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Five Things I Learned In July

July is an odd month. Summer has barely started and yet it isn’t so long until autumn. At home, we are coming to the end of a three-week heatwave. I have been working in the summer house with the windows wide open and the birds singing in the trees. 

The format of this post was inspired by Anne from the wonderful Modern Mrs Darcy. Anyone who hasn’t found this blog needs to get on board ASAP. It is the epitome of all things bookish and it is one of my major blog-crushes. Anne proves that bookish posts can sit alongside lifestyle content. 

I want to bring more chatty content to my blog. To tell you what I’ve been up to and to hear from my readers. We learn so much over the course of a month – we learn about ourselves. We learn big, life-changing philosophies. We also learn small things like our latest favourite dessert and book-gossip from the publishing world. What have you learned this month? Let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you. 

bird

 

 

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Still here reading 

Posing is a misleading word

 

Regular followers might have noticed there are very few pictures of me on either my blog or my social media. While I believe in maintaining a level of privacy, I would love to include more photographs of myself. There is only one problem: I have never found it easy to pose for a photograph. With ambitions to grow my blog, I decided this was something I wanted to overcome.

Several hundred awkward selfies later and I have realised that posing is a misleading word. Tell me to pose and that’s exactly what I’ll do – pull my face into an overdramatic expression. A parody of a smile. Instead of posing for the camera we need to simply be. Be as if the camera isn’t there. How would you smile for your friend? How would you look at a book?

This journey is going to be long-haul but I’ve figured out what’s putting me off.

 

Kids need reading role models

For the first time in a thousand years, I watched football. 

 My interest in football is limited to major tournaments, on the occasions when England reach a stage worth talking about. And that’s fine. I have my hobbies, you have yours and we can all get along together. 

What’s not fine is sporting personalities bashing readers. Not when the audience includes millions of children. Sporting figures seem happy to put their names to ghost-written fiction. Perhaps they could tell children about the place reading has in their lives.  It doesn’t seem too much to ask. 

During the World Cup quarter-finals, Martin Keown, former Arsenal defender and BBC co-commentator, told anyone reading a book to ‘get a life’. It’s a sad precedent and the exact opposite of what children need to hear. No, I’m not suggesting we interrupt the football with book trailers, but casual comments like that affirm negative beliefs children hold about literacy. Kids need role models to promote the joys of reading.

 

Finishing a draft is only the start

I am about to write the immortal words the end under a 40,000-word draft. More than that, this one is worth editing. I already have a list of changes I want to make and I am looking forward to developing the characters. At the moment they are more like sock-puppets. They need fleshing out with characteristics. 

The rough draft is finished. Now the hard work begins. 

 

In with the old 

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Time to catch up 

New releases are a delight. The biggest change my blog has brought to my reading habits is my reading calendar. I often promote books several months ahead of their release. By the time their release date falls I have heard a lot about the title in question. It’s amazing … but it sometimes comes at the expense of other books on my shelves.

No longer. I have vowed to work in other books even if my blog schedule falls a little behind. This month I have been catching up on Robin Stevens’s Murder Most Unladylike series and I have a mental list of books which I have been staring at for the past eighteen months. It’s time to catch up on my unread novels. My blog will be better for it.

 

Evanesco money

Evanesco is the vanishing spell in Harry Potter. The Lego Company are, once again, about to perform a vanishing spell upon my life savings. Aside from the new Harry Potter sets, a new series of minifigures is set to focus on characters from the Harry Potter universe. The lineup includes figures never before seen in Lego such as Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang. There are also six figures from the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which, as you will find out later this year, rules my world. 

My skills as a blind-bag feeler will once again be put to the test. 

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Chat: Do Second-Hand Books Always Find The Perfect Home?

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Do unloved books find the right home?

On Thursday 10th May, Mum and I went to see the Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society. Aside from loving Michiel Huisman, I was taken by a single line. Huisman’s character Dawsey Adams came into possession of a book which once belonged to writer Juliet. Dawsey describes books as being like ‘homing pigeons’. He suggests an unloved book will find its way into the right hands.

Dawsey has never sorted books in a charity shop.

I did this for eighteen months in my early 20s. The first time I was told to chuck something in the ‘rag box’ I had palpitations. The rag box is something between the dustbin and the shop floor. Books consigned to the rag box weren’t sold. A company bought them for pence, fished out the treasures, and sold the rest on Amazon. We ragged dog-eared books, out of date reference-books, and a dozen copies of The Da Vinci Code every session. If it broke me the first time, it soon became automatic. I consigned books to their fate without thinking.

Knowing about ragging makes it difficult to believe books find their perfect home. It sounds idealistic. 

Except that line in the film spoke to me. 

If I have been the person who threw books into the rag box, I have also been the person who bought a double-copy of a childhood favourite because I couldn’t bear for it to go unwanted. I have carried boxes of books home from clearance sales. At 16, I refused to hand my GCSE poetry anthology back because I didn’t want it to go to someone who failed to appreciate its contents. (Thank you to the teacher on duty that day who let me keep it. My love of Carol Ann Duffy began with that book.)

Many of the books I ragged would have been sold on by another company. Maybe the rag box was just a place along the way. Part of the book’s journey to the perfect owner.

A second-hand book can be more than a homing pigeon returned to roost. It can be a soulmate. A lifelong companion. I don’t know that every book finds its ideal owner, but I too have come into possession of books and felt it was meant to be. I have dusted them down and stroked their spines and created the perfect place on my shelves.

When unloved books find the right home, they find a place in someone’s heart.

 

Louise Nettleton

Has the perfect book ever found you? Let me know in the comments below.

top ten tuesday

Ten Reasons We Might Fail To Get On With A Book.

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Sometimes we don’t want to finish a book. It’s the dirty secret bookworms believe is theirs and theirs alone. If you organised a confessional, people would come. I swear. We get into such a tizz about our DNFs. Can you imagine people behaving the same way over films or computer games? 

My big secrets:

It is OK to dislike a book

It does not mean you are inferior. It does not mean the book is too literary or political or intelligent for you. 

You are not a snob for disliking a writer’s prose. You are not a snob for disliking certain themes. 

You might like it in the future. You might not. Remember – we bring ourselves to fiction. As we change and grow we need different things from our reading. A character who bored you to tears the first time around might be the one you relate to in ten years. They might not. 

Here are reasons I might fail to finish a book. Do you relate to any of these? Let me know in the comments below. bird

  • A newer book is on our shelves, casting its latest-purchase magic. Even worse? There is a book I do not own but somebody else does. Why is the book I have acquired most recently always the one I want to read? 
  • Dull prose sends me to sleep. The end. 
  • I bought it for the cover. The shiny, shiny cover which the publisher invested heavily in. Other than that it isn’t my thing. 
  • Netgalley made me click-happy and now I am cowering in the face of digital files. 
  • Somebody told me I would love this book. It’s a curse. Speak not the fatal words if you want your friends to enjoy the same book as you. 
  • It appropriates someone else’s experience. I don’t believe you must live an experience to write about it but you must research and be sensitive to the real thing. 
  • I’ve read a-bazillion-and-one books this month. I will never read again. I do not know what reading is. 
  • It’s due back at the library so my reading pace has slowed to snailish. Deadlines. Also a curse
  • Entire GCSES and A-Levels and Degree modules count on me knowing this plot. OK, not relevant right now, but if my understanding of a book is going to be graded my interest in it is nada. Expectations? Curse
  • My book group chose it. Hence I don’t join book groups. That’s deadlines and expectations and I’m-supposed-to-love-it rolled into one. Albeit with tea and biscuits on the side. 
Cats · Chat

Caturday – Meet Maisie and Willow

Every Saturday, my Twitter feed is full of felines. Half the world puts up a picture of their cat. Why not? It’s Caturday?

Every day is Caturday in my house. We love cats. I’ve had cats since I was born. My life’s ambition is to become mad cat person. Sorry guys. Cats are just nicer than humans. What can I say?

Maise and Willow came to us in October, from Eden Animal Rescue. I would like to make Maisie and Willow more of a presence on my blog. Frankly, they help write the pieces. Maisie’s rolling about at my feet as I type. They deserve some of the credit. Today I’m going to introduce you to their personalities bookish style. Which books sum them up?

 

Maisie (Maisie Moomintroll, Maisius, McDaisie) : maisie

Favourite Place: curled up on a chair.

Hobbies: Sunbathing, butterfly hunting, opening cupboard doors (then hiding in said cupboard until everyone is worried sick). 

  • Six Dinner Sid – Maisie lives for her food. She sometimes patrols around her food bowl for an hour and half before tea. Maisie is also clever enough to come up with a Sid-like scheme. She would love to fed six times over.
  •  Augustus Gloop, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Is that mean? Maisie isn’t a nincompoop, but she’s definitely on the chubby side. Like Gloop, she lives for food, and not only food. Maisie is obsessed with Dreamies. For the non-feline acquainted, these are the tid-bits which come in brightly coloured packets. Maisie likes these so much, we have to buy the mega-pack. Maisie likes these so much, she parks herself in the porch when it’s clear we are going out, and refuses to go back into the house until the Dreamie bribe is offered.
  •  The Gumbie Cat (Old Possum’s) Our Lucy was also a Gumbie, so we’re well acquainted with them. Gumbies are superficially gentle, passive creatures. Don’t be fooled. If they want to train you up, they will spring into action.

 

Willow (Willoughby-Woo, Beanie) :willow

Favourite Place: field behind the house

Hobbies: Hunting, Hunting String, Hunting Toes. 

  • Diary of a Killer Cat – ‘for pity’s sake I’m a cat’. That’s Willow. This week we’ve had three live shrews and two dead ones. We don’t count the butterflies.
  • Jekyll and Hyde – I confess, I’ve not read the novel. Willow has a Jekyll and Hyde complex. Her killer cat ego is complimented by her sweet nature. Willow doesn’t do cuddles – she burrows. Under blankets, up your cardigan sleeve. When she is burrowing, she purrs a special squeaky purr. It becomes difficult to believe her rodent head-count.
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Guest Chat – @goldenbooksgirl finds perfect summer destinations from her favourite fiction

Whether it’s the Leaning Tower of Piza or the Arctic wilderness, this is the time of year when social media EXPLODES with perfect pictures from perfect holidays. Meanwhile, some of us are sat at home making Pinterest boards of places we would like to visit. One way to ‘visit’ a place without stepping foot on a plane is to read a book with a great setting. Sure, you’re not actually there, but you might empathise with a new culture in a way you wouldn’t if you really were running around with a tour group or sipping cocktails on a sandy beach. Handing over to Amy from @goldenbooksgirl, one of my bestest blogging friends. Huge thanks to Amy, who is epic, awesome and all-over lovely. 

 

MY TOP WANDERLUST READS- GOLDEN BOOKS GIRL GUEST POST

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Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse (Tokyo)

This book has some faults, but it did such a phenomenal job showcasing Tokyo that I still adored it. It`s the love story of Sophia and Jamie, in Sophia`s last ever week living in Tokyo, and her falling for the city all over again alongside her romance with Jamie. It made me want to jump on a plane immediately.

The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg (Italy)

This is an utterly lovely contemporary adventure book, which also contains a lot of Italy`s culture and traditions and history (through the form of actual flashbacks to the main character`s grandmother when she was young, if my memory serves). I`m very overdue a reread of this, and I highly recommend it. And, as it`s Stacy Gregg, there`s obviously a huge horsey theme too! If you`d prefer some equestrian fun in Spain and learn more about that country instead, the 6th Pony Club Secrets book (Storm and the Silver Bridle would be perfect for you!

The White Giraffe series by Lauren St. John (South Africa)

While I`m not as big a fan of this series as I am of Lauren`s other books, the Laura Marlin Mysteries, I still really enjoyed them. They conjure up a beautiful, yet simeltaneously horrific picture of South Africa which is very accurate judging from comments made by a friend who lives there. Reading these was tough for me (I don`t do well with animal books, they always make me cry) but if they don`t make you want to go on a safari and experience the wonder of animals in the wild for yourself I truly don`t understand why.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (Paris)

This is one of my favourite romance books EVER (you`ll understand why once you`ve read it). It explores Anna as she moves to an American school in Paris and soon develops a crush on handsome, charming Etienne. The only problem is that he already has a girlfriend…

This book made me desperate to go to Paris; this book created such an atmosphere and an ambience, and the scenes exploring the city were my very favourites.

New York, New York/The BSC in the USA by Ann M. Martin

If you read my blog, I make no secret about the fact that I adore the Babysitters Club series. These are super specials, which means that they`re narrated by every club member and even a few side characters sometimes (which is always super, super fun!). They`re set in New York and on a roadtrip across America and I can basically guarantee you`ll want to explore a few locations for yourself by the time you`re done. My personal favourite narrators in New York, New York are Stacey and Mary-Anne, who have been tasked with showing the children of diplomats the sights and in BSC in the USA I think my favourite location has to be the Grand Canyon.

Stella Etc series by Karen McCombie (British seaside)

If all my exotic picks aren`t your style, why not try this sea-set series with friendship, mystery and a huge dollop of Karen McCombie humour? They feature a fabulous, hugely likeable cast of characters (my personal favourite is TJ) and the historical mystery throughout all seven books is genuinely interesting. These also have the bonus of actually being set in summer, so they are PERFECT reads for a sunny day, especially as they`re quite short and easy to get through.

 

Have you read any books which make you want to pack a suitcase and jet off? Has a setting actually inspired you to travel? Let me know in the comments bellow.

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YALC gave me Pin Badge Envy…

Pin badges? I have previous. During the 2012 Olympics, I worked in the shopping centre next to the stadium. This put me in prime position to accost athletes and sponsors for pin badges. I have about 50 – national badges, sponsor badges and a lovely gold aeroplane from an R.A.F. pilot. One day I’ll take a picture – currently they are lost in one of those boxes which the loft and garage make so ignorable. (Anyone have cars in their garage? Throughout my extended family, garages seem to be accepted as storage space.) 

Currently, I collect RSPB pins. Every time I walk at my local bird sanctuary I buy I couple. I would like to say I recognise the birds. I’m afraid, like most people, I can recognise a robin, a pigeon and a Canada goose. Regardless, the pins are lovely and it is a great way to support a charity. 

All the Tweets about Y.A.L.C. gave me pin fever. Where else could I get bookish pins? Turns out the answer is everywhere! I had already found the Mockingbird pin when I wrote my post about bookish gifts. My pin wishlist has grown.  Y.A.L.C.ers? You’ve got me on to something. If anyone has that STAGS school badge, I’ll swap you for….I dunno….but I’ll swap you.

Do you collect pin badges? Have you got any bookish pins? Let me know in the comments below.  

 

 

 

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Chat: Favourite Audiobooks

audiobooks‘Mr and Mrs Dursley of Number Four Privet Drive…’ The immortal words are etched into my mind. Not because they begin Harry’s adventure, although that has to help. I can recite half of Philosopher’s Stone by heart because I have listened to the Potter audio books on loop since the year 2000. My aunt and uncle sent me CoS on cassette, and begun a lifelong habit.

The cassettes half wore-out. I graduated to CDs. They still line my CD rack, in numerical order. When I read Harry Potter, it is Stephen Fry’s voice I hear inside my head. (Except for Snape. Nobody does Snape like Rickman.)

I listened to audio books before Potter. Me and my sister got one in our Christmas stockings every year. Aside from that, our library had a great selection of children’s audiobooks, which (read and learn, libraries,) were free to borrow. Sister played Shelia Lavelle’s Fiend stories when she thought I was asleep. It was her special Big Sister time. I snuggled under the covers and enjoyed special Little One time of listening-in-secret.

My golden rule of audio books is they can’t be abridged. There is nothing more disappointing to a bookworm than hearing half the words missing. Even if you have never heard the story before, you can hear the missing beats. (My Year 5 teacher gave up reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone because I called her out every time she skipped a couple of sentences. She thought it was ‘bad writing’.)

Dramatisation must enhance the story. I like the BBC Tom’s Midnight Garden and The Box of Delights. The Unabridged His Dark Materials dramatisation is a treat, and I have been caught humming the strange songs from BBC’s The Hobbit. 

I have yet to try Audible, although I drool over subscription plans on a regular basis. Does anyone have experience of Audible? Do the audio books live up to the clutter-up-your-home alternative?