Category Archives: Literary Issues

Not As Badger’s Arse As I Thought I’d Be!

black book covers

Hello there, fellow Bookworms!

Good evening, and, for my followers in the USA, Happy Thanksgiving! I guess you’re probably busy right now, you’ve got family round, or you’ve gone round to theirs, and you’re stuffed to the eyeballs with food, but I hope you’re having a good day and that you’ll eventually get some time to have a nice read! I guess you’re hoping for some book sales on Black Friday?!

Right then, back to events here in my part of the UK!

So, as you might recall from Tuesday’s blog, I’d had my x-ray appointment at Hope Hospital (Salford Royal) on Monday morning, and they then booked me in for my surgery on Wednesday, thus yesterday afternoon… so I have been off work yesterday and today. When you have the sedation I opt for, it can last in your body for up to 24 hours after it’s been given, so I have to have the next day off as well as the day of my surgery. I’ve had this done a few times over the years, as you can probably tell, so I’m very familiar with the procedures.

Well, I had the surgery yesterday afternoon, and they actually took me in at 2:30, so half an hour early (I think a previous op had been cancelled, so as Mum and I arrived in plenty of time, they took me in ahead of my original 3pm appointment), and took the teeth out, two of them together, upper left 7 and 8 for any of you who wish to know, and then after some time in recovery and being advised on aftercare, we went home, although not before stopping at WH Smith’s in the hospital and purchasing a book, lol,  and I had a snooze for a bit once I got home. I did feel a little sore when the anaesthetic wore off, but considering I had had two neighbouring teeth out, I didn’t feel as “badger’s arse” as I thought I would. A little sore, yes, but not exactly in serious discomfort.

I have also been using some of the time to have a good read, and I have made good progress with The Good People, by Hannah Kent, our current book club choice. I am now 30% of the way through the novel. I am enjoying it, but perhaps a glossary of Gaelic words and names would help matters, particularly a pronunciation guide! I do have family over in Ireland, but I don’t exactly want to mither them to death with pronunciation queries! Hopefully there’s something online that I can look up… If anyone who has already read the novel could come up with some sort of guide to all the Gaelic names and words in it, that would be much appreciated! Still hasn’t spoilt my enjoyment of the book, thus far, though, even if I look at certain words and think “How the hell do you say that?”

Anyway, as I was saying in the previous blog, I know many of you like blogs where I mention lots of books as it gives you ideas. I’ll have to be doing some book shopping soon, but for others as I have Christmas shopping to get the hell on with! But as for my books, before we get into that “review of the year” mode which tends to happen at this time, let’s see if there’s some books I’ve bought but not mentioned on here already… Caraval, by Stephanie Garber, was the book I purchased yesterday at the hospital, but I have already mentioned that one. Pretty sure, though that there’s a few which haven’t been listed yet in 2017…

Of the books in the photo at the top of this blog, I have already mentioned Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy, and The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, but I knew I had definitely mentioned that latter one on a few occasions as it was a charity shop bargain. It only cost me a quid from the British Heart Foundation shop on Salford Precinct, and that’s the hardback edition! Caraval has already been mentioned, of course, which just leaves A Man of Shadows, by Jeff Noon. I really do like that cover! I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and I’ve been a bookworm more than long enough to know that, so I did read the blurb on the back, and thought it was worth it – “let’s risk it for a biscuit” I thought!

At the same time as I purchased A Man of Shadows, I also purchased Welcome To Night Vale, by Joseph Fink. The blurb and the cover both attracted me. Looking around my room for anything which might not have been mentioned, but to be fair, a hell of a lot of books have been mentioned this year! 518 different books, and we haven’t even got to the end of this blog entry yet, let alone the end of the calendar year!

Apparently, there are nearly 130 million (129,864,880) books in the entire world, according to a post I saw on Facebook earlier! One of several interesting facts in a post on a group called “I’m Not Obsessed, I Just Love To Read”, posted by Firdyawkal Nigussie. This list also says that the first book described as a “best-seller” was Fools of Nature by US writer, Alice Brown, way back in 1889! Wow! As someone on FB said, it would be especially amazing, as many female authors at the time either had to publish anonymously or under a male pen name in order to get their books in print. Indeed, Mary Ann Evans took the pen name George Eliot, and it is under this very blokey-sounding name that her novels are still published, including The Mill On the Floss, which I read, or at least skim-read, at university! Even the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, originally took male pen names, being first published as Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, although they eventually DID get published under their actual names.

Other interesting facts from that list, and my thoughts on these matters…

It would take 60,000 years to read all the books in the world. It would probably take that long to read all the books in my room, let alone the whole world, lol!

The M6 toll road was built on two-and-a-half million copies of pulped Mills & Boon novels. Do you remember that Oxfam bookshop in Wales which was inundated with copies of the Fifty Shades trilogy? So many that they built a fort out of them in their back room?! Maybe they could offer them up to make a motorway if any new roads need building near Swansea?!

The page most readers lose interest at is Page 18. Wow! That early in a book? Well, if you get past page 18, from now on, you know you’re over at least one reading hurdle! I usually say give it rather more pages than that unless it’s a pretty short book! For a full-on novel, some say anything from 70 to 100 pages. Personally, when I’ve been doing my Ongoing Concerns lists during this year, I work out what 10% of the book is and see how that first 10% goes… So, if I’ve got a book that’s 380 pages long, let’s see how I feel about it when I get to page 38.

Thankfully, for you, this blog is not that long, lol, and we have got a few more “fresh” books mentioned which hadn’t already been on the list, and we’ve had some facts about books thanks to Firdyawkal’s post on Facebook, so I hope it’s been an entertaining blog tonight! Until next time, take care and Happy Reading!

Joanne

Books mentioned in this blog entry…

  • The Good People – Hannah Kent
  • Caraval – Stephanie Garber
  • Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy
  • The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
  • A Man of Shadows – Jeff Noon
  • Welcome To Night Vale – Joseph Fink
  • Fools of Nature – Alice Brown
  • The Mill On the Floss – George Eliot
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Filed under Authors, Books, Charity Shop Bargains, Facebook & Other Social Media, Food & Drink, Foreign Languages, List Challenges, Literary Issues, Ongoing Concerns, School, College & Uni Reading, The TBR Pile

What’s So Hard About Animal Farm?!

The Good People

Good evening, fellow Bookworms!

Back again with another blog, and it was nice to have four of us at book club on Thursday. Nick and Diane had returned, and one of my council colleagues, Michelle, came along, so there were four of us and it made for a much better book club meeting than I’d had for some time! It felt as though we were able to have some proper discussion and bounce ideas and book suggestions off each other, which is what book club is about, and that’s bloody hard to do if only two of you turn up and the other person is just happy to go along with your choices. So, much better, as I said. We decided on The Good People, by Hannah Kent, as our next book, and our meeting will be on Wednesday 6th December.

As I’ve said previously, Hannah’s first book, Burial Rites, was a book club book of ours about 4 years ago. When the novel was first published, Hannah and her publisher came to Waterstone’s to promote the book, and as we were due to have book club that night, Emma from Waterstone’s had said to us “Would you be happy for this to be a book club event?” so we said yes, and Hannah talked to us about her book and how it came about. She’s from Adelaide, Australia, but had gone on an exchange programme to Iceland and, in learning about the country and its history, became intrigued with the story of the last woman to be executed in Iceland, hence the story behind Burial Rites.

She’s gone from Iceland to Ireland with this one, but yet again it is a work of historical fiction based on Irish folklore. I have started it, so let’s see what it’s like! It’s a handbag book, anyway, although it’s not the only reading matter which has been making a home in my purple Kipling bag. Currently sharing the handbag space with The Good People are What Light, by Jay Asher,  which is a Christmas novella, and The Outsiders, by S E Hinton. I was kinda hoping that short books, and possibly some short stories, might get me feeling fictional again.

This year is 50 years since The Outsiders was first published. Not one I’ve read before, but it is a book which has been read by many in the last half century, especially teenagers. It has often been a set book for literature classes at school, on the syllabus for the old O Levels and CSEs and then GCSEs when those came along in my high school days. My year were the second lot ever to sit GCSEs, way back in the summer of 1989. Perhaps one of the other English sets, 2 to 4 read this book? Not sure. All I know is what we read in set 1 with Mrs Walsh. (There were eight sets, but only the top four studied literature as well as language.)

Our play was Macbeth, it was always going to be something by the Bard as our teacher was a total Shakespeare nut, lol! Our novel was Pride and Prejudice, so we were introduced to Mr Darcy long before Colin Firth played him in that adaptation! Animal Farm, by George Orwell, was our novella which we looked at both as a straightforward story and as a political allegory, and our poetry, rather appropriately for Remembrance Day weekend, was from the First World War, as we studied a fair few poems from both Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Not sure which book Mrs Walsh used for our poetry, but I always recommend The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry should you be looking to read what I read at school!

Right then… back from my high school reading to the present day, and yesterday I was at St Paul’s Church in Monton for our Christmas fair. While we did have one or two little kids’ books, Mum and I don’t have a book stall, but there is one, and I managed to get five books for a mere £1.50 so I think we should class church fair book bargains in the same category as charity shop bargains for the purposes of this blog.

Church fair book purchases 2017

As you can see, this haul includes two large books about Abba! Abba The Book, by Jean-Marie Potiez, and Mamma Mia! How Can I Resist You? This is the inside story of the making of the musical and film based on Abba’s songs. Bit irritating that I can’t see the exact edition of Abba The Book for my List Challenges list. I have put one on for now, but I shall keep trying for the white cover edition. Grrr! It annoys me, that! It’s all very well if I haven’t got a copy of a certain book, but if I have, I want the right edition on List Challenges. Except for The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, as I prefer the US cover anyway, as I’ve said before!

My other books are Prophecy, by S. J. Parris, The Tenko Club, by Elizabeth Noble, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. I have a feeling I do already own a copy of the latter, but as I’m not even sure where it is or whether I could get my hands on it easily, I chanced getting a copy yesterday at the church fair.  I remember seeing the film version when I was at uni, and then again some years later, on telly late one night, and it’s brilliant. It’s mostly in black and white, but the portrait is in Technicolor!

Actually, going back to List Challenges for a moment… I was on there in the past week or so, and there was a list of “difficult to read” books, but I have to say that some of them weren’t what I’d call difficult at all! The Picture of Dorian Gray was one of them, but I fail to see what’s so difficult about this book! SPOILER ALERT! Well-to-do good-looking young bloke has his portrait painted, as people did in those days when they were well-off, and he’s gone to see and admire the finished product. While he’s admiring his portrait, he makes a wish that he could stay young forever and that the portrait would grow old instead. This wish comes true and Dorian remains young and handsome. However, this goes to his head, and he becomes a right arsehole, and he does some pretty nasty shit to some people. As his behaviour deteriorates, his portrait grows not only older but uglier too, so he hides it away.

Anyhow, that’s enough Dorian spoilers! A couple of the other books on the “difficult to read” list were Jane Eyre and Animal Farm! Seriously?! Those are seen as hard to read?! As I have already said in this blog, I read Animal Farm for my GCSEs when I was at high school, so it’s not that bloody hard! If we’re discussing Orwell’s writing, I could see how people might find 1984, with its newspeak, difficult to read, maybe, but what’s so hard about Animal Farm?! I was about 15 or so when I read that! And I was even younger when I read Jane Eyre! I was in the third year at high school, 13 going on 14! If Jane Eyre was a difficult book, I doubt very much I’d have read it at that stage of my education!

Well, I think that’s about it for now. I had a bit of a book tsunami earlier, but then again, the previous one was in early February, so it’s not too bad considering the huge piles of books I have, lol! Quite a lot of book mentions in here for you tonight – I know some of you like it when I have a big long list at the end as it gives you reading ideas! Until next time, take care and Happy Reading!

Joanne x x x

Books mentioned in this blog entry…

  • The Good People – Hannah Kent
  • Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
  • What Light – Jay Asher
  • The Outsiders – S. E. Hinton
  • Macbeth – William Shakespeare
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • Animal Farm – George Orwell
  • The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry – Various
  • Abba, The Book – Jean-Marie Potiez
  • Mamma Mia! How Can I Resist You? – Benny Anderson, Bjorn Ulvaeus & Judy Craymer
  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  • Prophecy – S. J. Parris
  • The Tenko Club – Elizabeth Noble
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
  • 1984 – George Orwell

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Filed under Authors, Books, Charity Shop Bargains, Handbag Books, Historical Fiction, List Challenges, Literary Issues, Music, My Bookworm History, Poetry, School, College & Uni Reading, Uncategorized

October Review – Better Late Than Never!

Adam Kay signing his book, This is Going to Hurt

Hello again, fellow Bookworms!

I am back! First up, my apologies for not having blogged since mid-October, but you may recall that not only was I not feeling fictional, I was also not feeling very well, either! I wanted my cold to piss off and leave me alone, which it eventually has, more or less, but not without causing me to need time off work. I was in on the Monday after that blog, but even then I had a coughing fit, and stayed off the phone for the rest of that day, just doing the admin stuff – paperwork and computery stuff, and then I was too ill to be in work for the rest of that week! Absolutely streaming with a bloody cold! I did attempt to go in on the Friday, but it didn’t last long and I went home again.

I’d booked the following Monday off, and I was well enough to go out for the day, to Cheshire Oaks, and I came home loaded with a huge stash of chocolate, lol! I did buy a book, I acquired The Hate U Give from The Works for £2, although I still maintain that I prefer the cover of the US edition! Still got a bit of a cough, but I am generally a lot better than I was on the health front.

Still not feeling fictional, though! It’s book club this coming Thursday, and I have hardly read any of Do Not Say We Have Nothing. It’s not as though I dislike it, I don’t, what I have read has been fine, but I’m still not feeling it on the fictional front. I have been in the mood for factual stuff of late. I finished On Writing, by Stephen King, the other night – loved that book! I have thus finished 42 books this year, with just a bit of 2017 left to go.

The other thing is, that, while I was off sick, it was as though our internet came out in sympathy with my cold and decided to slow down! I mean right down. Really sluggish. Things taking ages to load, video clips buffering every few seconds… that sort of annoying slowness. Having given it a week or two to perk up, we contacted our providers with the results of a speed test my sister’s partner had performed for us, and they did some tests on Sunday, and then sent someone round earlier today. He did more tests and sorted things out, so we’re back up and running again! Nice and fast, as it should be. No longer fannying around, which is a technical term, by the way, but you knew that already, lol!

Anyway, you want to know about books, don’t you? You don’t want to hear my moans about how slow our broadband had been for the second half of October, do you?! You do realise, though, that this blog regularly contains large helpings of utter waffle!

The other book which was read last month, and utterly loved, was This is Going to Hurt, by Adam Kay, and I went to the book event at Waterstone’s on 27th October. He read to us from his book and then signed copies, so I had brought my copy with me for him to sign. Epic Win!

In the past few months, the only work of fiction I have finished is If I Stay, one of my YA books. I did also read one of my niece’s books, but that was fairly short, and even that was a few months ago, August, just before I started my job at the council! Since then, it’s been mostly non-fiction, having read about the periodic table of the elements, why internet food fads and diets are dangerous, how the Nazis were totally off their tits on drugs, the hilarious incidents in the life of a junior doctor, and the memoirs and writing advice of a hugely-successful author!

How do I get to feel fictional again? Why have I gone off fiction? I don’t understand what happened to cause it. I understand it in previous years. I remember a general book slump which started in 2012 and meant that I read very little from then until 2015, only managing the occasional book until around this time two years ago. 2012 was a pretty rubbish year for me, certainly the first half of it was, due to my grandad passing away and my redundancy after 13 years as a civil servant. It did pick up a bit in the summer though, as the London Olympics and Paralympics were on, and my club signed a certain Dutch centre-forward  that August at the start of the 2012-13 season, one whose goals would fire us to our 20th league title in 2013 when we would be declared champions the night before my 40th birthday! Oh, Robin van Persie! 🙂

I only managed the occasional book between those times. I loved Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent, Girl With a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, but a lot of books, even with promising blurb, didn’t grab me until the end of 2015 when a fiction book and a non-fiction book both helped get me in the mood for reading again. The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, and Why the Dutch Are Different, by Ben Coates, are to be thanked for helping me out of that slump!

Last year, I had a fiction slump, but only because I had just finished A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara, and that is one seriously epic book! So, I completely understand why I was only able to manage non-fiction for the rest of 2016 after THAT chunky monkey! However, I’ve not read anything quite so epic in 2017! Nothing to rival the 720 pages of A Little Life, that’s for sure, so why the hell am I having a fiction slump now?!

This is one reason why I’ve not even started Turtles All the Way Down, the latest book by John Green, which was published in October. I don’t want my experience to be clouded by doubts over my ability to enjoy fiction! Despite the slump, I am still acquiring fictional titles, and I even purchased a few last week when I headed off to Waterstone’s at the Trafford Centre, picking up Sabriel, by Garth Nix, What Light, by Jay Asher, a Christmas-themed YA novella by the looks of it, and the Booker Prize winner for 2017, Lincoln In the Bardo, by George Saunders. I have to admit I had no idea what the hell a bardo was. Not in the sense of that book’s title, anyway! To me, the only Bardo I knew of was the one-hit-wonder duo, Bardo, who represented the UK at the 1982 Eurovision Song Contest with a song called “One Step Further”!

That was also a bit of a risk – regular readers of my blog might recall some of my rants about prize-winning novels and how difficult they are to read! I think the only Booker Prize winner I have finished and enjoyed so far in my life was Life of Pi, by Yann Martel! But Lincoln In the Bardo sounded interesting – something to do with spirits fighting over the soul of Abraham Lincoln’s son.

I think that about brings me up to date, anyway, except for some news on the children’s book front. It seems David Walliams has a new book out, Bad Dad, so no doubt my friend Sarah’s son, James, will be wanting that one! My niece, Charlotte, the Junior Bookworm, has recently been reading and enjoying The Twits, by Roald Dahl. A classic! And on that note, I think we’ve covered everything, and I have returned to my regular waffly and very nerdy self – come on, it doesn’t get much nerdier than mentioning Bardo in the 1982 Eurovision Song Contest, does it?! So, until the next time I blog, take care and Happy Reading!

Joanne x x x

Books mentioned in this blog entry…

  • This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay
  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien
  • On Writing – Stephen King
  • If I Stay – Gayle Forman
  • Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
  • Girl With a Pearl Earring – Tracy Chevalier
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Maria Semple
  • The Art of Racing In the Rain – Garth Stein
  • Why the Dutch Are Different – Ben Coates
  • A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
  • Turtles All the Way Down – John Green
  • Sabriel – Garth Nix
  • What Light – Jay Asher
  • Lincoln In the Bardo – George Saunders
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  • Bad Dad – David Walliams
  • The Twits – Roald Dahl

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Filed under Authors, Autobiography/Biography, Books, Childrens' Books, Chunky Monkeys, Cross-Stitch, Football, Humour, Junior Bookworms, Literary Issues, Month in Review, Music, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized, YA Books

Long Blog From Joanne!

Stuart Maconie at Waterstone's July 2017

Stuart Maconie at Waterstone’s, Deansgate

Hello again, fellow Bookworms!

We’re now in the early hours of Friday morning, but I’m hoping to get on with this blog and report on a great evening at Waterstone’s yesterday, when I met one of my favourite writers, Stuart Maconie, who was promoting his brand new book, Long Road from Jarrow, in which he retraces the route from Jarrow to London taken by 200 men from the north-east town in October 1936 to try to petition Parliament to create some jobs in their local area.

Eighty years to the day, Maconie set off from Jarrow in October 2016, taking in what had changed and what was still similar all these years later. As he said himself, during the talk, things have changed so quickly even since last autumn that even some of the events of last year seem very out of date already, but you can’t just go round putting in amendments in all the books – you just have to accept that that’s how things were when you finished writing! An occupational hazard of non-fiction writing, especially when it comes to history!

The lady with Stuart was from BBC Radio 6 if I recall rightly, and was leading the interview-style event prior to Stuart taking questions from the audience. This was in one of the event rooms at the book shop, although Stuart did the book-signing session in the cafe on the 2nd floor, so that was out in the main part of the store again.

If any of you have read and enjoyed his books, he is as witty in real life as when he writes. There were a lot of similarities between 1936 and 2016, despite the eighty year gap. The media was just getting going back then, but the marchers used what forms of communication they had at the time to plan their route, find some accommodation and get some mentions in local papers along the journey! A lot of people felt politicians had turned their backs on them and abandoned them, which is pretty much the feeling a lot of people have even now.

Me with Stuart Maconie July 2017

Me with Stuart Maconie

I didn’t put any questions to him during the Q&A session, but did have a bit of a chat while he was signing my books – he signed my copy of Long Road from Jarrow, and also The Pie at Night, which I had brought with me. I mentioned that I’d got a lot of that read on the way to Wembley in February – it seemed an apt book to take to the EFL Cup Final as football is one of the major things we northerners enjoy as entertainment. He’s a Wigan Athletic fan, so 2013 was a special year for them, as well as my lads. Although they were sadly relegated from the Premier League that season, they did win the FA Cup so it was still a happy memory!

Long Road from Jarrow may have to wait, but hopefully not too long – it depends on the progress of the current non-fiction books on the OC List, but as Periodic Tales is now at 64% and Neither Here Nor There is now at 33%, it shouldn’t be too long before Dave Haslam and Stuart Maconie are on the OC List! Manchester England is being queued up as the next non-fiction to join the OCs, so Long Road from Jarrow can be next after that! They’re both books about (mostly) 20th century British history, popular history of northern England to be exact, but not completely the same. One is specific to my local area, concerning the city’s entertainment history, and the other is the re-tracing of a famous march route down to London by 200 job-seeking Geordie fellas.

My signed book, plus promotional postcard and badge

As I said earlier, he also signed my copy of The Pie at Night, but the photos are of the new book, and the promotional stuff – nice when you get matching freebies, isn’t it?! Plus, it gives me extra things to #Bookstagram about! And there’s plenty to #Bookstagram about when you’re a mad bookworm on Instagram, let me assure you, lol! Particularly when authors of YA novels are liking your posts! I got a like from Keris Stainton when I featured One Italian Summer in one of my Bookstagram posts! Woo-hoo!

I’ve also made friends on Instagram with one of the Waterstone’s ladies – she works in the children’s and young adult’s section, and she’s the one who recommended One Italian Summer to me. She has also recommended When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon, which I certainly like the sound of, but I have yet to acquire a copy.

Super scrumptious story bench

The above photo is a taster of a blog to come, as I plan to do a more thorough mention of the Book Bench Trail shortly. I have found the benches in Manchester Cathedral, and in the National Football Museum, so I will be featuring more photos very soon from around town. It’s just that I wanted to concentrate on the Waterstone’s event with Stuart Maconie in this blog. I don’t mean to over-Manc you all, I know that my followers are pretty spread out – the last time I checked, I had 58 of you following my book blog, so thank you for being brave enough to do that, lol! – and I also know it can be irritating to read about book events you can’t get to as they’re nowhere near where you live! I’d love to go to some of those book fairs I see mentioned on Book Riot’s Facebook page, but they’re all in the USA and I’m on the other side of the pond!

I mean, I’d quite like to go to Hay-On-Wye, which is a famous book town in Wales, well known for having a lot of book shops, and that visit is not beyond the realms of possibility as it is in the UK, so I feel that is an achievable thing for a British bookworm and that I might eventually be able to tick it off from my “to do” list! Not saying I won’t ever get to a book fair or convention in the States, but it’s a more remote possibility than visiting a book town based on the same island I inhabit!

Thus, if there’s book-related stuff happening right on my own doorstep, here in Manchester, I’m going to be having a shufty and reporting on it in this blog! However, for the time being, I’m going to have to call it a night for now and get this thing published, so, until the next blog, take care and Happy Reading!

Joanne x x x

Books mentioned in this blog entry…

  • Long Road from Jarrow – Stuart Maconie
  • The Pie at Night – Stuart Maconie
  • Periodic Tales – Hugh Aldersey-Williams
  • Neither Here Nor There – Bill Bryson
  • Manchester, England – Dave Haslam
  • One Italian Summer – Keris Stainton
  • When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon

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You’re a Wizard, Harry!

Harry Potter series

Hello again, fellow Bookworms!

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

Yep! 20 years ago today, back on 26th June 1997, readers were first able to see that opening line in print as the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published! Further books had come out by the time I was actually introduced to the series a few years later, some time around 1999 or 2000, by one of my colleagues at Manchester DBC. I shall admit now that, at first, I had thought they were for kids, but as it was a fellow adult who recommended them to me one day at work, I decided to give them a go and thus I became a Potterhead! I was on holiday (vacation) in Las Vegas in the summer of 2007 when the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published, and went to a party at Borders in a shopping mall near the Strip!

I have also read two of the mini books which were published originally to help Comic Relief – Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and Quidditch Through the Ages. I need to read Tales of Beedle the Bard, which was brought out after Deathly Hallows, as that was a book which was in Dumbledore’s will. Personally, I still think there is more mileage from some of the other books which are mentioned within the Harry Potter series, some of the other set texts which are on the reading lists of witches and wizards at Hogwarts would make good books. Particularly Hogwarts, A History. Hermione quotes from it in Philosopher’s Stone, showing how much swotting up she’d been doing since she got her Hogwarts letter, and I think it’d be a good accompaniment to the main series and give a good back story to the founding of the wizarding school. So, if there’s any way of passing on that suggestion to J. K. Rowling, that’d be great…

Right, on to other stuff now, and I still need to start on The Power, by Naomi Alderman. It’s our book club book, so I’d better get a move on, really! At least enough to see if I like it. As I’m back in Salford again tomorrow morning for another appointment, I guess I could always pop it in my bag as a Handbag Book and take it along with me.

Need to do an assessment of the OC List, too, and continue with Periodic Tales and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Those are the top two on my list at present, but still some way to go in both of them before I finish them.

Picked up Revelation, by C. J. Sansom this afternoon at the British Heart Foundation shop in Salford, so that’s another of the Shardlake series acquired. The fourth in the series, as I recall. Still numbers 3 and 6 to go, but as I said previously, not in a major rush at the moment, so there’s time yet! Charity shops are so good for bargain books. For my readers across the Atlantic, I understand such shops are known as thrift stores in the USA, and that there are bargains to be had in those, too!

As you no doubt know, I’m on Facebook, have been for almost ten years now – joined in August 2007, so not far away from my Farcebook Anniversary, lol, and as you can imagine, I go on a lot of groups and pages for bookworms! I even run a book-related group, as some of you regular blog readers will know! Anyway, on one of these many groups or pages of a literary nature, there was a quote, which I think was from Margaret Atwood…

The book to read is the book which makes you think.

To an extent, yes, but that kind of assumes that you’re quite a reader already and up for the challenge of some reading material which will make you sit up and take notice! Therefore, I would say that there’s a piece of advice which should precede Atwood’s…

The book to read is the book which makes you want to read!

First things first, Ms Atwood! Get people reading in the first place! Get more people reading more books! The way to do that is not to get all picky about what those people are reading! There is no room for book snobbishness! The last thing we want to be doing is to put people off reading.

It doesn’t matter if what people read is lightweight and fluffy! Chick lit, holiday romances, cosy crime fiction… People need to find things they enjoy reading, the books which make them want to read other books…

Further down the line, there MIGHT be scope for assessing what people are actually reading and maybe trying to encourage them to get out of their so-called “comfort zone”, but I’m not one to advise risking that! After all, who bloody cares if someone just reads holiday romances, or cosy crime novels?! Reading SHOULD be fun! It should be seen as something people can enjoy purely for entertainment, NOT just as something you have to do at school, college or uni!

Also, we may well be dealing with grown-ups who were put off reading when they were at school! They might have had books foisted upon them as class readers, books which were not their cup of tea, and that may have put them off books! Having to write essays about those books, having to sit exams and write about those books in some boring school hall for 2 to 3 hours, such events may well have put a lot of people off reading when they were at school!

You really need to have been a bookworm from an early age to be able to withstand the occasional set text you don’t enjoy! I was, so I have remained a bookworm throughout my life despite the occasional tedious “class reader” book, and despite having to over-analyse various books at school, college and uni – don’t forget I had to experience French Literature when I was at college and doing my bastard A-Levels! How many bloody variations on the past tense does a language actually NEED?! It sure as hell doesn’t need a version of the past tense which is only actually used in literature! Yes, past historic, I am looking at you!

So, the book to read is the book which makes you love reading and want to read more books! Let the “fluffy” readers read their “fluffy” books. They might eventually try something a bit deeper. They might not. Not everyone’s going to be on the same intellectual level, and that’s fine. There are books out there for everyone. The trick is not to be so bloody high-handed about it! Stop being so prescriptive! We’ve got light readers, non-readers and reluctant readers to try to help… we can’t afford any form of literary snobbery.

It’s shouldn’t be “You must read this!”

It should be “What sort of things do you enjoy? Which television programmes? Which films? What music do you like? Do you follow any sports? Which team do you support? What are your hobbies?” – from those questions, we might be able to figure out the sort of books people might enjoy! Perhaps they might enjoy autobiographies by various celebrities? I enjoy autobiographies, particularly by musicians and sports stars. Can’t wait to get stuck into Not Dead Yet, by Phil Collins!

In short, these people need some bibliotherapy! They need a “book prescription” which suits their interests, reading suggestions which might get them reading on a more regular basis and help them find their genre(s). Just like with regular medicine, what you or I might take for our various conditions would not necessarily be right for another patient, so that’s why I warn against foisting your own likes on a light or non-reader! If we bookworms are to serve as “book doctors” or “book coaches”, the patient’s tastes in other matters will help guide us as to what we recommend for them. Getting hold of a copy of The Novel Cure, by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, may also help, as might Book Lust, by Nancy Pearl – the subtitle of which is “recommended reading for every mood, moment, and reason.”

Have a trawl through the archives of this blog of mine! My book mentions are many and varied! I am a very random bookworm, lol! I do a recap at the end of each blog, listing the books I mentioned in it, so you might get some ideas from those, and don’t be put off even if I didn’t like that book. You might enjoy it! You might even enjoy that one I read a couple of years ago and thought of as just a pity party in writing, lol! Some time around this time of year two years ago, so May or June 2015, if you want to look it up!

Anyway, I’m off to see where my Hogwarts letter’s at, lol! Where’s an owl when you want one, eh?! Until the next time I blog, take care and Happy Reading!

Joanne x x x

Books mentioned in this blog entry…

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J. K. Rowling
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them – J. K. Rowling
  • Quidditch Through the Ages – J. K. Rowling
  • Tales of Beedle the Bard – J. K. Rowling
  • The Power – Naomi Alderman
  • Periodic Tales – Hugh Aldersey-Williams
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews
  • Revelation – C. J. Sansom
  • Not Dead Yet – Phil Collins
  • The Novel Cure – Ella Berthoud & Susan Elderkin
  • Book Lust – Nancy Pearl

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Filed under Authors, Books, Charity Shop Bargains, Handbag Books, Historical Fiction, Literary Issues, My Bookworm History, Non-Fiction, Ongoing Concerns, School, College & Uni Reading, The TBR Pile, YA Books

This Book Will Change Your… Er, No It Won’t!

Row of Penguin Books

Hello again, fellow Bookworms!

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman is now back in my handbag, ready for tomorrow’s book club meeting. Hopefully we will choose something else I will enjoy. So, no horror and no dystopia, please. No current affairs, either! I read to escape from that crap!

As well as a few other issues, I want to open up to fellow bookworms and ask if there is anyone else out there who has the same issue as me… This issue is with books which other people claim “will change your life”. I just don’t think any of them have!

I love books. I have loved books all my life. My parents read to me when I was a baby and I soon learned to read for myself. I was reading before I started school, and was thus already a bookworm by the time I started in the reception class at Monton Green Primary School in the September of 1977, 40 years ago this coming autumn! But, as an adult, I have come across several books in my general awareness of all things literary which certain people will claim are life-changers.

I have read a few of these, but I don’t feel my life has been changed!

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying I’ve not enjoyed them. There have been a few I have enjoyed, such as The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, and Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert, but these books have had no significant effect on my life other than to be able to say “yes, I’ve read that one” and to be able to tick it off on book lists when I go on List Challenges, lol! That’s hardly what you call life-changing, though, is it? I am that little bit more well-read than I was prior to having read that particular book, but that’s all I can honestly declare!

I’ve not changed my diet, not taken up any unusual pastimes, not changed career, and I’ve not upped sticks and buggered off around the world and off the beaten track! Isn’t that what those books are supposed to cause people to do?! Give all your possessions away and live up a tree in some remote village?! Go and climb a mountain or something?! Hell, I’ve never even climbed one of those rock walls, let alone a bloody mountain, and with my dismal track record on physical activity, it’d be a cold day in Hell before that is likely to change! In fact, Hell would have frozen over and hosted the Winter Olympics if you ever see me at the summit of a mountain, lol!

(My niece has climbed one of those rock walls, though, at some place in town!)

Have any books changed my views? Er, no. Or, if so, only slightly. The Dirtiest Race in History, by Richard Moore, did shift the focus of my disgust more towards the athletics coaches and doctors rather than the athletes themselves, but I still maintain that those athletes, the likes of Ben Johnson, were grown men, thus they could and should have stood up to their coaches and insisted on remaining clean! Not as though they were kids, like the East German swimmers, whose coaches were tricking them into cheating, taking advantage of their age, inexperience, and the fact that no-one from that particular country would want to miss out on a privilege that very few others from the DDR got to enjoy!

I’m not including so-called “self-help” books in this, though. I’ve already been over that issue before now, if I recall rightly. I have already said I find such things pretty patronising and unrealistic. They certainly don’t help me, and bear no resemblance to real life. I swear the people who write those things are living in cloud-cuckoo land where everything’s perfect and no-one has anything wrong with them which can’t be overcome! Whereas real life is full of shit, far from perfect, and the fact is that not every obstacle can be overcome!

If something sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is!

That whole law of attraction rubbish has got to be one of the biggest cons in recent years, and stuff like The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, should be sent for recycling so it can actually be turned into something more practical or realistic to read! It’s just designed to prey on gullible people, con them into getting their hopes up, and then that just sets them up for disappointment! It’s no better than our so-called “news” papers whose sports “journalists” write a load of shite on the back pages to get fans’ hopes up about top players joining their clubs in the transfer windows!

Fortunately, things have calmed down on that front, maybe even the journalists have now realised that a certain Portuguese striker I could mention is perfectly happy at the club he’s always supported since he was a boy, and that he will NOT be returning to one of his previous clubs, but there were several seasons when I used to despair because those “journalists” were conning a load of less-intelligent “fans” to believe that a certain Mr C. Ronaldo would be returning to Old Trafford, the biggest pile of bovine excrement being the tall story in which Nike and Chevrolet were supposedly getting together to bring him back! What an absolute load of drivel!

One transfer which DOES look set to happen is the arrival of Swedish centre-back, Victor Lindelof, from Benfica, as United confirmed the other night that a fee had been agreed for the player. Of course, he needs to come over and have a medical, which I think is going to happen tomorrow after he’s been on international duty these past few days, and then agree terms and conditions. Then we should see an official unveiling of a new player.

Anyway, back to books and the matter of none of them having changed my life despite the claims of others. By others, I mean both the reviews on the covers of books, plus word of mouth mentions from people I know, or even recommendations on social media… “Oh, you should read [insert book title] – it’ll change your life!” – yeah, right! Maybe I’m just too cynical to fall for that.  Perhaps too well-educated to go along with certain daft ideas, especially if they sound particularly impractical or unrealistic!

Also, maybe part of it is my rebellion against the idea of “must reads” anyway! As far as I’m concerned I don’t HAVE to read anything! There are no specific books I NEED to read! Not since I graduated from university, anyway, and that was way back in 1994! I’ve done the school, college and uni thing, I’ve been there, done that, read the books, and worn the cap and gown at my graduation in Bolton in October 1994!

So, I’ve not had a set reading list for 23 years now! I’ve written the essays, sat the exams, underlined stuff, made shitloads of notes in my arch lever file, analysed certain passages of certain books to death… I did that when I had to, but I’ve not needed to do that for over two decades now! I read what I want, when I want, because I want! It’s all about reading for fun, for enjoyment, with books as a form of entertainment! Even with the non-fiction, where I am still learning and discovering stuff, this is out of choice, I am reading these books because I want to know more about certain subjects which I find interesting!

If any book or books DID change my life, they would have been ones I read as a little girl, the books which made me fall in love with reading and want to spend my life being a bookworm! Thus, I’m more likely to have had my life altered by The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle, than by anything I’ve read as a grown bookworm! That book was fun, enjoyable to read, and that’s the lesson that book imparted on me… Books are fun! Reading is a great way to spend your time, and you’ll be able to entertain yourself for hours on end!

I will still appreciate book recommendations, as long as they’re for the sort of books I want to read. No horror ones, please, and I’m not much of a crime or thriller reader, either, but general book recommendations are welcome. Just don’t make any grandiose claims about life-changing properties of whatever you’re recommending to me! I may well take you up on some of your recommendations, I might enjoy some of these books, as I have done in the past, but don’t bother with the “life-changing” stuff – that side of it probably won’t happen for me!

I think that’s about it for now. I just had to get that out. There may also be a forthcoming blog about other things which just don’t happen to me even though they seem to happen to other bookworms, but for now, I think we’ve covered the issue of life-changing books which haven’t changed my life, lol, so until the next time, take care and Happy Reading!

Joanne x x x

Books mentioned in this blog entry…

  • The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman – Denis Thériault
  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The Dirtiest Race in History – Richard Moore
  • The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle

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Filed under Authors, Autobiography/Biography, Books, Literary Issues, Non-Fiction, Olympic Games, Rants, Travel

Signed, Sealed, Delivered…

Tobacconist finished May 2017

Hello again, fellow Bookworms!

Another blog, another book finished and off the OC List! Not quite in time for yesterday’s book club meeting, but The Tobacconist has been finished off, and I can recommend it! Historical fiction without being too chunky (we all know historical fiction, as a genre, has a well-earned reputation for chunky novels!) Very well-written. So, currently, until I add another book, there are 10 books on the OC list, and now 28 on my Goodreads Challenge! Woo hoo!

Going back to my OC List, it may have occurred to you that when I give percentages for how far through any book on my OC List I have progressed, they are always at least 10% or more. Usually coming in on the list at around 12 or 13 percent. This is my OC List policy and it also means that I can try a bit and see if I like it first. If it doesn’t grab me, it’s not even going to go on the list! It’s my escape clause so that I don’t feel pressured into reading stuff which really doesn’t fizz on me, such as horror novels! So, if you WERE wondering why books had to be read, at least a little bit, before even appearing on the OC List, that is why! In case my book club chooses something which isn’t my cup of tea, or if I try one of my many books from my TBR List only to find that I can’t get into it…

New books May 2017

My latest acquisitions from Waterstone’s yesterday…

Anyway, talking of the book club, the next book, for our meeting on 14th June, is The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman, by Denis Thériault, a novella set in Quebec, Canada. The author lives in Montreal, according to the info at the front of the book, so that’s our new one, with the postman theme giving us the blog title for today! Thing is, it’s a short one. 137 pages. Thus I am debating whether it will even need to go on the OC List at all, or whether it will only take a day or two to read and I needn’t list it as an Ongoing Concern, in the same way I didn’t bother listing Diary of an Oxygen Thief as an OC.

The other book in the photo is one which caught my eye in Waterstone’s yesterday, Midnight Blue, by Simone van der Vlugt. Historical fiction set in the Netherlands, in both Amsterdam and Delft. I have been to Amsterdam, of course, been there twice, let in the new year there once, back in the noughties, but not been to Delft as yet. I believe it’s in the south of the country and not far from Rotterdam, which I mentioned on here earlier this week due to Feyenoord winning the league and due to the anniversary of United winning the European Cup-Winners’ Cup at their ground in 1991.

Anyway, back to Midnight Blue. I read the blurb on the back, and it struck me that it seemed like the sort of book I might like, having enjoyed Girl With a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier, a couple of years ago. Actually, I really should get round to trying The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton, sometime soon, if we’re discussing historical fiction set in the Netherlands, lol! Plus, I met her last year, and she signed it for me, along with my copy of The Muse.

Really should read some more of my hardbacks. Thing is, they’re not always the most ideal handbag books, are they? So I don’t feel as inclined to lug them around as I do with paperbacks, which I just stick in my handbag and take them around with me. Some books just come everywhere… Nul Points is still in my handbag. That’s top of the OC List now that I’ve finished The Tobacconist. Still got a lot of YA novels on there to get on with. Perhaps I need to get Nul Points finished and have a good go at the YA stuff… get it off the list and some fresh stuff on.

Talking of YA novels, anyone who knows me on FB book groups might know that I’ve recently commented that I much prefer the cover of the US edition of The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, rather than the UK version. Very helpfully, the young lady who was working in the YA section at Waterstone’s yesterday said that the Book Depository would be the place to go if I wanted to get a copy of that book with the US cover, so when I get around to acquiring one, I shall look online at that site. The book has different publishers in different countries. I don’t dislike the UK cover, but I have to say I much prefer the US one.

Bit of a List Challenges mini rant! Grrr! Why is it that sometimes they either change the edition or put image not available?! I’ve had to find new images for a couple of books and I’ve had to put those back in where they belong on a very long list, meaning I had to scroll upwards quite a bit, not just for 11/22/63, by Stephen King, but especially for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J. K. Rowling! Very irritating, and a total pain in the arse, but covers have been found and the old ones deleted.

The other rant, although this applies to other sites, not just List Challenges, is that when you hide an advert for whatever reason, they bloody lie to you with that “We’ll try not to show that advert again” bullshit, but you know that’s not true as it crops up yet again shortly afterwards. If they are trying, which I very much doubt, then they’re NOT trying anywhere near hard enough as far as I’m concerned! Lying tossers!

The standard of advertising on the internet is subterranean to say the least! So much misleading shite! I just wish there was some kind of strict regulator, like we have the Advertising Standards Agency here in the UK. That tends to cover TV, radio, papers and magazines. Sadly, websites don’t come under their remit and there’s a load of bullshit “adverts” on the internet which would NEVER get shown on telly for a bloody good reason – they’re false and misleading and just bloody clickbait! If pigs ever fly, and I ever get to be in charge, a whole host of shite ads would get banned! Why should people’s enjoyment of time online have to be spoiled by shitty fake adverts?!

Been on the Book Depository website, but, disappointingly, it just seems to have the UK edition of The Hate U Give. Is there anywhere where I could get a copy of the edition with the cover I prefer? Anywhere at all? Not that I’ve really got the dosh right now, but on a need to know basis for when I do get around to buying it…

Well, time to get a bit more of Nul Points read, I think! So, until next time, take care and Happy Reading!

Joanne x x x

Books mentioned in this blog entry…

  • The Tobacconist – Robert Seethaler
  • The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman – Denis Thériault
  • Diary of an Oxygen Thief – Anonymous
  • Midnight Blue – Simone van der Vlugt
  • Girl With a Pearl Earring – Tracy Chevalier
  • The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton
  • The Muse – Jessie Burton
  • Nul Points – Tim Moore
  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  • 11/22/63 – Stephen King
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J. K. Rowling

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Filed under Books, European Literature, Facebook & Other Social Media, Football, Goodreads, Half-Finished Books, Historical Fiction, List Challenges, Literary Issues, Music, Ongoing Concerns, Rants, The TBR Pile, Travel, YA Books