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!

Book Stuff

Starting #PaperVsPixels

I haven’t been reading very much recently. The current uni workload I have is zapping a lot of my time and energy – even when I’m not sat at my desk studying I’m thinking about it. This doesn’t make for particularly good reading conditions (or blogging conditions as you may have noticed from the lack of recent posts). When I saw Hot Key Books launch Laure Eve’s #PaperVsPixels challenge for April I thought I’d get involved in the hope of getting back into the reading flow a little more.

The challenge is simple. Inspired by Laure’s book Fearsome Dreamer, which features two technologically opposing cultures, you’re being asked to choose just one reading format for April. In Laure’s own words:

The challenge: read in only one format for the whole month of April. If you’re a digital type, read physical. If you’ve never tried audio – try nothing but audio. For one month. Record your experiences on #papervspixels and share them with us on tumblr, twitter, YouTube or your blog – and let me know how you’re doing @LaureEve too!

I love both physical and eBooks, I think both have very valid places in my reading life. I looked at my 2014 reads spreadsheet (yes, I have a spreadsheet and it is a thing of beauty) and worked out that I’d read far more physical books than eBooks, if it hadn’t been for a pair of long train journeys I’d have read even fewer. So for April I’m picking Pixels.

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I have a good couple of hundred books waiting for me to read them, over half are eBooks. I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with some of the books I’ve downloaded and proceeded to ignore. I have no idea how many books I’ll manage to read, the last three months have seen me only read 3 – 5 books, hopefully I’ll manage to increase this count a little.

Book Stuff · Geek Stuff · Life

Banished is in the wild.

On Thursday I travelled down to London to attend the launch for my lovely friend Liz de Jager’s debut novel Banished. It is the first in a young adult urban fantasy trilogy published by Tor in the UK.

The blurb:
imageSworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself…

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives. And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

The very first interaction I had with Liz was on Twitter. There was a discussion going on about writing (a far from unusual occurrence amongst many of the people I hang around with on Twitter) and she told me to get my butt in the chair and write – solid advice I am still heeding a few years on. We chatted plenty more online before getting to meet in person at the Thoughtbubble comics convention in 2011, I spent the day with her and her equally lovely husband Mark – we geeked out about the many things we saw, about our mutual interests and of course about writing.

It was as we sat eating lunch that Liz told me about her current project (that was to become Banished), it sounded hugely exciting and part of me knew instantly then that it was going to work out for her. It was a real thrill therefore when some time later she asked me if I’d be prepared to read for her and give feedback – I’ve been doing so every since and it has felt like a real privilege to tag along for her journey to publication.

I’m glad I’m having a break from reviewing, I couldn’t begin to review Banished – it’s a book I care far too much about to begin to work out how to approach talking about it in an impartial way. I’ve been so excited to see so many great reviews for it already, it certainly deserves all of the praise it has been getting.

The launch itself was a wonderful evening. The room it was held in was jam packed with so many well-wishers all wanting to celebrate Liz’s achievement. She’s a popular lady, her time running My Favourite Books has earned her the respect of a huge number of people involved in publishing in the UK – authors, publishers, booksellers and reviewers alike. Liz spent a huge amount of the launch sat behind a table signing copies of her book – at one point it was very hard to work out where exactly the end of the snaking queue was, everyone wanted their copy signed.

I had such a lovely time. I got to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a very long time – living so far from London is a real hindrance at times. I also got to meet people I’d chatted with online but not had the chance to meet before. By the time I got back to the youth hostel I was staying in I was exhausted in the best possible way – it had been a great evening for the very best of reasons.

Book Stuff

Authors for the Philippines.

imageFollowing the news of the terrible events in the Philippines author Keris Stainton has set up the Authors for the Philippines auction to raise money for the Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan Appeal. Back in 2011 she was behind the highly successful Authors for Japan appeal raising £13,000 following the tsunami, so hopes to repeat the feat.

There are already some amazing lots on offer, with more to be added. Bidding opened at 8am and will close again at 8pm on Wednesday 20th November.

If you are an author who would like to donate an item for auction, please email authorsforphilippines@gmail.com

Book Stuff

First YA convention for the UK.

Today, Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman announced the first ever UK convention focusing solely on Young Adult literature. It will take place at London Film and Comic Con, and over two days will feature talks, signings, workshops and more. You can find out more information here at the Children’s Laureate website.

I’m really excited by this prospect, I’ve become a keen convention attendee and have been to a few literary festivals, both large and small, so can imagine what a wonderful event this is going to be. The fact that Malorie Blackman is going to be curating it fills me with delight, since being appointed as Children’s Laureate earlier this year she has worked hard to keep children’s literacy and libraries as a prominent discussion point so I’m sure she’s going to spearhead a fantastic event.

Book Stuff · Life

Bookshelf Love.

Over the last couple of months my bedroom has been completely redecorated for the first time in far too many years. I’ve been putting it off for a long time, I knew that I’d have to go through everything and get rid of a lot of the stuff I’d accumulate over the course of about 15 years – not a fun prospect. After 30 years my parents have got to know the sorts of things to do and say to encourage me to do things, and so I was promised brand new bookcases as part of the redecoration – suddenly the idea didn’t seem quite so awful.

I have done pretty much all the clearing out and I’ve been rewarded with a gorgeous room, new bed, and the promised bookcases. Last Thursday I was given custody of these bookcases, made to measure by my dad:

I took a look at the many boxes my books were temporarily residing in and knew that I needed to stop and make a proper plan of action – I only wanted to put the books on the shelves once, and I wanted to take advantage of having so much more shelf space and have my books in a nice, orderly manner.

I ended up making lots of piles of books on the floor:

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(this all made sense in my brain).

And then I started to fill the shelves. For the big bookcase I started by putting the adult hardbacks and trade paperbacks on the top shelf (split into fiction and non-fiction) and the adult paperbacks on the next 2 rows of shelves.

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The children’s and young adult books then went onto the same 2 rows of shelves, I put them in front of the adult because I know I’m less likely to want to refer to the adult fiction.

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The third row got the tv tie-in fiction, again double stacked, and has the one empty shelf at the moment – my library books are currently sitting it in but I know that won’t last! The bottom row got two shelves of my film and tv reference books, and then my random non-fiction.

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The smaller bookcase got custody of my unread books – that’s the top two rows. The bottom left is my graphic novels and the bottom right is my slowly growing writing reference book collection.

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I know that when I work my way through my unread books I’m going to have to have a rethink. I’ve already got a couple of ideas, though it should be a good few weeks before I’m having to put them into practice!