Book Stuff

Spotlight – Authors for Grenfell Tower

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In the wake of tragedy the literary world can often be found pulling together in an amazing fashion to raise funds to support the aid efforts. Following last week’s horrific fire at Grenfell Tower a group of authors and agents has come together to organise an online auction to raise funds for the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund.

The auction is now live and can be found here. There are already so many incredible lots and they’re still being listed – more have appeared while I’ve been typing this post. I’ve got my eye on a few though I’m sure (and hope) that what I can bid will be far surpassed by someone else. Please do check it out and, if you are able to, get bidding.

Book Stuff · Fun Stuff

I Dare You book tag

Earlier this week I saw Donna at The Untitled Book Blog post this book tag and I thought it was a great set of questions. It’s such a long time since I did a post like this that I thought I’d join in the fun. The rules are:

You must be honest
You can’t not answer a question
You have to tag at least four people
So here we go!

1. Which book has been on your shelves the longest?
Most of my longest owned books are in boxes, but my sets of the What Katy Did and Little Women books have been there for a good 25+ years (and they were my mom’s before they were mine so between us they’ve been on our bookshelves for a very long time).

2. What is your current read, your last read and the book you’ll read next?
Current read: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Last read: Cuckoo by Keren David
Next read: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Bachman (probably, it’s my book group book and I still have a couple of weeks so I may squeeze another in before I read it).

3. What book(s) did everyone like and you hated?
Not many actually and none in the last few years, mainly because I’ve got much better at not continuing with books I’m not enjoying. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville springs to mind and Every Vow You Break by Julia Crouch.

4. Which book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?
So many classics. I started reading Les Miserables about 15 years ago and have very optimistically left my bookmark in the book at the point where I put it down. I’m not sure I’ll ever get back to it (I think by now I’d have to go back to the beginning and start over which makes it even less likely I’ll ever do it) but who knows.

5. Which book are you saving for “retirement”?
None. If I want to read something I’m going to get on and read it now.

6. Last page: read it first or wait till the end?
Wait until the end. Absolutely. I really don’t like to be spoiled for anything.

7. Acknowledgements: waste of ink and paper or interesting aside?
Utterly essential. I love reading the acknowledgements, writing a book is super hard and I want to hear what the author has to say about it and about the people who helped along the way.

8. Which book character would you switch places with?
I think probably one of the minor characters from the Harry Potter universe, one who gets to stay properly clear of all of the drama but still gets to go to Hogwarts and enjoy the wizarding world.

9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life?
Lots of books do this. The Outsiders was the book that made me sit up and take notice and realise that children’s / teen fiction could be something more than what I’d previously thought. Most of Dorothy Koomson’s books remind me of things – reading The Cupid Effect sat by a pool on holiday, devouring The Woman He Loved Before in a morning while I waited to sit an exam that afternoon, buying The Girl From Nowhere to celebrate the end of my first week living in London and my first week in my new job.

10. Name a book you acquired in some interesting way.
Last year at YALC I had to play a card game to win a copy of Marcus Sedgwick’s next book Saint Death.

11. Have you ever given away a book for a special reason to a special person?
No. I’ve bought special books for special people, but never given away my own copies.

12. Which book has been with you to the most places?
Is it cheating to say the contents of my Kindle library? Yes? Oh. Well then I don’t know. Probably my Harry Potter books, they’ve moved with me to and from two universities (well, the earliest have, I was doing my first degree while about half of the series was published) and to London and back too.

13. Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad two years later?
I was blessed with an English teacher who really carefully chose books from the options set out in the curriculum so I really enjoyed them at the time.

14. What is the strangest item you’ve ever found in a book?
A piece of cooked bacon, back when I was working in a public library.

15. Used or brand new?
Love the history and stories that come from used books, but my reading preference is brand new.

16. Have you ever read a Dan Brown?
Yes. I’ve read the first three of the Robert Langdon books and both of the not Robert Langdon books.

17. Have you ever seen a movie you liked better than the book?
Not that I can recollect, no.

18. A book that NEVER should have been published.
Ooh, what a harsh question! I don’t think I have an answer for this one, I’m too busy focusing on the happy and the positive.

19. Have you ever read a book that’s made you hungry, cookbooks being excluded from this question?
Yes, I’ve read quite a few books where the main character bakes or runs a tea room – just the mention of delicious cake has me craving some!

20. Who is the person whose book advice you will always take?
I have a couple of friends whose book advice is always spot on.

 

Book Stuff

Twice as nice

The friends I’m staying with at the moment have three little boys, a four year old and two year old twins. We got chatting today about picture books and realised we couldn’t come up with any picture books other than the Topsy and Tim series that featured twins.

I asked twitter for any suggestions that were available in the UK and these are the answers so far: 

  • Twin to Twin by Margaret O’Hair, 
  • Two is for Twins by Wendy Lewison, 
  • Little Miss Twins by Roger Hargreaves, 
  • Mine! by Rachel Bright, 
  • Allison Hubble by Alan Ahlberg (not twins but a girl who goes to bed single and wakes up double), 
  • Hello Twins by Charlotte Voake (out of print), 
  • The Empty Stocking by Richard Curtis, 
  • The Tintin books by Hergé

Based on the covers alone it appears that with the exception of Thomson and Thompson in the Tintin books all of these books feature either girl twins or girl and boy twins rather than boy twins like my friends’ boys so I’m curious to see if anyone has any other suggestions to add to the list?

Book Stuff · Reading Challenges

My year ahead in books.

I’ve been thinking for the last few days about which, if any, reading challenges I’m going to take part in this year. I loved this post by Sarra Manning about her reading resolutions for 2017. For me, I want to try and make sure I’m reading as broadly as possible. I’ve found over the last couple of years I’m reading more of a mix of adult and young adult books again, I’m enjoying this but want to make sure that the books I’m selecting are more broadly representative.

I’ve decided at the moment on two reading challenges.

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First up is the British Books Challenge, hosted this year by Michelle at Tales of Yesterday. I’ve done this challenge in the past, and I want to make sure I’m continuing to support books by British authors. I’m not going to be writing reviews on here any more, though there will still be bookish posts, but I’m hoping to get better at sharing my brief thoughts on the books I’m reading on my Goodreads, and maybe Instagram or Twitter too.

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The second challenge I’ve decided on is YA Interrobang and The Gay YA’s #queer52 reading challenge. They’ve listed 52 queer YA books, there are three levels of challenge – 12 books, 24 books or the full 52.I’m not going to choose a level yet, I’m going to focus on reading as many of them as I can. There are 6 I’ve already read, a few I own but haven’t read yet and many that have been on my must read list for some time so I think this is going to be a good challenge for me.

Finally I’ve set my Goodreads target for the year. I’ve gone for 104 books like last year, an average of 2 books a week feels like a good achievement.

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Book Stuff

Guest Post – Dan Metcalf on Why He Writes.

Today I’m pleased to be welcoming Dan Metcalf to my blog – he’s launching a new children’s series The Lottie Lipton Adventure tomorrow with the first two titles, The Secrets of the Stone and The Curse of the Cairo Cat. He’s written a great post on why he writes, so with no further ado here’s Dan.

The title of this blog post is a lie. It leads you to assume I’m going to tell you exactly why I write, when in actuality, I have no idea.

I’ve always written. Not direct from the womb, obviously, but ever since I could hold a pen and get my thoughts down on paper. Before that I would make up stories and tales (and lies, let’s be honest) about everything I did not understand. I thought that was how the world worked – you don’t know something? Just create it. I remember innocently asking where babies comes from and my mother cleverly turning the question around on me.

“Where do you think they come from?” she asked. I created a grand fiction where there were hundreds of babies in a factory, lying on conveyer belts, deflated like a punctured beach ball. Someone would come along and plug a hose into their bellybutton and pump them up like a bouncy castle. Well, why else would you have a bellybutton?

At school the only thing I was ever good at was daydreaming. If there was a window, I’d stare out of it. If the teacher gave us free reign to write whatever we wished, I would create page after page of fantasy/scifi/adventure stories. None ever got finished but some still live in my mind like a stubborn squatter.

When it came to choosing careers, I had no clue what I could do. The computerised test brought up ‘scriptwriter’ and so I enrolled on a degree course, graduating with several hundred pages of cringingly bad stories but having had a really good time.

And from there I moved into my first love of books, rising at 5am to cram in a few hours of writing my opus before going to work to argue with students about overdue fines. Slowly but surely my technique refined.

But why do I write? You might as well ask why an athlete runs, or why a fish swims, or why a dog does that thing with other dog’s bottoms. It’s what we’re good at. It’s all we know. It’s in us, and has to get out.

Which is why when my agent told me that Bloomsbury Publishing wanted to put my books out, I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was no longer the schoolboy staring out of the window. I had now graduated to being a grown-up, one who stares out of windows and then writes down what he sees.

Why do I write? Probably because I can’t turn off that compulsion to daydream, so instead I just write it down. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to look absently into the distance (it’s work, I promise…)

Thanks Dan, I always love hearing writers talk about writing!

Dan’s books are out tomorrow, published by A & C Black, a Bloomsbury imprint. I haven’t read them myself but they sound great, they’re described by Bloomsbury as “Perfect for developing and newly confident readers, Lottie Lipton Adventures are packed with action, adventure and puzzles for the reader to solve” so I’m definitely planning on checking them out! You can find out more here.

Book Stuff · Days Out · Life · Music · University

Catching up.

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged! I’ve been thinking about the need to do a bit of a catch up post for a few days now, so this afternoon I’m finally writing it whilst I watch some of the tennis.

Some of the lovely cakes I ate - a congratulations on finishing present.
Some of the lovely cakes I ate – a congratulations on finishing present.
I submitted my dissertation, the final piece of my degree, on 10th May. This was the very last bit of a very long few months of studying – towards the end it felt like I was even breathing my degree. The next few days involved doing not very much at all, though I did seem to eat quite a lot of cake!

The weekend after I sent my dissertation off I went to Birmingham for Asylum 12, a Supernatural convention. It was the same one I went to last year, it seemed a little unbelievable that they’d sold even more tickets (the number I kept hearing quoted was 1,800) – the room where the guest talks were held was not actually big enough to fit everyone in. Both mornings started with some combination of Misha Collins and Jared Padalecki, understandably they were a big draw to everyone and both mornings saw lots of people having to stand round the edges of the room because there were no seats left. After the stresses of last year I decided I wasn’t going to get any autographs and instead just enjoy the talks, this was a great strategy – the timetables all went to pot but it didn’t matter ‘cos we could just stay put and enjoy whoever came on stage whenever they appeared.

Following this I spent just over a week and a half with some friends, Sarah and Al, first they were holidaying near where I live and then I went back with them and spent a few days in Bournemouth where they live. We had a few lovely days out, we went on the Severn Valley Railway, visited a farm park, went up the Weymouth Sea Life Tower, and visited Sandworld. The latter was a really lovely visit for me – Sandworld is home to a set of giant sand sculputres, each year they choose a theme and the 2014 theme is books and authors. Strolling around I was thrilled to see lots of books I hold dear featured, and the fact they’d kept the Doctor Who themed sculpture from last year’s science fiction theme was the icing on the cake. I took lots of photos, like always, they’re here for anyone who wants to see.

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The original reason my trip to Bournemouth was arranged was because Sarah and I had tickets to see McBusted at their final Bournemouth date. I’d wanted to see McFly live for a while but their tour dates had never worked out well for me. After watching them perform as McBusted on last year’s Children in Need we decided we wanted to see this new supergroup, after they released a second set of dates we managed to get tickets. The evening was an interesting one, mainly due to the antics of other audience members, but most importantly McBusted were brilliant. Their energy seems to be boundless and they were clearly having an amazing time which meant that we had an amazing time too. It was my first live music event like that for a couple of years, it won’t be anywhere near so long before the next time – I’m off to Hyde Park in a couple of weeks with Gemma, McBusted are headlining along with a whole host of boybands (both ones we loved when we were teens and new ones too).

Once I got home again I realised very quickly I needed to do something to keep myself busy – I spent over a week systematically going through all the posts on Juniper’s Jungle, changing categories and adding or improving tags. All that sort of background stuff that takes forever to do. I’m really pleased with how it’s all turned out, there are now menus to guide you to reviews of books aimed at a specific audience or in a particular genre and other things like that. Next week will see me going back to a full blog schedule over there – here I plan to blog more often than I have been, but still on an as needed basis.

Doing all of that only put off the inevitable emotional drop that came from finishing my degree. I did pretty well, filling my time for a few weeks after everything was handed in, but once I’d run out of distractions the realisation that it was all over and I’m now in a transitory phase hit. It’s odd, for nearly 4 years my identity has been dictated to a certain degree by my status as a student, now that it’s all over I’ve felt a little lost. I’ve been job hunting for the last six months or so, being a distance learner meant that I would have been able to start working whilst still studying if I’d found a role. I haven’t had any luck yet, but now I’m shifting into a far more active job hunting mindset – the more applications I send the sooner I’ll find a great job and get to move to London. Rumour has it that tomorrow will bring my university results news, maybe having a confirmed classification will be just that extra push needed towards my next step.

Book Stuff

Finishing #PaperVsPixels

papervspixels-graphic-pixelsAs today is 1st May, the #PaperVsPixels challenge has come to an end. In my post at the beginning of the month I talked a bit about how my heavy, deadline-filled final uni workload was zapping my time and brain space for both reading and blogging, April was probably the most intensive study month I’ve had throughout the whole degree.

I did manage to read 6 and a bit books, I finished the rest of that bit today but obviously can’t count it fully. That total does actually mean April is, so far this year, the month in which I read the most books. Was this down to the fact I solely read eBooks? I’m not sure.

Taking part in the challenge definitely meant I was more focused on getting my book count up, knowing this end of month check in post needed to happen was a big motivating factor for me. The Easter weekend also had an impact on my reading – I managed to organise my time so I didn’t study at all on the Saturday or Sunday, and read a book on each day. I was mindful of the length of books I read – my total includes one novella and one middle grade book, I deliberately avoided books like The Luminaries and The Goldfinch!

Did I learn anything from the challenge? Well not in terms of my preferences for reading format. I’ve blogged before about my feelings about my eReader, both when I first got it and a year on. It’s been a few more years of reading both physical books and eBooks and I still read lots on both formats. I still think there are advantages and disadvantages to both, and I’m aware the my personal perspective is influenced by my reliance on my eReader to counteract the problems I have with heavier books as a result of my Hypermobility Syndrome.

One thing I definitely did learn is that I want what I can’t have. No sooner had the month started then books on my to be read bookcase started calling to me. Books I’ve had waiting for my attention for years suddenly became incredibly appealing, but I stayed strong – even when a couple of really exciting books came in the post I was very good and put them to one side. The challenge for me was definitely in being restricted to one format, I’m very glad to be going back to free choice!