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Books

Buddy Reading: The Lie Tree

Have you ever heard of buddy reading?  I hadn’t until a while ago, when my friend Emily told me what it was all about.  The concept is very simple, but somehow I’d never tried it before: the idea is to read a book at the same pace as a friend or small group.

Reading pages or chapters at the same time as fellow bookworms sounded like great fun, so Emily and I decided to try it out.  We spent the best part of an hour, I think, scouring the shelves of Waterstones until we found something that engaged us both.  In the end we picked The Lie Tree, and agreed to read the first three chapters over the course of the afternoon and have our first discussion that very evening.

Knowing I’d be talking about the book soon, I made a particular effort to understand what I was reading, being more careful with names and places, and even jotting down interesting plot details that intrigued me.  I felt like I was experiencing the book on a new, higher level, and had tons to talk about after just three chapters.  So each night we set three chapters to read – at my reading pace, and with the distractions of a noisy house, that was about an hour a day for me.

It was the most fun I’d had with reading in a long time.  I worried setting daily goals would make reading feeling like a chore, but it was quite the opposite.  So enthused were we after each discussion that all we wanted to do was get our noses stuck back in the book!

Interestingly, I was able to recall the events of The Lie Tree much more vividly than I usually do with a book I’m reading for the first time.  Talking about the book as we went made it feel much more real, and I feel connected to the story in a way I think I wouldn’t have if I’d been left to read it alone.  I’m sure I would have still enjoyed it, but having someone to share theories with made it so much more fun!

I would love to do a buddy read again.  Have you ever done buddy reading or read as part of a book group?  Share your experiences!

Emma

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November 15, 2017
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What I Read For Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon

Tin Man

I accidentally stumbled upon the beginning of Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon the other day, and thought I’d sign myself up as a latecomer.

What is Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon?

The ten-year-old read-a-thon is for book nerds online:

For 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs, Twitters, Instagrams, Litsy, Facebook, Goodreads and MORE about our reading, and visit other readers’ homes online. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day.

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

I dipped into the read-a-thon here and there over the 24 hour period, between work and dining out.  Somehow I managed to focus enough to finish Tin Man by Sarah Winman.  It’s the first time in ages I’ve picked up an adult fiction book and zoomed through it in a day, and I don’t think it was due to read-a-thon motivation alone.

The story follows Ellis, who as an adult finds himself unhappy and alone.  He reminisces on the relationships of his past – his mother, his abusive father, his wife Annie, and Michael, his best friend – and the events leading up to his loneliness in the present day.

The book centres mostly around Ellis and Michael’s confused friendship, but I felt that it was so much more than that – it is a book about relationships in general, and how they aren’t always black and white but can still be beautiful and healthy.  It moved me (almost) to tears, grateful for the relationships I have in my life now.

Pick up a copy at The Book Depository.

The Dieter by Susan Sussman

My copy of this book is falling apart, being a recommendation from my Mum’s bookshelf that found its way onto my TBR many years ago.  I managed to read a good few pages before the end of the read-a-thon, and my Mum is thrilled that I’ve finally made a start on a book that she loves.

It’s still early days, so I’ve yet to get a real sense of the plot, but so far, after losing her friend to cancer and giving up smoking as a result, Barbara has begun to put on weight.  As her waistline grows bigger, her life, marriage and career all see change too…

This book is old, first published in the 80s (ok not that old, but it does now seem to be out of print).  I’m particularly interested to see another era’s take on weight and body confidence (even in a fictional setting), especially as I’m following a lot of inspiring bloggers at the moment who really care about body positivity.


I have already penned in April’s read-a-thon – it was a great opportunity to connect with some amazing bookworms, and also prioritise reading!

Did anyone else take part in Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon?

Emma

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November 11, 2017
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How To Be a Woman

How To Be a Woman

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository

How is it possible that I’ve only just discovered Caitlin Moran?  I feel like a whole new world of woman has opened up to me after reading her memoir, How To Be a Woman.  I’ve dabbled in feminist literature before – The Forbidden Body by Shelley Bovey was an eye-opener when I read it in my early 20s, and The Vagenda equally so – and so adding another book to my repertoire was long overdue.

How To Be a Woman is a mash of genres – part memoir, part feminist rant.  I loved Moran’s views on current inequalities, and it was refreshing to see someone who shared many of my own opinions.  She also brought up topics that I hadn’t really thought too much about before.  The sections on being a parent and abortion were some of the best in the book – she really touched me with some of the experiences she’d had, and I feel like I’ve been educated on some things I’d never considered before.  She is refreshingly honest about what has happened in her life, which makes this an important read for any young woman.  I was constantly sending quotes from the book to my friends, with her ideas forming excellent points for discussion.

When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear today!’, what she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today.’

This isn’t to say the book was without flaw.  While some chapters had my feminist blood raging in agreement, my interest did wane around the halfway mark, which is why it took me a couple of months to finish.  I think this is for a number of reasons: firstly, Moran is excited by an era that I am just not engaged by (I don’t know or care for most of the people and music she loves, though this is just a conflict of personal taste), and secondly, I just don’t find her stories of alcohol and drugs very interesting.  Though we share a common goal of female equality, the fact is that I just didn’t find her stories all that extraordinary or engaging – perhaps it is an imbalance between the elements of memoir and feminist thought.  Personally, I was hoping for a little more of the latter.

There’s also a lot of unnecessary CAPITALISATION OF SENTENCES FOR EMPHASIS, and my major pet peeve of way too many exclamation marks in succession:

BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!

All her talk of Lady Gaga, drag queens and over-priced weddings make this book a fascinating and often hilarious read, but some of her jokes just don’t hit the mark, and I know it wouldn’t be to everyone’s tastes.  What I would probably recommend in its stead is the audiobook, which Moran narrates herself – this is how I first started my reading journey, before switching to the book when my library loan ended.  She delivers the text in the way it was certainly intended, and her reading better encapsulates the “chattiness” of her book, without the seeming randomness of thought sometimes found when experiencing it as a lone reader.

However you experience the book though, it will no doubt stir the feminist inside, and make you hungry for equality.  Or in my case, make me realise I’m not alone in thinking that weddings are a waste of money… there’s something for everyone!

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4/5)

Happy reading!

Emma

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October 15, 2017
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One of a Kind: The Resurrectionist

I’ve recently returned from MCM London Comic Con, an amazing (and exhausting) weekend that warrants its own post, so I won’t go on about it now. Among the stands, however, I found myself at the Quirk Books shop, the publisher of such books as Geekerella and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

I love books that are just a little bit different, so when I saw The Resurrectionist, I knew I had to buy it!

The Resurrectionist

There are two parts to the book. The first half is the biography of the crazy Dr. Spencer Black, a man who believes that humans have descended from mythical beasts like mermaids and minotaurs.

The Resurrectionist

The second half is essentially the bit that sold me on this book – detailed anatomical illustrations of mythical beasts, which the author apparently illustrated himself.

The Resurrectionist

The Resurrectionist The Resurrectionist

I’m blown away by the level of detail in Hudspeth’s drawings – such an incredibly talented man!  I’ve never seen mythical creatures like this before, and somehow it makes them feel less fictional.  The drawings of the faun even gave me chills as it had so many similarities to a human.

You can check out the Quirk Books website here: http://www.quirkbooks.com

Happy reading!

Emma

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May 31, 2017
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Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye

After posting some of the beautiful pages from MinaLima’s edition of Peter Pan the other day, it made me want to share some more of the really aesthetic books in my collection.

Another book I am really proud of is my copy of Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye.  The story is about a mistreated bellhop called Warren who finds himself caught up in the mysteries of the strange mansion he calls home.  I have a sturdy hardback edition, and every page holds a new surprise: there’s a mixture of puzzles, doodles and intricate Victorianesque designs.

In lieu of a proper review (though I would probably award it 5* if I had reviewed it), I’d much rather post photos of this work of art instead:

I could take photos of this book all day, but I’ve got to leave something for potential readers.  Even though it is a children’s book, there is so much for older readers, like the use of language and of course the beautiful illustrations.

Happy reading!

Emma

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February 18, 2017
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Peter Pan MinaLima Illustrated Edition

I don’t buy books very often.  I’m quite a frugal person, but also I enjoy supporting local libraries, and if I buy a book then it really has to be something special.  And MinaLima’s illustrated edition of Peter Pan is that something special.  I thought I’d share some photos of this beautiful work of art – it is the sort of collectors item that I’ll be passing onto my children one day!

If the designs in the book feel familiar to you, it is because MinaLima designed all the graphic props for the Harry Potter films.  You can buy many of their designs in their online shop, which I have spent way too much time drooling over.  I’m saving up to buy some of the prints, and also for the next MinaLima illustrated book being released in March – Beauty and the Beast.  I can’t wait!

Emma

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February 2, 2017
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My Year in Books 2016

I love infographics, so I was quite excited to see that Goodreads generated one for my reading in 2016.  Before I get stuck into any serious reading this year, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on all the books I read last year!

My Year In Books

Books read in 2016:

  • Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling
  • How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You by The Oatmeal
  • Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
  • The X Factor: Confessions of a Naive Fashion Model by Ivan Sivec (review)
  • The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg
  • Smart Girl by Rachel Hollis (review)
  • Renée by Ludovic Debeurme (review)
  • Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori. M. Lee (review)
  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (review)
  • The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by Gerard Way (review)
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed (review)
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (review)
  • My Big Geek Adventure by L-J Clements (Q&A with the author here)
  • For Fukui’s Sake by Sam Baldwin (review)
  • All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (review)
  • ZOO by Otsuichi (review)
  • The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (review)
  • Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler (though I never quite got to the end as I actually found it really boring!)
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (review)
  • Witch & Wizard (manga vol. 1) by James Patterson
  • The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman (review)
  • Witch & Wizard (manga vol. 2) by James Patterson
  • Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (review)
  • Love Lessons by David Belbin
  • Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton (review)
  • A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (review)
  • Tokyo on Foot by Florent Chavouet
  • The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke (review)
  • Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki
  • The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan (review)
  • The Art of Fallout 4 by Bethesda Softworks (review – well sort of, more just gushing)
  • In Real Life by Cory Doctorow (review)
  • Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (review)
  • Batgirl vol. 4: Wanted (New 52 Series) by Gail Simone (review)
  • Oh Joy, Sex Toy, Vol. 3 by Erika Moen (review)
  • A Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay
  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (review and Top 7 Best Quotes)
  • The Trees by Ali Shaw (review)
  • The Mark-2 Wife by William Trevor (review)
  • Complex Age (manga, vol.1) by Yui Sakuma (review)
  • Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker (review)
  • The Road to Nerdvana by L-J Clements
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl (review)
  • Roomies by Evie Wyld (review)
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (review)
  • One by Sarah Crossan (review)

My Goodreads Reading Challenge goal for ’16 was 50 books, which I was a measly 3 books away from achieving before the end of the year (so close, yet so far!).  Around the beginning of December I debated sitting down and hurrying through some to boost the numbers, but there’s no point forcing yourself to read if you aren’t in the zone, so I just left it.  Nevertheless, I’m quite proud of the books I read last year – quite a mixture, like usual, though maybe not as many classics as I would have liked.

This year, like I said in my list of resolutions, I’m ditching the Goodreads Reading Challenge and having a much more relaxed year of reading.  I’ve signed up to Rock My TBR just for a bit of TBR-busting motivation, but other than that I am going to read what I want, when I want – I’m looking forward to having that freedom!

Happy reading!

Emma

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January 1, 2017
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Top Five New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

This year my reading speed slowed right down to a snail’s pace, but somehow I still managed to actually finish some books!  I may have read less than previous years, but I have discovered some truly brilliant authors over the last twelve months.

(I’ve adapted this post from The Broke & the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday theme this week, but I didn’t really have ten new authors I wanted to rave about – less is more!)

So, here’s my top five new-to-me authors of 2016 who have blown my mind with their wordsmithery:

1.) Ali ShawFinish The Trees

I received a copy of The Trees as an ARC to review, and it took me such a long, painstaking amount of time to finish.  But I knew I wanted to finish it, because Ali Shaw’s writing style and character development were incredible.

By the time I reached the end, I loved every single one of the main characters – even the (let’s face it) pretty-pathetic-at-times Adrien.  The feisty Hiroko even formed the foundations of a character I created for a game of Vampire: The Masquerade (a tabletop RPG where vampires live among humans in modern times).  This one gave me one bad book hangover!

Read my book review of The Trees here.

2.) Noelle Stevenson

My friend lent Nimona to me back in the summer, and I instantly fell in love with Noelle Stevenson’s style.  The story was hilarious and the illustrations really worked for me.  I’ve already got Lumberjanes lined up to read next, as I want more!

Read my book review of Nimona here.

A Court of Thorns and Roses3.) Sarah J. Maas

Can you believe that 2016 was the year I discovered Sarah J. Maas?  We covered A Court of Thorns and Roses in the Words & Geeks Book Club earlier in the year, which gave me the opportunity to find out what all that hype was about!  And Sarah J. Maas has continued to stamp on my heart ever since, with A Court of Mist and Fury, which threw the book community (me included) into hysteria.  I owe many a book hangover to this fabulous author.

Check out my book reviews of:

A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Mist and Fury

4.) L-J Clements

This year I discovered the wonderful L-J Clements!  She is the geek behind My Big Geek Adventure, and she was kind enough to participate in a Q&A for Wandering Words earlier in the year, which you can check out here.  I’ve really enjoyed reading her two books this year, and can’t wait to read more of her adventures!

5.) Sylvain Neuvel

One of the best books I read this year was Sleeping Giants, and it was Sylvain Neuvel’s debut novel – incredible!  I received it as an ARC, and was completely blown away by the entire concept.  Also, Neuvel is one super smart cookie; check out his About Me on his website – that intelligence certainly comes across in his work.  The sequel, Waking Gods, is set to be released April 2017, but I just don’t think I can wait that long!

Read my book review of Sleeping Giants here.


Which authors have you fallen in love with this year?

Happy reading, everyone!

Emma

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December 6, 2016
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Why Everything You Read Counts As ‘Reading’

Recently, someone saw me reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and said, “you have an English degree – why are you dumbing down your reading?”

It was a shock to me.  I started by explaining what Ready Player One was about, and how the violence and wit and geek references made it without a doubt a piece of crossover fiction.

But later I realised that it wasn’t a personal attack on Ernest Cline’s work.  The comment was the result of a very discriminatory attitude that some books are valued more by society than others.  If I was sat reading Crime and Punishment then I’d get a big old pat on the back because there’s so much prestige in reading it – even if I wasn’t enjoying it.  But if I decided to pull something from the teen shelf, and was fully engrossed in the story and all it had to offer, then I would be doing an injustice to my reading abilities.

It’s true – I do have an English degree, and one of the modules I studied for that degree was Children’s Literature.  And here’s the thing.  Many prestigious, classic books are children’s books – I hardly think reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would have resulted in the same reaction from my peers.

So who exactly is drawing the line between what is smart reading, and what is considered “dumbing down”?  Before now, there are times that I have been deeply moved by children’s picture books, and times I have rolled my eyes at adult fiction.  I have related to Jo March’s character in Little Women (a children’s classic, by the way) just as much as I have to Toru in Norwegian Wood.

At its core, a fiction book tells a story, and I think if a reader can take something away from that experience, then the book has done its job.  It doesn’t matter what the book is, or if it is even a book at all.  Magazines, comics, audiobooks – everything is reading as long as there is enjoyment to be had.  Because at the end of the day, who exactly are we reading for?

So, enjoy reading today, everyone – whatever it is you decide to read.

Emma

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December 5, 2016
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Book Review: The Boy Who Could See Demons

Image resultTitle: The Boy Who Could See Demons

Author: Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Horror, Mental Health

Nobody needs to be taken to Hell to experience it. We just grow despair inside the soul until it becomes a world in and around a human.

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Review

After Alex’s mother attempts suicide again, Alex meets child psychiatrist Anya to deal with his mental health issues – since his Dad left he has been experiencing frightful hallucinations of demons.  Battling issues of her own, Anya soon begins to wonder whether Alex’s demons really are just a symptom of mental illness, or if there is any truth to them.

The book was fascinating to read, first and foremost because it has a lot of parallels with the novel I am writing!  The story unraveled in a very interesting way, split between Alex and Anya’s perspectives, and kept the reader constantly wondering if Ruen, Alex’s demon friend, was real – even to the end, this was kept as an uncertainty.   It is easy to forget that children can suffer from mental illness too, and it was wonderful to see this highlighted in the book.  Though personally, I think the demons were real.  Anya never explored how Alex could have known some of the private information he did and her justifications for some of his behaviours were weak, so I’m still not convinced.

I also think it was very clever of the author to add such a tragic background for Anya, which is revealed slowly as the story progresses – this made Ruen’s existence even more of a mystery, and put Anya’s own mental state into question.

I loved the setting of the book.  It was interesting to bring in aspects of Ireland’s political history, and I was really excited when it actually became a major theme of the book.  I’ve become so accustomed to books being set in America that it made a refreshing change.

However, I do have one major criticism.  I felt there were a few parts of the story that confuse me even now.  At one point Anya sees Ruen in a music room, and collapses as a result.  The figure she saw is later loosely explained as being a visiting professor (and not a demon at all) but it is puzzling why he displays the features of a demon, and I felt the whole scene was a bit of a muddle.  If Anya really had hallucinated it, she would be far more concerned, especially with the history of mental illness in her own family… surely?  Instead, I felt this was swept under the rug and not elaborated on enough.

Otherwise, this is a brilliant and thought-provoking story, and I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve read the book – are the demons real or not?

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4/5)

Emma

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October 14, 2016
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