Bookish media

One of the (great many) things that’s consuming my life at the moment is cross stitch, which one of my friends got me into about a month ago. It’s not a hobby I was expecting to enjoy so much – when I told my sister, she informed me that I had bypassed middle age entirely and become an old person – but it’s oddly soothing (in much the same way that colouring books are, and I enjoy those immensely).

Anyway, because I have the compulsive need to make all my hobbies at least partially about reading, I’m currently making a Song of Ice & Fire bookmark – House Baratheon (as you can see), which I’m attached to partly because I love Gendry so much, but also because they have Hufflepuff colours. 😛

But! There is a point to this post beyond me wanting to show off my almost-finished bookmark: Bookish things that are not actually books! 😀 In this post, I’m going to be sharing some interesting book-related things that I’ve found around the internet – I hope you enjoy them, too! ❤

1) The Katniss Chronicles [link]The Katniss ChroniclesThis is a fan-made audio drama of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, and it’s incredibly well-done, with excellent voice acting and narration, and a script that stays true to the books while also adding in new perspectives on the events of the novels, so that it’s a completely different experience from reading the novels (or even listening to an audiobook). It’s easy to tell that a huge amount of care and effort went into every part of this podcast, and it’s something that every Hunger Games fan should definitely check out – especially since it’s now complete, so you can binge-listen to the whole thing!

2) Harry Potter & the Sacred Text [link]

Harry Potter & the Sacred TextAnother podcast, though this one is much newer (the first episode was only published in May!). It’s something in-between a readalong and an in-depth study of the Harry Potter books, chapter by chapter, with a great emphasis on looking at the events and characters in ways that you probably wouldn’t naturally see them. And there’s a twist – it treats the books as if they were sacred. Because pretty much every die-hard Harry Potter fan has thought of these books as something life-altering and profound at some point, right? I certainly have! 😉 And if that’s not enough to spark your interest, then take a look at this beautifully-animated trailer:

3) Book Nerd Problems [link]

imagesThis next recommendation is probably a bit more familiar to people, as it comes from Epic Reads – the YA publicity branch of HarperCollins… but Book Nerd Problems is a series of hilarious and super-relatable skits about the trials and tribulations of loving books above all else. My favourite? Probably “Unhelpful Recommendations“. ❤

4) A Feast of Fiction [link]

Feast of FictionLast, but by no means least, is A Feast of Fiction, which is a youtube cooking channel – but everything they make on it is adapted from a book, or game, or TV series. Cocoa beetles from Coraline; curry bread from Black Butler (which I really, really want to try sometime soon); lembas bread from The Lord of the Rings; pumpkin pasties from Harry Potter… There’s something there for every kind of fan, so long as you love food (and who doesn’t love food?)!

Books that call to you!

How do you choose which books you want to read? Not in the which-book-next sense, but when you’re in a bookshop, or your local library, and surrounded by books which may or may not be to your taste, and many of which you’ve probably never heard of. What makes you go for one book, instead of another? The cover? The title? The blurb?

Nowadays – with goodreads, and booktube, and wi-fi available almost everywhere – it’s pretty easy to find reviews and recommendations on short notice, so you don’t really need to take too many chances on unfamiliar books. So, for the most part, I don’t end up reading books that I haven’t already heard of, and heard good things about. Which is sad.

There is, of course, something to be said for large groups of people all reading the same books, as it allows for a much greater sense of community amongst readers. I’m always a little taken aback when I make a Harry Potter reference in general conversation, and find that the person I’m talking to hasn’t read the books, because so often it seems like everyone has read them. And there are loads of other series like that: Twilight, of course, and in the booktube/book-blog community, everyone seems to be really into Throne of Glass and The Mortal Instruments, as well as about a hundred other things. And part of the appeal of these books is the desire to get involved in the conversation that surrounds them. I probably never would have picked up a book like Twilight if it weren’t for all the hype surrounding it, because it just doesn’t sound like my kind of book – but I’m still really glad that I did.

On the other hand, though, this predilection towards reading books that other people have already vouched for, as it were, means that a lot of potentially brilliant books could be slipping by, unnoticed. A lot of my favourite books have been ones that I’ve just picked up on a whim, without knowing anything about them beyond what I could learn just from looking at them.

Which brings me to what I actually wanted to talk about today (I got away from myself for a bit, there ^^’ ): Book-sense! When you spot a book out of the corner of your eye, and are inexplicably drawn to it. Pre-internet, I used to rely on my book-sense a lot, and I feel like I have a pretty good one. It led me to A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley – one of my favourite books, which I initially found lying around at home, covered in tea-stains from being used as a coaster for so long; to The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper, and the Daughter of Storms trilogy by Louise Cooper – both incredible series that I’m really glad I read; Power & Stone by Alice Leader; Starseeker by Tim Bowler; The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge; Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick; and many, many others.

More recently, I’ve picked up books like Night Owls by Jenn Bennett, Trouble by Non Pratt, and The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick (even though I wasn’t quite so fond of the prequel to that last one) just because I saw them and had a good feeling about them. And these have turned out to be some of the best books I’ve read. In the case of The Iron Trial (by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare), my good-book-sense was so strong that I broke my Cassandra Clare boycott for it with only minimal agonising during the event, and no regrets at all once I’d read it.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to read the books that other people are reading; to join in the conversation, and be part of the community, and to understand when people make references to popular books. But I also really love the feeling of trying something new and unknown, and being pleasantly surprised by it, and taking chances on books is definitely something that I want to do more.

There are three books on my TBR shelf at the moment that were whimsical, book-sense purchases – Lorali by Laura Dockrill, A Dark Horn Blowing by Dahlov Ipcar, and The Battle of the Sun by Jeanette Winterson – and I really hope to get to all of them soon. I just have a really good feeling about them, and that feeling hasn’t lead led me wrong yet.

How about you? Do you also feel a book-sense sometimes, when you walk into a bookshop? Are there any books that you really want to read, despite knowing next to nothing about them? I’d love to hear about them!

Bookmarks ~ ♥

Like a lot of book lovers, I’m a huge fan of bookmarks, and have been collecting them for several years. I even have an emergency bookmark that I keep tied to my backpack, in case of… unanticipated books? (Okay, so it’s not likely that I’ll ever need it, but I like to carry it anyway.)

Anyway, in my post today I wanted to talk about a bookmark-related habit I have: Matching bookmarks to the books I’m reading. Every time I pick up a new book, I take a look through my pot of bookmarks, and pick out one that matches the book’s themes, or colour scheme, or even just the “feel” of the book. I don’t have a bookmark for every book, of course, but I thought I’d share some of my favourite matches with you all~ 😀

[You can zoom in on the pictures by clicking on them, if you want to get a better look at the pictures. And sorry about the lighting! I wrote this post in the early hours of the morning, and all the lights in my room are rather yellow… 😳 ]

The Handmaid's Tale + bookmark1) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood / Amnesty International bookmark. This is actually the pairing that inspired this post; I’m pretty proud of it~ 🙂 The Handmaid’s Tale is an incredibly bleak dystopian novel about a woman who’s trapped in a role that her oppressive society has chosen for her… “dreams of freedom” seemed like an appropriate slogan! The bookmark itself I received free (and at random) with a book that I ordered from the Amnesty International online shop.

Monsters of Men + bookmark2) Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness / crayon Godzilla (?) bookmark. I mostly just picked this bookmark because it had a monster on it, to be honest (though I still like the match-up a lot). Monsters of Men is about monsters of the human variety, rather than the terrifying-giant-lizard type, but it still works. 😛 This bookmark was another free-with-your-online-order one, but this time from the Book Depository (who, to be fair, have some really excellent bookmarks).

All I Know Now + bookmark3) All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher / owl bookmark. You might have to squint to see the bookmark in this photo, but it’s a little magnetic owl that I  brought back from Hong Kong as a souvenir. All I Know Now is a self-help book, which is full of advice and anecdotes about growing up, and I picked out this bookmark for it because owls are wise. Obviously. 😛 And they’re both yellow, which is an added bonus! (I am very fond of colour-coordination.)

The Boy Who Wept Blood + bookmark4) The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick / Wadham College bookmark. The connection in this case is more based on atmosphere than anything substantial, but The Boy Who Wept Blood (and its prequel, The Boy With the Porcelain Blade) are gothic fantasy novels, with a very strict, traditional-feeling setting, and I picked out this bookmark mainly because it looked the part. (And because I don’t own many books that are tall enough to not ruin this super-tall bookmark whenever I put it in my backpack… ^^’ ) The bookmark is made of leather, and was a gift that my parents got for me at a conference in Oxford.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making + bookmark5) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente / passport bookmark. This last book I haven’t actually read yet, but this is definitely the bookmark I’ll be using when I finally do! I wanted to include it on the list mainly because this is my newest bookmark, which I was left inside a book that was donated to the second-hand bookshop where I work… You should zoom in on this one, and take a look at the passport stamps – it’s pretty easy to see how they it fits with the book~!

But I’m sure I’m not the only person who likes this kind of thing! If any of you guys have any book/bookmark match-ups that you’re willing to share, then I’d love to see them! ❤

Distractions!

A.K.A. The obligatory reading slump post.

A.K.A. An excuse to geek out over something other than books.

Today’s post comes to you pretty late (a whole day late, in fact!), because I’ve been super-distracted for the last week or so. I realised a couple of days ago, after my last post went up, that I didn’t have anything lined up for today – and every day since then, I’ve said to myself, “Oh, I’ll write something next time I have a spare moment.” … And then I promptly forget about it. Or rather, I get distracted by other shiny things.

goodreads challenge 2015

Also, this is a thing that happened while I was in Skye! I’ve increased my goal since then, of course, but I’m still pretty chuffed! (Click on the image to see my challenge page.)

The thing is, I haven’t been reading all that much this month. While I was in Skye, I only managed to get through about half of The Boy Who Wept Blood (by Den Patrick) over the greater part of the week – only to binge-read the second half of it, and the whole of How to Be Bad (by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski) on the last day of the holiday. On the way back, I started on The Ask & the Answer by Patrick Ness, and I’m really loving it so far, but it’s been six days since I started, and I’m still less than 150 pages in… (well below my usual reading pace.) I don’t think I’m in a reading slump, exactly – I don’t really get reading slumps, thankfully. I’m just really, really distracted.

And what am I distracted by, I hear you ask? Well, a lot of things, but mostly Fire Emblem! In Skye I decided to introduce my friend Chloë to the wonders of Fire Emblem: Awakening, and we spent most of the week on a cooperative playthrough (we’d play a chapter each, and have long, involved discussions on important matters like who was going to marry whom, whether it was worth resetting the game in order to save a character who’d just died, and other such things). In this way, we managed to play about half of the game before Chloë had to leave, and it was really, really fun. But watching Chloë play – and experience this amazing game for the first time – made me kind of want to do the same thing.

I couldn’t, of course. At least, not with Awakening, as I’ve already played it over and over and over (as you can probably guess, it has great replay value~ 😛 ). However, I do have one other Fire Emblem game available to me: The Sacred Stones, which I got ages ago as part of the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador programme, tried playing once, and gave up on in sheer frustration. The experience almost stopped me from even trying Awakening, which would’ve been a shame (though perhaps not for my reading list!).

Some of my favourite characters so far. Left: Tana the pegasus rider. Right: Cormag the wyvern rider. Can you tell I like flying units? ;)

Some of my favourite characters so far. Left: Tana the pegasus knight. Right: Cormag the wyvern rider. Can you tell I like flying units? 😉

So, long story short, I decided to give it another go. I’m about halfway through at the moment, and while it’s definitely still a frustrating game (and a lot harder than Awakening), I’ve only had to reset-due-to-character-death a few times so far, and I’m enjoying the storyline and gameplay mechanics. I think it suffers a little in comparison to Awakening because the lack of voice acting makes it harder to get attached to the characters, but I’ve still found a few favourites~ ❤

The very observant amongst you might have noticed that I’ve added a video games category to my sidebar, so you can probably tell that I’m planning to do more gaming posts in the future (though it’ll still be more book stuff than anything else). I might eventually add an anime category as well, as that’s another of my major hobbies…

Lastly, I have a quick poll for you. One of my resolutions this year was to write at least one detailed book or series review every month, and I’m having trouble deciding which book to review this month…

*This would be my first choice, as I feel like there’s a lot to say about it, but there would be serious spoilers for The Boy with the Porcelain Blade (which, unfortunately, I don’t have so much to say about). I feel, however, that The Boy Who Wept Blood is a better introduction to the series – The Boy with the Porcelain Blade felt very prequel-y… :/

**Assuming that I actually get round to reading them this month… 😳

Book-Borrowing Etiquette: A Tale of (Potential) Woe

A while ago, I decided (in my infinite wisdom), that my dad should really read The Book Thief, and to hurry him along I thought I’d lend him my nice, new, shiny copy. What I’d forgotten was that he was leaving for China the next morning – which wouldn’t have been a huge problem for me (despite my belief that my local library had the right idea when they implemented the rule that library books should not leave the country), if not for what he said to me as I handed over the book…

I’m pretty picky about who I lend my books to: As someone who borrows library books on a semi-regular basis, I see how tattered they can get, and am naturally horrified by it. I don’t need my books to look brand new, but I do like them to stay in good condition. Spines unbroken, no dog-eared pages, and so on. And there are very few people who I trust not to mistreat my books. I’m also, however, very bad at saying no if people ask to borrow my books, and – even when they haven’t asked – if I want somebody to read a book badly enough, then that need will usually overcome my reluctance to lend out my books (but I’ll still end up feeling super-anxious until I get the book back).

This attitude has led to my composing a spiel, which I deliver to every potential borrower. So my conversation with Dad went something like this:

Me: I will lend you this book, but you’re not to damage it at all.

Dad: What constitutes damage?

Me: No dog-eared pages. And you mustn’t break the spine.

Dad: How am I supposed to read it without opening it?

Me: Dad!

Dad: Just hand it over.

Me: No breaking the spine!

Dad: I make no promises.

But I gave him the book anyway, trusting (or perhaps just hoping) that he was only trying to wind me up, and he took it away to China, and a few days later I received this email from him (or actually, words to this effect, since I deleted the actual message):

Dear F,

I finished the book on the plane, and it’s still in perfect condition. I was wondering if I could lend it to [D] to read on the way back to Berlin. If you agree, then I’ll be able to get it back when I go to Berlin in December, or else I can buy you a new copy.

Just for the record: This kind of message is not reassuring! He might have just told me that my book was still in perfect condition (though I’m not sure that my father’s idea of “perfect condition” completely matches my own), but giving people permission to pass on a borrowed book is a great way to make sure that you never see it again. And what if Dad lent it to [D] but didn’t give him my usual spiel about proper book treatment?! I don’t know how [D] treats his books! And what if he loses it? Or lets someone else read it who doesn’t know the rules? And if Dad bought me a new copy, then what if he didn’t get the right edition (I spent a long time deciding which edition of The Book Thief I wanted to buy…)? After all, this was all the way back in mid-October, and December was still a long way off.

But like I said earlier, I suffer from an irritating reluctance to say no to people, so I was paralysed with indecision for a couple of days, and then I finally agreed, my heart sinking as I resigned myself to the idea of never seeing my book again.

And then a miracle occurred! Dad came home from China, and The Book Thief appeared on the stairs up to my bedroom, all shiny and beautiful and in not-quite-perfect-but-pretty-close condition. Because apparently [D] had already read it.

And all was once again well in the universe, and The Book Thief and I (and my dad’s wallet) all lived happily ever after (until the next crisis occurs).

THE END.

Books that Changed Me

There are a lot of books that have influenced me over the years, and they’ve done so in various ways: Books that have changed my way of looking at the world; books that have been instrumental in creating lasting friendships; books that made me think about issues that I’d never considered before…

I thought that today I’d let you know about a few of the books that have influenced me the most over the years (for better or for worse), & tell you a little bit about how. I’ve picked out ten (though there are, of course, a lot more out there), and I’d love to hear about how you think you’ve been shaped by books, so be sure to leave a comment to let me know!

In the order in which I first read them:

The Magic Key1) Biff, Chip & Kipper series. I don’t know what this series is actually called, but oh well. There are probably hundreds of these books, & I’m pretty sure that my primary school had the lot. During my first few years at school, we would have time every week to sit down & read these books, to develop our reading ability, but I absolutely hated them! I guess that pretty much everyone hates the books that they were made to read at school, but I got started pretty early: I must have been about five when these books led me to the conclusion that reading was a chore. I don’t remember ever finding them difficult to read – just annoying. :/

[Edit (9/9/2014): Literally a few seconds after posting this, I checked my email and found a Nintendo Newsletter announcing a Biff, Chip & Kipper game series, so apparently that’s a thing. 😐 ]

J.R.R. Tolkien//The Hobbit2) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. An exception to my no-books rule, since I never technically read this book myself. When my sister and I behaved ourselves, our Dad would sometimes come upstairs and read a chapter of The Hobbit to us before we went to bed. I was completely obsessed with it, and I even called my fish-shaped lunchbox Bilbo, after the main character (or possibly Gandalf. My sister & I had matching lunchboxes…). When Dad had finished the book, I wanted so badly for him to start again from the beginning, that he went out and bought me the tapes of the BBC audio drama, which was the first audiobook (kind of) that I ever listened to.

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone3) Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. I think that pretty much everyone in my generation has been influenced in some way by the Harry Potter series. In my case, this was the book that made me love reading. My sister was badgering me to read this series pretty much as soon as it came out, but I was stubborn, and ended up not picking it up until a little before Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire was released, when my best friend Jen started pressing me to read it, too. I went home, read the first couple of chapters, got frustrated that it wasn’t moving quickly enough, and then, at school the next day, I told Jen something along the lines of, “This is boring. I though you said it was about a magic school.” Her response was to tell me to start from chapter 5 (I think), so I ended up skipping over most of the stuff with the Dursleys the first time (though nowadays that’s actually one of my favourite parts of the book).

Anyway, needless to say, I loved it, and when I’d finished, my parents were so overjoyed that I was reading for fun that they went straight out and bought me the next two books in the series (something that my sister thought was incredibly unfair, since, having been an avid reader pretty much her whole life, she had to save up all her pocket money if she wanted new books to read), and I read them both in a day, and then went and re-read all three over and over until Goblet of Fire came out…

K.M. Peyton//Flambards4) Flambards by K.M. Peyton. I first read this book in year 7 at school (when I was 11), and it was the book that made me realise that school books didn’t always have to be boring. I ended up finishing it way ahead of time, and when I did, the first question I asked my English teacher was, “Does this have a sequel?” It did, and I raced through the other three books in the series, as well. I eventually also discovered an old TV adaptation, which was amazingly done and I recommend to anyone who likes World War I-era period dramas, or horses, or aeroplanes.

Tamora Pierce//First Test5) The Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce. It’s complete luck that I ever actually read this series, since the first book (First Test) was a Christmas present from my parents, who have notoriously bad luck picking out books for me. I probably only read it because I was stuck for the whole holiday at my Granny’s house, where the only other books available were things that I felt even less like reading. This series was what got me started on fanfiction – the first fanfic I ever read was a Kel/Merric story set a few years after the end of Lady Knight – which is still a surprisingly big part of my life.

Louise Cooper//Daughter of Storms6) Daughter of Storms by Louise Cooper. I probably first picked this up when I was about 12, just by chance in Waterstones one day – my attention was drawn to the book next to it on the shelf (The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper), and I only looked at this one because I thought the cover was pretty, and the title was kind of interesting. I actually really love this whole trilogy, but the main reason it’s on this list is because this was the first book I read that made me really want to write my own stories. I remember that after I finished the last book in the series (Keepers of Light), I started planning out my own series of fantasy novels (with a main character who suspiciously resembled the girl on the cover of Daughter of Storms), and I spent almost my entire summer holiday writing about her adventures.

Tamora Pierce//Alanna: The First Adventure7) The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. This series is what really sparked my love affair with high fantasy (which is my favourite genre), and also with Tamora Pierce (who is probably my all-time favourite author). It’s definitely not the best of her series’ (nor the first one I read), but it was the one that best managed to capture my attention, and – more surprisingly – to keep it.

Susan Cooper//The Grey King8) The Grey King by Susan Cooper. This is the fourth book in the Dark is Rising sequence, which I briefly mentioned when I was talking about Daughter of Storms. I initially picked up The Dark is Rising on a whim, and I really didn’t like it (or rather, I could barely follow it), but a couple of years later, I came across a bind-up of the whole series, and discovered that I had actually tried to start the series from the second book. Needless to say, this has made me a little more cautious about starting books that I don’t know anything about, and now I will usually look up books that sound interesting and make sure there’s not another book that I should read first…

But anyway, The Grey King is the fourth book in the series, and my favourite. It takes place in Snowdonia, in Wales, and a large part of the story is tied up in local Arthurian legends. This was the book that really got me interesting in mythology (particularly Arthurian myths and Celtic myths), and was a big part of the reason why I decided to go to Wales for University. It’s also a book that my cousins and I bonded over (we spent a couple of weeks one summer visiting all the places that Will and Brân went to in the book), so it’s also very special to me for that reason. 🙂

Meg Cabot//The Princess Diaries9) The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot. This series made me fall in love with love stories. It was so funny and Mia was such a realistic character that reading these books made me feel like she was actually speaking to me. And Michael, I swoon for thee. Michael was probably one of my very first book boyfriends, and Michael/Mia was definitely my first OTP (One True Pairing). I remember watching the two films with my cousins (who were very young at the time), and rejoicing at the end of the second film, when my cousin Zou turned around and said to me sadly, “Why couldn’t she have married Michael?” This series is basically on this list because it turned me into a massive shipper. ~♥

Philip Reeve//Mortal Engines10) The Hungry City Chronicles by Philip Reeve. Also known as the Predator Cities series; also known as the Mortal Engines series. Whatever you call it, this series is awesome, and it made this list because it was the first series I ever read that really made me think about the future, and not just in an ecological, the-world-is-going-to-die sense (though there is that, too). Shrike is my favourite character from this series, and also one of my favourite characters of all time, and the journey of self-discovery that he goes on in the series incorporates a lot of thought/discussion about the way that the civilisations of the future will look back on the events of today. I first picked up Mortal Engines, the first book in the series, when I was about 15 at the insistence of my friend Clare, and it’ll probably (hopefully) stick with me for the rest of my life.

What are your most influential books? Let me know in the comments!