’t let it put me off, although I decided I didn’t want to pay for the book. It got me thinking does a bad review immediately make you view the book in a negative light- do you pay attention to the negative aspects more than you would if you had read no review, or had read a good review? I didn’t give this book a good review myself, is this just because it wasn’t a good book? Or have those reviews effected how I approached the book, and how I read it. I’m pretty sure I approached it without trying to keep my hopes high, but I was trying to review it for itself too, not from the reviews I had read. I can’t be sure though that I didn’t have a biased view.

It’s the same the other way round too, does reading a good review of a book make it more likely that you will see the good side of it?

For a blogger there’s then the extra problem of should we blog. If reading my review might effect someone else’s reading of a book should I really post that review? Shouldn’t I just let the book speak for itself? Having said that if I don’t review people may be missing out on books they would have loved- and is making people view a book in a positive light really a bad thing anyway? If I didn’t ‘warn’ people about bad books does that mean more people would be ‘wasting’ their time by reading them? At the same time though if I post a negative review would I then be putting off people who may have liked the book I disliked? I suppose I can just presume that readers would look at a few posts on my blog and see if we had similar tastes before taking on board my review, but I actually don’t think that’s likely. I suppose bloggers can be an author’s best friend, a real reader rather than a critic, but for the same reasons they can be their worst enemies.

So what do you think? Do you think a review effects your reading of a book? What sort of responsibility do you think bloggers have?


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The problems with giving up

Asking herself: who throws books away?

Image by marcp_dmoz via Flickr

So this weekends blog hop got me thinking about books I have almost given up on but ended up loving. Some books can be really hard to get into, I think there is a small part of me that thinks if I finish a book that I had a struggle with I should reward myself by loving the best bits. The reason I made my 100 page rule is not (as I’m sure it is for many) to stop me wasting time by reading books I don’t enjoy butto make sure I give all books a fair chance. Some of my very favourite books, and some books that I just enjoyed I was close to giving up on at some point. Most notably the first Harry Potter book. In fact I may never have finished it had it not been for the fact that it was Christmas and I had nothing to do. I can’t say I was very interested until at least the incident at the zoo, possibly not even until the emergence of Hagrid, and even now I skip to the shack in the sea when re-reading (and coincidentally have much less knowledge about the beginning of  Philosopher’s Stone than I do about any of the reast of the books, despite the fact that I’ve owned it for longer). Once I got to the end though I was so disappointed it was over- you cannot imagine my excitement when I spotted Chamber of Secrets in-store.

Captain Correli’s Mandolin is the same. Lets face it the first chapter is hard. The writing is dense, the subject is not even very interesting- t least not to me, and the presentation doesn’t help make you want to read it. I barely even get the purpose of the first chapter, there is surely a better way of setting a scene? Yet I adore this book, and am still looking for something just as good by Louis de Bernieres.

More recently, but less dramatically I almost gave up on The Secret Scripture, and Pop Co. but ended up really enjoying them (Pop Co. may even be my favourite book of the year this year).

So, yeah, what would I have missed out on without my rule? Who knows. Yet still I think is 100 enough? Am I still missing out on books I would have ended loving up?

But then again there are books I have kept going with, books where I’ve been relieved to finish them. It doesn’t happen often, usually I know early on if a book isn’t going to be worth finishing. How many books would I wish I hadn’t bothered with if I had no restrictions?

So what do you think. Have you almost missed out on any books? Have you wished you had?


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Book Chat Collective: Books that change the world


This week’s Book Chat Collective (hosted over at an-old-flame) asks can books change the world?

Just like Trina I initially thought of religious texts, whether good or bad it’s undeniable that they have had an impact on the world. Then I tried to think of other types of books. I could think of a fair few articles- Piaget’s articles on child development for example have had an impact on how we teach children- but then that’s not a book. And how about fiction books, have any of those had a big impact on the world? I suppose books like Pride and Prejudice and Romeo and Juliet have inspired generations of writers- modern takes on both stories seem to be coming out every day! So I suppose books have had an impact on the literary world. Then there are those books that may not have a giant impact on the world but have an impact on people who read them, that change their personal world. I’m sure that I would not be the same person I am today if I hadn’t read lots of the books that I’ve read. Lots of books have stuck with me- and that effects my writing style, other books have really made me think- and I’m sure that has helped form my world view, especially some of the books I read as a teenager.


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Book Chat Collective: Banned Books


The Book Chat Collective is a new meme hosted over at An Old Flame. I really like the chat about books that goes on over at An Old Flame so, even though I’m not generally a meme person, I thought this would be a really fun one to participate in.

The idea is that every week there’s a different book related topic for bloggers to blog about. You are asked to visit two other blogs (or more) and comment on their opinions (whether you agree or not) before you post your own opinions on your blog. If you want you can refer to what other bloggers have said and this helps keep the chain going.

This week’s topic: We’re at the tail end of Banned Books Week. Is there ever a reason, in your opinion, to rightfully ban a book?

Well instantly when I read the topic I thought no. I’m a big believer in freedom and I think people should be able to choose for themselves what they read or not. But then I read An Old Flame’s post on the topic, and I thought about the bad situations which could come about from a book. I disagree with her actual example, I think Salaman Rushdie might have known how controversial his book could be- and the publishers probably did too, I mean his life is at risk because of he but he could have chosen not to publish it. I can see though how books could pose some risk, and maybe that readers, publishers or even writers might not foresee how much risk. Should these be banned? Maybe, in the interests of public safety, but to say that grindes with me.
On a smaller level I can understand parents wanting to ban certain books in schools, especially as they might be compulsory reading. I think you should let your teenager read whatever they want, and maybe just make sure they understand what they are reading, but while you can advise your kids against something which is their own choice you can’t advise them against reading something that is compulsory reading for school- they have to read it whether they feel comfortable with it not. I can completely understand parents wanting to ban those sort of books from school reading lists, but I don’t think access to them should be completely banned- it’s better maybe to explain why you don’t think your kids should read the book to them and make their own decision. However in that situation I think it should be done on a case by case basis rather than banning a book from all school reading lists. Let the parents know what they’re children are reading and give them a chance to object if they want to, so you’re not giving their kids something to read that the parents don’t think is right.


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Banned Book Week

Book burning

Image via Wikipedia

I thought that seeing as it’s banned books week a musing about banned books would be appropriate (and, well, I haven’t updated in the last week, so it’s about time).  Now I’m sure everyone would be talking about the top 10 most banned books…and I will too but when looking around I also came across a list of less obvious banned books, the ones you wouldn’t guess I suppose.

I wanted to start, though with my general opinion on banning books, before I go into more specifics. I am totally against banning books. I can admit that a parent may not think a book is suitable for heir child, and sure if that’s the case don’t let your kid read it.Just don’t prevent others from reading it. Every child is different and what some kids can’t cope with might be standard reading material for another kid. Yes, some issues are difficult to read about, but isn’t it better to be exposed to them through a safe medium of reading rather than in real life. I have heard of Junk by Malven Bragg being banned before. I can understand why, there are some uncomfortable scenes of drug taking, prostitution and it’s consequences, but, and this is important, it doesn’t glamourise drug use. It shows the real effects. I doubt very much anyone has decided to try drugs as a consequence of reading Junk, if anything the opposite is probably true. Possibly this can’t go for all books but it all goes towards knowledge, and I would rather my teenager (if I had one!) was reading about certain things than doing them, just like I was as a teenager. Really it has a lot to do with how the reader can review what they read. How they can criticise it and not believe all they read. If they can make the decision for themselves it’s much better, and truer than being told.

Anyway onto the ‘traditional’ list. This one is taken from The American Library Association and show the top 10 banned books of 2009.

1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: drugs, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
2. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality
3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: anti-family, drugs, homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited to age group
4. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language, racism, unsuited to age group
5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
6. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
7. My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
9. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
10. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

I can only really talk about what I’ve read. So lets start from the bottom (just to mix things up a bit!). I read The Chocolate War a few years ago, and can barely remember it. This is the sort of banned book I love to laugh at because it teaches good stuff. I mean yeah, it may have offensive language and some sexual content (neither of which particularly stick with me, in fact I can’t even remember any sexual scenes) but it anti-bullying and pro free-choice. Maybe what people don’t like is the free-choice element…I mean if their kids can’t choose what books to read surely they aren’t able to competently choose how to lead their lives!

The Color Purple. I do actually remember sexually explicit bits in this one. However again it’s all about the message, this time an anti-racism one.

My Sister’s Keeper well where do I start. I love this book. Ok fist things first can someone point out the homosexual content in this book? I can’t remember any homosexual content. Even if it is there that’s the most homophobic pile of crap I have heard of. I can understand not wanting your kids to read about sex, or violence or drugs, but why is reading about a character who is homosexual any worse than reading about a person who is straight. Do people think it’s going to turn their children gay?! Or is it just that they don’t want their children to have a balanced view of people? They want them to grow up with the same stereotypes they have? It totally doesn’t fit with books being banned for being racist either- obviously being discriminatory of homosexuals is nothing like the same thing. Oh it makes me mad! I also see no sexism- and oh it’s just the same thing again of complaining of racism with one hand and being homophobic with the other. There is sexual content and violence but both are very mild as I remember.

Twilight I hate this book it should be banned so nobody has to suffer. Lol only joking. I wouldn’t call it sexually explicit…maybe the later ones (I haven’t read Breaking Dawn) are a bit suggestive but really isn’t it meant to be all virginity and purity and waiting till you’re married?

To Kill a Mockingbird. To call this book racist is stupid. It’s anti-racism. it shows racism but it also shows that it shouldn’t be that way. People are stupid.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Yeah I get this, the drugs, the sex, I can understand parents not wanting their kids to read it. Still it’s a fantastic book.

I have read Catcher in the Rye too, but it was quite a long time ago and hasn’t stuck with me.

My unusual banned books list comes from yahoo news:

“Captain Underpants”

Some folks had their underwear in a bunch over this children’s book series by Dav Pilkey. The “Captain Underpants” series — about two fourth-graders and their superhero of a principal — was one of the top 10 most frequently banned and challenged books for 20022004 and 2005. The books were said to contain offensive language, to be sexually explicit and to be anti-family.

“The Lord of the Rings”

J.R.R Tolkien’s book was burned, not in the fires of Mount Doom, but outside of a church in Alamogordo, N.M., in 2001 because it was viewed as “Satanic.”

Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary

When it comes to banning books, even the dictionary gets no respect. The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary was pulled from the shelf of a school in Menifee, Calif. The offending term in the dictionary? “Oral sex.” The entry references of the dictionary also included cunnilingus and fellatio, which were not cited as the reasons for pulling the dictionary off the shelf. Merriam-Webster has been publishing language reference books for more than 150 years. They were bound to offend someone along the way.

“Fahrenheit 451”

Could a book about censorship really be banned? Absolutely. Enter “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. The book has been banned by the Mississippi School District (1999). It’s also No. 69 on the American Library Association’s list of top banned/challenged books from 2000 to 2009.

Harry Potter series

One of the most surprising banned books sits at the No. 1 spot on the ALA list. It’s not even a book. It’s the entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter series is to teens what “Star Wars” was to an entire generation of now-40-somethings. The series has been challenged for occultism, Satanism, violence, being anti-family and having religious viewpoint. The series is No. 1 on the ALA’s most challenged book list for 2000 to 2009.

“The Grapes of Wrath”

John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” is not just another classic on the list. The book was originally banned in California due to obscenity, but the catalyst behind the banning was based more in embarrassment: The people in the region did not like how their area and the workers’ situation was portrayed in the novel.

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”

Most parents of kids under 5 have seen Eric Carle’s art accompanying the book by Bill Martin. The Texas Board of Education banned the book, in January 2010, because it thought the book was written by the same Bill Martin who penned the nonchildren’s book “Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.”

“James and the Giant Peach”

Author Roald Dahl is no stranger to being banned. His book “The Witches” is on the ALA’s 100 most frequently challenged books for 1990 to 1999 for its depictions of women and witches. But what about James and his peach? Was there witchcraft at work? James was disobedient and there was violence in the book.

American Heritage Dictionary (1969)

The American Heritage Dictionary of 1969 was also banned in 1978 from a library in Eldon, Mo., because of 39 objectionable words. The dictionary continued to cause trouble as far away as Alaska, where it was banned by the Anchorage School Board in 1987 for its inclusion of slang words, including “balls.”

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Fairy tales have always held a precarious place in children’s literature. On one side, readers have fairy-tale purists who lament the morals lost in fairy tales that have been too cleaned up. Others object to any violence in fairy tales. A couple of California school districts found a whole new reason to ban Grimm’s Fairy Tales in1989: misuse of alcohol. Little Red Riding Hood’s basket for her grandmother includes wine. Maybe it wasn’t a California red.

I’ve only read 2 of these but thought the list was interesting anyway. James and the Giant Peach I read so long ago but most of the complaints on that can be ascribed to most Dahl books, books which thousands of kids have enjoyed without any ill effects. In fact in ways Dahl is very moral. He hates spoilt, cheeky, rude, bratty kids. The good kid always wins out. Look at Matilda, Charlie, and James himself. Yes he was disobedient but only towards adults who deserved it (and he didn’t try to poison his aunts like George did to his Grandma!).
And Harry Potter. Well what can I say. As a giant fan of Harry Potter I’ve always been incensed by the anti-Harry ‘parade’. I’ve visited a few anti-Harry websites, finding most have no real foot to stand on seeing as they don’t seem to have actually read the book. Some even quote The Onion as a serious reliable source! Whether they’ve read the book or not though, Harry Potter, yes, is a wizard, but he’s far from evil for it. In fact the book’s key theme is the power of love- a power that is greater than any magic. It’s about friendship, about the battle of good against evil- you could even draw parallels with The Bible. It’s far from a book which inspires hate and dark magic.
I could go on but I think this post is long enough already…and soon it will be turning into a real rant. I suppose we can rest in the hope that events like Banned Book week give, and at least be content that book burnings are rare- because I couldn’t even be happy about the worst of books being burnt.

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Studying reading

Writing Desk

Image by ~Prescott via Flickr

While on my Blog Hop this week I came across  blog Keeping up with Mr Jones. While looking around to see if it was a blog I would want to follow I came across a list of books he had never read (this is some pages back if you’re looking for it), top of the list was Hamlet. Now this got me thinking about reading in school and more specifically reading plays at school (which is the only time I’ve ever read a play).

I’ve always been of the opinion that plays are meant to be watched or preformed, but not read. When it comes to Shakespeare there may be an advantage to studying a play before you watch it, so that you can understand it, but that wasn’t the reason he  wrote them, and if the play is preformed and/or directed well the language shouldn’t really matter. I understood Romeo and Juliet well enough to enjoy it before studying it, but I didn’t understand some things which would have been understood in that time period- so studying it means I’ve gained an extra element to my enjoyment of it.

This made me think about studying books in general. I’ve often heard it said that studying a book brings all the joy out of reading it, that it’s a bit of an over analysis that spoils the enjoyment of the actual story. Now in some ways that’s true.  I always tried to read a book before we started studying it in class, partly because the speed of chapter by chapter is far too slow for me, and partly because I wanted to enjoy the story for itself first. However sometimes it takes some thinking to really appreciate a book, and studying a text can help that. I can’t say I enjoyed Jane Eyre when I first read it, but after studying it I came to appreciate it, and even enjoy it in retrospect. I kind of felt the same way about Wuthering Heights, even though I didn’t study that one. Is retrospective respect really enjoyment though? Studying Jane Eyre really had an effect on me. I loved the whole gothic element of Jane Eyre and I’ve put some of it into my own writing. I can ertainly say it had an effect on me, and  my writing, but does that mean I enjoyed it?

So what do you all think? Does studying a novel spoil it or improve it? And should we really be studying plays?


Filed under Musings

Clearing out books

Pile of Books in Prague Library

I have spent most of today (umm I guess yesterday now) clearing out my books, a horrible yet quite satisfying task. I partly did this because there is literally no space in my bookshelves, and partly because I still can’t find my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. I decided to alphabetise them as well so it would be easier to find things (although I’m sure I knew where To Kill a Mockingbird was anyway). So anyway I spent most of the afternoon and all evening surrounded by piles of books, I made a pile for each letter of the alphabet and piles for non-fiction, biographies, books I don’t want, and books that belong to other people (and have or won’t be read). Oh and a physical TBR pile (my old one was basically a list of books I knew I wanted to read and owned but haven’t read yet).

What I hate about this job is the getting rid of books. I hate getting rid of books. Even books I didn’t enjoy I think but what if I do in the future. Books hold so many memories for me. I have so many I loved as a child or a teenager and will probably never read again, but to get rid of them is like getting rid of an old friend. Part of me thinks that I want to keep them and give them to my kids one day but will my kids really want a bunch of old books Mum read when she was young? So I am being brutal and unless it was really, really special I’m getting rid.

With newer books it’s not the same, they hold no nostelgia, and if I’m getting rid of them it’s genuinelly because I never want to read them again, not because I know in my heart of hearts I won’t. There is still a little part of my that wants to read Sophie in the Saddle, and my collection of Jacqueline Wilson books. The bit that remembers when I was obsessed with Noel Streatfeild books, and when Linda Newberry seemed so grown up and made me feel like I was almost reading adult books (I am sure that if I was able to buy The Shouting Wind trilogy at the time I would keep it, it genuinely was a great trilogy).

So what did I learn?

1) It gets easier to be brutal about getting rid of books. But there are still some you really can’t decide on.

2) My biggest pile of books was the P pile (in fact there had to be 2 P piles so I didn’t get attacked by the books!) followed by the S’s

3) And I have enough books by Jodi Picoult that on their own they make up a pile the same size as the S pile

4) I have books by authors with every letter surname except Q and X

5) My copy of To Kill a Mockingbird is not on my shelves.

6) even after taking away all the books I don’t want, and all the books that belong to other people I still have to stack books on the top of shelves, and even though I was trying my best to avoid it I still had to put my TBR pile in my sister’s room.


Filed under Musings

New Penguin Editions

I’ve just read about these beauiful new penguin covers over at book-a-rama. I think the above is my favourite but  I also love these two:

I’ve only read Bridget Jones’s Diary, and gave away my copy because I didn’t think it was worth a read. I would love one of these editions of something, but which one?


Filed under general

On book bans and book buying.

In an attempt to save money I’m on a book buying ban. I’m not allowing myself to buy any more books until I have cut my To Be Read pile down to the single figures. This shouldn’t really be a hard thing, my current TBR pile is at 14 books.

But here’s my problem. After finishing Midnight’s Children I was planning on re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Partly because it’s the 50th anniversary of it being published, and partly because it’s on the Rory Gilmore Book Challenge List. Oh and of course because it’s well worth a re-read. I have torn my bookshelves apart, I was sure I knew where it was but I cannot find my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird anywhere. So I think to myself it will turn up, I will pick up something else. Only here’s the problem nothing on my TBR list inspires me. I want to read them all but none of them I really feel like reading now.

The TBR list

Bram Stoker- Dracula
Monica Ali- In the Kitchen
Ian McEwan- Atonement
E. B. White- Charlotte’s Web
Jane Austen- Emma
JRR Tolkien- Lord of the Rings
The Brother’s Grimm Fairytales
Margaret Atwood- Oryx and Crake
Daphne du Maurier- Rebecca
Jane Austen- Sense and Sensibility
Carlos Ruiz Zafon- The Shadow of the Wind
Frank L. Baum- The Wizard of Oz

Magyk- Angie Sage
Spies- John Flynn

(books in italics are book challenge books)

So this is how I see it, I have 3 options…

  1. Go to Waterstones and buy new book(s)
  2. Wait until Monday and  go to the library after work
  3. Pick a book off my TBR pile anyway and just read it
  4. oh and I suppose spend all day looking for To Kill a Mockingbird

For  me 1 of course sounds like the best option. I get a book to read now that I actually want to read (and you know I really, really want to get my hands on The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which they don’t have at the library). I know there’s a 3 for 2 on all fiction so I could get a bargain. Oh and it’s been so long since I bought a book (mainly because my Mum’s books keep finding their way onto my TBR pile), and actually only 3 books on my TBR pile belong to me so obviously that means I had quite a while without buying a book. But it does mean breaking my ban, and it was only the other week I broke my Lush ban….(having said that I have run out of conditioner and shampoo recently which means I was allowed to break my ban to buy those things).

I need to go to buy toothpaste anyway so maybe I’ll just pop into Waterstones and have a look….


Filed under Musings