Book Stack · Discussion

Hay Festival

Over the weekend I went to the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts in Wales.  I last went two years ago and really enjoyed myself.  It helped me realise that I should study English at university, and two years on I have just finished my first year of studying English.  It was therefore time to return to Hay.  Whilst there, I managed to buy 10 books (oops) from the festival bookshop, the onsite Oxfam charity bookshop and a bookshop in the town of Hay itself.

Hay on Wye is famous for its bookshops and there are loads! We reserved one day for exploring the town and that definitely wasn’t enough.  I hope to return another time between now and the next festival simply to explore each bookshop in good time.

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The first book I bought was Making Sense by David Crystal, his new book all about English grammar and how it has come to be what it is.  I bought this during his book signing after the lecture he did about grammar.  As someone who enjoys language and linguistics, I found this talk fascinating.  David Crystal is a leading linguist in the UK and a real inspiration for me.  This was the third time I had heard him talk, and the third time I had attended a book signing of his.

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Also at the festival bookshop, I bought Everywoman by Jess Phillips, a politician in Birmingham who has written a book about the importance of feminism and women’s rights; Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz; and Creation by Adam Rutherford, about the origin (and future) of life.  After buying the Horowitz book, I joined the queue for the book signing.  I waited just over an hour but it was worth it.  Anthony Horowitz is a great author and very generous with his time.  Although the majority of the queue was made up of children reading the Alex Rider series for the first time, a few were older and had read it years ago like me.  It was amazing to see people of so many different ages all queueing for so long (even in the rain) to meet the same author.

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I then went to the onsite Oxfam shop and bought a book on British short stories, Middlemarch by George Eliot and Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway.  The charity campaign said that buying three books could buy school equipment for a child in Africa.  I love nothing more than helping someone else whilst buying more books for my collection!

Lastly, I went to a lovely second hand bookshop in the town.  It had three floors and lots of little side rooms and corridors.  That’s where I bought Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (to complete my collection of Austen novels), Work Suspended by Evelyn Waugh and A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick.

My time in Hay on Wye was once again amazing.  I adore the town and I love attending an event with so many people who are all passionate about reading and books.  I hope to go again next year too.

Discussion

Journalism Reading Update 2

Nerdist: Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett’s Good Omens Gets a Miniseries From Amazon

Refinery29: Why Tampon Sales In Britain Have Fallen Dramatically

BBC News: CIA Releases 13m Pages of Classified Documents Online

Radio Times: The Infinite Monkey Cage’s Robin Ince: Why It’s Good Professor Brian Cox Doesn’t Know Everything

The Independent: Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Amartya Sen Says Wage Cap Will Not Solve Global Inequality

The Independent: The Truth Behind That Oxfam Statistic About Inequality and The World’s Eight Richest People

Discussion

Journalism Reading Update 1

One of my reading goals for 2017 is to read more journalism.  Find my reading goals here.

Here are the things I’ve been reading this past week:

National Geographic.  Gender Revolution.

This was a really fascinating read.  A whole magazine on the topic of gender and sexuality, something I think is very important to talk about.  There were articles about FGM and sexual violence, worldwide gender inequality, what it means to be a boy or girl for nine year olds across the world, the rise in acceptance of the gender nonbinary and what the future holds for gender.

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The Huffington Post.  MPs Vote Against Compulsory Sex and Relationships Education for Schoolchildren

This is something I’ve been passionate about for a while now.  I found it quite disheartening that it was voted against but there is some hope.  Articles like this one and the campaign created by Laura Bates, author of Girl Up, will help raise awareness of the important of good sex and relationships education in schools.

 

Refinery 29.  If Ryan Gosling’s Speech Was Sexist, What Isn’t?

Whilst no one has to agree fully with the points raised by the writer of this article (I certainly don’t), it’s definitely an interesting one to read.  It relates to the ongoing issue of whether a woman should put her career on hold to look after a child whilst her male partner continues working as normal.  I recommend reading the comments of this article for a more detailed and balanced debate.

 

Irish Examiner.  Louise O’Neill: Maybe our outrage is the attention trolls so desperately crave.

This article written by Louise O’Neill, author of Only Ever Yours and Asking For It, and discusses whether the protests and public displays of anger in things millennials believe in actually make it worse instead of better.  Is it better to be the generation who safely do nothing or the generation who are vocal but attract attention for the trolls in the process?  Definitely worth a read.  Expect some deep thinking afterwards though!

 

Discussion

A Belated Happy New Year

Happy New Year!  For last week…

It has been a while since I have posted on this blog but that is about to change.  I don’t usually set myself new years resolutions – I think they are often too ambitious and can set yourself up for failure – but this year, I will set myself some reading goals.  By reading goals, I don’t mean challenge myself to a certain number of books for the year, I just mean give myself ways to make sure I spend more time enjoying reading and really thinking about what I am reading.

I will have lots of set texts to read at university very soon which will mean I’ll have less time for casual reading.  Like last year, I still hope to read on the bus and in the evenings when I can so I can still enjoy the books I want to read as well as reading for my degree.  This makes my first reading goal of 2017 a continuation of one from 2016.  Easy start!

I already read a reasonable range of books, non-fiction and fiction, but I hope to increase the variety as the year goes on.  I would like to read more diverse books from authors from around the world.  I feel this will improve my cultural awareness and understanding of the world even through fictional works.  I would also like to keep reading books around the topic of my degree, English, to better my knowledge and improve my university experience.

Something I’ve learned more recently is that there’s a lot more to reading than just books.  Throughout school, teachers nagged us to read more newspaper and magazine articles which I never understood because I used to think studying English was all about books and literature.  That was until now.  So my final reading goal for 2017 is to read more journalism.  Newspaper articles, online opinion pieces, historical journalism and even Twitter.  Over the course of the year, I hope to read a wide variety of journalism to better understand the style of writing in a linguistic sense, and to just be more aware of the world around me.  I really like the way Emma Gannon lists the articles she has been reading that week on her weekly newsletter and I feel I may adopt a similar style on this blog or simply on Twitter.  I hope that over time, I will be able to create strong opinions on some articles, especially the controversial ones, and use this blog to voice them.

I hope these goals will be simple enough for me to keep up with them throughout the year, but challenging enough to make me really think about what I’m reading.  I hope that the more I read, the more I’ll write about reading so the more I will post on my blog.  Here’s to a good year ahead!

Eloise 🙂

 

Discussion · Review

November Wrap-Up

With more deadlines and a heavier workload, I was not expecting much from my reading in November.  However I was able to find time to read three books,  which pleasantly surprised me.

The first of these books was The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle.  It is a short story in his very famous Sherlock Holmes series.  It was a text I had to read for my literature module at university and I very much enjoyed it.  I had previously read three other Sherlock Holmes stories so I was already familiar with the style of writing and the levels of plot twist Conan Doyle uses to intrigue and perplex the reader.  The Speckled Band tells the story of Helen Stoner, a frightened young woman who seeks Holmes’ help over the suspicious death of her sister.  The only significant clue she can offer is her sister’s last words about a ‘speckled band’.  As usual, Holmes is fascinated in this seemingly impossible case and, along with his companion – and the narrator of the story – Watson, he sets off to investigate and solve the mystery.  I read it at university in relation to feminist theory so it was very interesting to consider the themes of vulnerability and financial dependency of women in the story.

The second book I read this month was Illuminae by Australian authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.  It is a young adult science fiction novel set in the heart of a futuristic intergalactic battle between two giant corporations, and includes a surprise attack on a planet, a genetically modified super virus and an out of control artificial intelligence hell-bent on protecting its people and completing its mission.  The book is laid out as a series of reports, transcripts and diagrams as a dossier of files about the events that take place within.  It is the first of its kind that I have personally read and it was the layout of the story and the good reviews I had seen on YouTube that made me want to pick this book up.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and now cannot wait to read the second book in the series.  At first the style was hard to get used to but I soon picked up pace and raced through the book.  It was fast-paced and incredibly gripping.  I really enjoyed the various narratives created by the different layouts of information.  It allowed for the right level of plot twist.

Finally I read Virginia Woolf’s famous feminist essay A Room of One’s Own.  I had this book sitting on my shelf for a while but it took a lecture on feminist theory for me to eventually pick it up and read it.  Virginia Woolf had been heavily quoted and referenced in this lecture which made me want to read something she had written.  I knew about her basic opinions on feminism but not much further.  Despite it only being about 130 pages long, it took me a few days to complete just because of how much information and emotion was packed into such a small amount of space.  Woolf explains in detail how she reached the conclusion that a woman needs a good income and a room of her own to become a good writer.  As it was originally intended as a talk at a conference, the style is very easy to read because it has a conversational yet formal style.  It is as though Virginia Woolf is reading it aloud as your eyes skim the pages.  As a classic feminist text, it was fascinating for me to read it and learn what has changed since Woolf’s time and what hasn’t.  It has inspired me to one day read A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft, another fundamental feminist text.

With December comes colder shorter days perfect for getting cosy with a book and a hot drink.  That’s my favourite thing about Christmas holidays every year.  I’m hoping this Christmas period will bring lots of opportunities for reading as well.

 

Discussion

Interview with Jeannie Waudby – YA Shot Tour

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This is my stop on the YA Shot Blog Tour and today this post is my collaboration with YA author Jeannie Waudby. Jeannie has written a book called One of Us, published by Chicken House.

Today I’ll be doing a Q&A with Jeannie, asking her about her inspiration for her book, what the process of writing was like and how to get a book published.

Eloise: Your book deals with the theme of extremism. Why did you think this was important to discuss in a YA book?

Jeannie: I didn’t consciously plan to write a book about extremism. The first germ of the idea was about a girl who had taken a false identity to infiltrate a group she didn’t belong to. It was always going to be a love story and gradually the idea seeped into it that one of the biggest things to divide people would be if one of them was a terrorist, and the other wasn’t. I had the idea for One Of Us a year after the London bombs, and I think it was on my mind because I was so aware that we all live with the threat of terrorist attacks. Young people are bombarded with stories and images of this on a daily basis – they have to grow up with this fear. I think it’s good to look things in the face, talk about and explore them.

E: What was writing like? What did you do to get in the right zone?

J: Writing the first draft for One Of Us was easy because I didn’t think I was writing a novel. I had my characters, who were connected to each other by lies and mistrust as well as friendship and love, so I just wrote scenes about this, with the end in sight. I wrote at night in a notebook before going to sleep. Of course, editing the book was a nightmare because none of my scenes were in order. To get in the right zone I used to listen to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. And there was one scene that I wrote to Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars.

E: How did you go about getting your book published? Did you choose your publisher or did they choose you?

J: I met Barry Cunningham of Chicken House at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference. I told him about my book and he said I could send it to him. He didn’t take it, but he wrote a really useful paragraph of why he hadn’t. It clarified what I needed to do with the story, so I rewrote it and asked if he would look at it again. And this time he said yes!

E: Writing can be a lonely business. Did you join any writers’ groups?

J: When I started seriously thinking about trying to get published, I decided I needed some company. One Friday night I googled everything I could find about writing for children and I came across a website by an American author, mentioning SCBWI. So I joined it and through that I met many other children’s writers. I joined two critique groups, one online and one face-to-face, both of which have helped and inspired me enormously as well as now being good friends, along with other writers I’ve met along the way. It’s very important to me to have those friendships and to be able to encourage each other because on your own it’s hard to keep the doubts at bay.

E: After spending so much time working alone on your book, what is it like working with an editor?

J: It was an amazing experience. My book actually had two editors and that was interesting too. When I first read the comments in my manuscript, it was as if someone was talking in my head. It’s quite an intense experience. I think you really need to trust your editor and I had that trust. I realized that the story wasn’t just mine any more but now all these talented professionals were also working on it. That’s quite hard to believe, even a little strange at first. But it’s also wonderful and the things I learned from my editors are with me as I edit my current book.

 

Thank you to Jeannie Waudby and the YA Shot team for this experience. I have learned a lot about writing and editing from talking to Jeannie, and I hope you too can learn something and be inspired. Next time you read a book, think of how much time, work and love has gone into making it for you.

Discussion

Cheltenham Literary Festival

This was one book-tastic weekend!

It kicked off on Friday with a talk by David Crystal as part of the Birmingham Literary Festival.  I managed to go to this thanks to my university, who took us to see Crystal discuss eloquence and good public speaking.  It was a fascinating talk and felt like I learned so much about public speaking and speeches.  After the talk, there was an opportunity for me to get my book signed by David Crystal and a chance to tell him how much he inspired me to study English at university.  I have started reading his book, The Gift of the Gab, and like the books I have read of his before, it is so far both informative and humorous.

As soon as that event finished I travelled to Cheltenham to attend the Cheltenham Literary Festival.  This was my first visit to this festival and I really enjoyed it.  It had a great atmosphere and was located in the heart of the town.

The first talk I attended was Feminism Rules, on Saturday, with a panel of young adult feminist authors.  The panelist I was most interested in was Holly Bourne as I recently read Am I Normal Yet?, the first book in her Spinster Club trilogy (read my review here).  All three authors were very passionate and opinionated on feminism, and I particularly enjoyed it when they had opposing ideas but still the same end goal.  It was interesting to see in practice how there is no right or wrong way to feminism, as long as we all agree in the same core message: everyone should be entitled to a happy and healthy life no matter what gender they are.  After the talk, I got a chance to meet Holly Bourne and get my copy of What’s A Girl Gotta Do (the third book in the trilogy) signed by her.  I am now so excited to read the second and third books!

That same day, I went to a talk with Sara Pascoe, a comedian who has a strong interest in female sexuality, relationships and body image.  This led her to write a book called Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body.  I wrote a review of the book which you can view here.  It is a mix of her secondary scientific research and personal anecdotes.  This includes an account of her abortion, something she said, in the event, that is important to talk about in order to educate young women about sex and pregnancy.  The talk was absolutely fascinating and hilarious – Pascoe is a comedian after all!  She was also incredibly down to earth and was quite willing to sign my copy of her book and pose for a photo with me.

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On Sunday I attended a workshop by Emma Gannon about building your own online brand.  This was in a different format to the other events I went to at the weekend as it was a lot more hands on.  Emma Gannon taught us the most important aspects to consider before creating and marketing your own online brand.  There was even room to share ideas and get feedback from Emma on some individual ideas.  It was great to be in a room with so many creative people with so many innovative ideas.  I also bought Emma’s book Ctrl Alt Delete, which is her autobiography about growing up with the internet and eventually using it to build her career.  I am looking forward to reading it.

The last event before returning home was a talk by Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism project, about her book Girl Up.  I had previously read this book and reviewed it on the blog (you can find that review here) so I had been really looking forward to hearing Bates talk about the issues covered in her book in more detail.  In the space of an hour she covered so much about the importance for good sex and relationship education for all ages at school, the need for feminism – especially for young girls and the increasing support networks for women who experience sexual harassment or assault, or simply everyday sexism.  It was awe-inspiring to hear her talk so passionately about issues that affect so many women all around the world.  I loved the way she not only touched on the negative and shocking parts of society, but also celebrated the amazing things other women have been doing to stand up for themselves and others.  From reading her book and listening to her speak, I definitely feel inspired to consider the way I can help others who are less fortunate than I am or those who are suffering due to sexism and a lack of good quality sex and relationship education.

Overall, my whole experience of the Cheltenham Literary Festival (and the talk by David Crystal beforehand) has changed the way I think about so many aspects of life and society.  It has also increased my love for books and for reading, despite me loving them so much already!  I would definitely return next year if I get the chance to!  I am hoping that I can also go to the Hay Literary Festival next year as I went in 2015 but couldn’t go this year due to exams.  Maybe, just maybe, next year can top this year for fantastic book events.

Discussion

Reading for Fun

I absolutely love reading (in case you hadn’t noticed).  It is one of the reasons I chose to study English.  I love the words, characters and settings inside each and every story.

As I am studying English at university, I have a lot of reading to do – some fiction, some non-fiction.  When you consider how much reading, studying and writing, it seems like you have no time left for fun reading!

When I was doing my GCSEs and A Levels, I didn’t read much for fun.  I was either studying or crashed out in front of the TV.  The only time I read during my exams was when I read 1984 by George Orwell as a way of procrastinating from biology revision!  That is why every summer, I read so many books, knowing that come September, I’ll slow down again.

I have decided this year it will be different.  I know I will not have much time for pleasure reading but it is something that relaxes me whilst keeping my mind occupied.  I definitely will not read as many books as the summer but I am going to attempt to read at least one novel or two novellas/plays per month.  I will even try to find more poetry to read as that can be great to dip in and out of.  This will not only give me something to do on my commute into university each day, but also a relaxing activity for the cold Autumn evenings we are having right now.  Reading a book, for me, is much more entertaining than watching dismal daytime TV (even if the latter option is so much easier and often what I do instead).

Like I said before, I have to travel into university each day.  My commute is about 30 minutes each way which is the perfect amount of time to read a chapter or two.  I will probably choose to take my Kindle over a physical book just because of the space and weight of it in my bag.  However I will take small, lightweight paperbacks too.

I hope I can still often read for fun so that I can keep this blog up-to-date with reviews and discussions based on the books I have read.  Although I may have to write reviews on books I have studied if they have particularly fascinated me and taken over my reading time.

If you have any advice on how you find time to read then please comment on this post and let me know.

Eloise

Discussion

Sunshine Blogger Award

On Friday I was so excited to find out I was nominated by Sunshine and Cyclones for the Sunshine Blogger Award. This is a tag type award which means I will answer some questions set by Sunshine and Cyclones then set my own questions for more people to answer.

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Here are the rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the eleven questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate eleven new blogs to receive the award and write them eleven new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

So now for the questions!

What’s your favourite part about having a blog?

I love being able to have a space to write my thoughts and opinions on book-related things.
Reading or writing? And why?

Definitely reading! I have don’t creative writing in school before but I much prefer reading other people’s work.
What’s your happiness formula? (eg- bed+book+tea=happiness)

That one just listed! I absolutely love being surrounded by family and friends, or a good book and a cup of tea.
What’s your favourite song?

I don’t think I have one favourite song… I really like James Blunt, Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys and ABBA. I know, a rather varied mix.
Which superpower do you desperately need and why?

Telekinesis please! I’d love to be able to just hover a heavy hardback book in front of me so my arms don’t get tired.
Which language do you wish you could speak?

Well I studied Spanish for a few years at school but I don’t remember much of it. I wish I could learn more of the language because it sounds so beautiful.
Which book to show/movie adaptation is your favourite?

Pretty much any adaptation of Pride and Prejudice! I especially love The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube.
What is your Patronus on Pottermore? (or your spirit animal if you aren’t a potterhead?)

I’m not really a potterhead but I love owls so I think they would be my spirit animal.

What social cause do you feel the strongest about? (eg- lgbtq+ rights, animal rights etc.)

All rights really. I feel especially strongly about gender equality but I believe in treating everyone and everything with respect.

What book made you cry the most?

The Fault in Our Stars. I’ve read it twice and cried so much both times. I also watched the film and cried a lot. John Green’s writing just gets me all emotional!
Favourite fictional book couple (OTP basically)?

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. I just love the development of their love and how similar their flaws are without realising.

 

So now it’s my time to ask the questions:

Why did you create your blog?

What is your all-time favourite book?

What is your least favourite book?

What is your favourite genre?

Where do you enjoy reading? Do you need music or silence?

What film (book adaptation or new) are you most looking forward to in the near future?

Do you have a favourite musical? If so, what is it?

What was the last book you bought purely based on the cover?

What was the last book you bought purely after seeing it being reviewed on a book blog/video?

Tea or coffee (or neither)?

Where do you see your blog going in the future?

 

I nominate:

Em’s Book Corner

Abigail’s Books

Curious Cat

A Literary Potion

Karalee

Ola

Sarah at Written World Words

Olivia’s Paper Adventures

 

Discussion

Banned Book Week

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Today is the start of Banned Book Week which runs from 25th September to 1st October. It is there to raise awareness of books that have been challenged and banned all across the world due to themes that some wish to ignore.

Book banning seems like old practice. The Nazis burned Jewish books, the Russian Soviets banned books that didn’t fit with their politics. It even happened throughout the UK and the US. However, what is most surprising is that it still happens today all over the world.

Many schools and libraries across America choose to challenge the book so they believe their children should not read. Many of these books carry important messages and ideas that I personally believe are important to read about to better understand the world. The American Library Association website lists the top books banned in different categories and years. It would surprise you how many popular books that you may have read and loved are frequently challenged.

This year’s Banned Book Week has the theme of diversity, something that has been talked about a lot recently. There are lots of books that have been banned for using racial slurs or racism as a theme, certain political ideas, people of colour characters and LGBTQIA characters. Check out the American Library Association’s lists of challenged books for more information.

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This week, in support of promoting the censorship of such important themes, I am going to read some frequently challenged books.

The first book on my list is Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian’s Gray. This 19th century novel was very controversial at the time of publication Durban to homosexual suggestions and was banned in the UK for many years, whilst Wilde was imprisoned for being gay himself. I recently found out that when it was published, it was censored and a lot of Wilde’s original content was removed by the editor. An uncensored version was only published in 2011, over 100 years after it was originally published. I sadly don’t have the uncensored version so I will be reading the standard one this week.

The second book I plan to read is Looking for Alaska by John Green. This is a contemporary young adult novel that was listed as the top challenged/banned book of 2015 in American by the American Library Association. This is due to it being apparently unsuitable for the age group as a result of offensive language and being sexually explicit. John Green has discussed this in a video on his Vlogbrothers YouTube channel and he does not agree with these reasons. I have read Looking for Alaska before and I also do not agree that it should be banned. The ‘offensive language’ is much milder swearing than I have heard from real teenagers and the ‘sexually explicit’ scene is not explicit and is actually an educational and honest detail in a coming of age story. Looking for Alaska is one of the best young adult books I have ever read so I am so please do to reread it in order to raise awareness for Banned Book Week.

If I have time, I will also reread The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This was in the top ten most challenged books of 2014 due to the acts of violence included in the story. As it is set during the Afghan war, it is no surprise that it is violent! It is an incredibly important and diverse read which is why it should be included in the Diversity themed Banned Book Week.

I hope that you will consider reading a challenged book, or at least just a diverse book, this week. It is vital that people know about different world problems or types of people so we can have a better understanding of the world around us.