WBD 16: A Day of Books

Happy World Book Day 2016!

This is the 19th year there’s been a World Book Day, and on 3rd March 2016 children of all ages will come together to appreciate reading. Very loudly and very happily. The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own.

World Book Day may be for children but we can all celebrate, where would we be without books? I would like to praise and be grateful for all the gifts that books have given me in life. I’m having a slow period of reading two books at once but you know what? My TBR pile will be there waiting when I finish, and I will always have a friend to bring for coffee, keep me company at lunch, and keep me up to the wee hours.

Well, I will be working in a bookshop (but possibly in the stationery dept) on World Book Day, but hope to still be able to soak up some of the excitement. There are people coming from the local Arts Centre to hold readings and fun with primary school children. Last year I faced my fears and read two books to a full class, but we will see!

Lately it seems a bit of a stress fest for parents who have to find and make costumes so that their offspring can dress up as their favourite book character. Today I had a request for green felt so that a frazzled Mum could attempt a Peter Pan as ‘he isn’t allowed to dress up as Batman.’ Also people looking for The Little Mermaid, Spy Kids (easy costume?) Winnie the Witch, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Enormous Crocoldile and many other books for inspiration. Good luck to all you creative parents and kids!

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The best thing about World Book Day is that all primary and some secondary schoolchildren will get a £1 book token that can be exchanged for one of the 10 WBD books  (otherwise cost £1 each) or to get £1 off any book of their choice. I’ve been eyeing up the Rainbow Rowell offering Kindred Spirits.

I love to try to encourage children to read. I like to buy books as presents for new babies and I half heartedly began reading The Philosopher’s Stone with Ellen and Jacob. (I genuinely laugh out loud and love it when I can make the time!) For children, books are gateways to actual magic. There is so much to be learned and discovered. There are characters to fall in love with. There is escapism and so much more.

My Mum still laughs about my P.7 teacher telling her that I was not saying my morning prayer because I was reading a book under the table. I’ve always had late nights not being able to part with the characters and sleep. I’ve zoned out completely, not hearing someone calling my name. I would wish these things on every child, as no harm will come of it.

Let’s resolve to talk to a child about reading today, encourage them to use their book tokens, and join the world in celebrating a day of books!

Cormoran Strikes Again: The Silkworm

I love J.K Rowling! Harry Potter meant and means the world to me. However, I didn’t like The Casual Vacancy (2011). I didn’t ‘get’ it. It put me off reading the Robert Galbraith -J.K Rowling pseudonym dun dun dun -books. (Ha I just looked up my review of Cuckoo’s Calling and it starts off basically like this!)

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I liked The Silkworm even better than The Cuckoo’s Calling.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before . . .

A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, The Silkworm is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant Robin Ellacott.

I never really read crime or think that I would enjoy it, but this was brilliant. I can’t resist a story about a writer.

Again Cormoran Strike is a brilliant character, he’s so genuine and interesting and even when his motives are sketchy I can’t help liking him. Robin his assistant comes into her own more, she really proves herself and although she’s engaged to Matthew, there is definitely something unsaid between them, a desire to please and their reactions are most telling. Can they just get together already? I saw the most brilliant fan art on the Instagram of @lwbean of Cormoran and Robin. And there’s also a kind of hilarious twitter account @CormoranStrike_ (Cheer the f**k up and eat your burger).

So, everyone mentioned in Bombyx Mori (Which is Latin for Silkworm) is basically a suspect because Owen Quine’s yet unpublished book has been leaked enough for them to know that it could do serious damage to famous authors and literary agents. There’s a really fascinating look into the often vicious world of publishing.

The killer kept me guessing to the very end. There was a few decent clues that seemed obvious once you knew, but it was way over my head. I was rushing the book one lunchtime with about 15 pages to go, had to leave it to return to work none the wiser. Sign of a good crime novel?

The story is so engaging and accessible. The dialogue is believable and at times very funny. Again, I find it interesting how Robert Galbraith writes like a man! Blokey jokes. Slight using of women.

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Amazing picture of Cormoran and Robin hacking into Lula Landry’s laptop from Cuckoo’s Calling. Image from here.

I enjoyed the apt, well researched quotes at the beginning of each chapter by Thomas Dekker, William Congreve, John Webster etc. ‘Is he then dead?, What, dead at last, quite, quite forever dead? ‘ William Congreve The Mourning Bride. There is also the plot of a book within a book in the creepy Bombyx Mori containing vital symbolism, which is a very advanced and clever vital addition to the plot.

There is a brilliant, rather feminist bit where Robin pulls off an amazing bit of driving, saving their lives and staying cool, after Strike has been harbouring a prejudice against female drivers.

I love the echo of Harry Potter in the author’s love of names. Everyone has interesting names. I love Robin Ellacott and Owen’s daughter is called Orlando, after the Virginia Woolf character. Within Owen’s fictional novel there is even more fun had with names, Vainglorious for an awful famous writer was one.

Before I get completely carried away, just want to add that I would love to learn more about Robin and her background. Why did she drop out of her Psychology degree and why is that shrouded in mystery? Also I really want her and Strike to kiss! Loving the development of these two characters as much, if not more than the exciting murderous detective action!

I can fully recommend this unique crime novel. I’m going to save Career of Evil for a bit. 7 books in 2016 already. Happy reading.

Trust Your Gut

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Perfect illustration from Bryony Attenburrow

A few short weeks ago, I would have avoided reading this piece, or anything similar. I wouldn’t have clicked the link or wanted to face the truth.

It seems one’s body knows when things aren’t right, it tries to tell you time and time again, and it is possible to quash the feelings, to get on with it, to ignore the niggle. I’m the biggest worrier in the world. I’m constantly teased about it by the people who know me. But a gut feeling is different to the twisty tummy worries that come and go.

Relationships are the thing that get me in the gut. And when you have a good connection with someone it becomes very difficult to face the flickering warnings in your heart. I’d go as far as to say that it takes a certain amount of bravery. Especially when the future is unknown.

I had to hurt someone I care a great deal about. I had to go into my retail job trying not to cry, and hoping people would know without me having to tell them. I’m a bit lonely, at a bit of a loose end. I’m 26. I’m not a teenager. Something spookily similar has happened to me already. But my gut is calm again, for the first time in a long time.

I have a desire to marry, and to have children. This is so important to me that I want to be as happy as possible and absolutely ‘love in a bucket’. Marriage is difficult enough without serious doubts.

I fear most people, most women? Settle. I always thought of settling as ‘I’m unhappy, this isn’t what I want but I’m going to go ahead with it for whatever reason. Baby/security/money etc.’

But it’s more ‘I’m quite happy, I really like/fancy this person. He’s really good to me. We have a good time. We’re similar. Maybe I wouldn’t find anyone else.’ While feeling that something isn’t quite adding up inside.

There’s a dull dread when people get engaged. It’s hard to feel happy for people you love who are happily putting rings on fingers. This is terrible. I was so grumpy when my brother got engaged and I even cried, and it wasn’t jealousy. I wanted everyone to freeze until I was happy, I was ready, until I was at their level.

Maybe you’re thinking, how dare she expect anything more than a decent man who loves her? But if my body was quietly warning no, no, no- how could I ignore it? I have faith enough to believe that there’s someone out there just for me. My mammy’s been praying for him since I was a little girl. I want to love as deeply as I’m loved. I want a sureness, a yes-ness, an excitement to move forward that flows into everything else.  Yes, it is a lot to ask for. But I deserve it. You deserve it.

Listen to your gut.

 

p.s I wrote this to try to make sense of things. I thought my experience might help someone. I really, really don’t wish to hurt anyone. Please let me know if you have any issues.

My Dear Bessie

So, escapism is the thing at the moment. I haven’t got any real way of watching anything so I am reading, reading, reading. Have had ‘My Dear Bessie’ on my shelf for many months. A love story in letters. Set during WW2. Between Chris Barker and Bessie Moore. Exactly my kind of thing, really. It’s fascinating. The pair worked together years previously at the Post Office, and begin writing to each other while she’s going out with someone. Their love blossoms quite quickly and develops purely through their letters, their words.

In September 1943, Chris Barker was serving as a signalman in North Africa when he decided to brighten the long days of war by writing to old friends. One of these was Bessie Moore, a former work colleague. The unexpected warmth of Bessie’s reply changed their lives forever. Crossing continents and years, their funny, affectionate and intensely personal letters are a remarkable portrait of a love played out against the backdrop of the Second World War. Above all, thispreviously unpublished collection is a stirring example of the power of letters to transform ordinary lives.

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The big shame is that barely any of Bessie’s letters have survived, 90% of the book is Chris’ letters, but oh how beautiful they are! They are so constant in this special kind of love. He’s always stationed in Italy and Greece and far flung places from London, where Bessie is.  The frustration, but enduring love is extraordinary.

Even in the 1940s there are lots of dirty bits, and you can see why Chris felt the need to burn letters! They still try to be quite proper though. ‘Tips of your breast’ and ‘your vital vibrant spot’! Feel a bit awful that these were published, poor Chris would be mortified, I’m sure. But even the sex discussion/longing makes it all the more human.

Bessie was a terrible worrier, like me, but she was very intelligent, worked hard and could argue politics and current affairs brilliantly with Chris, and stand up for herself in work and everything.

It’s weird that she had to give up her job when she got married. and some of the stuff Chris says and expects have my inner feminist growling, but it was a sign of the times, and Chris truly cared about her, and knew how happy they could make each other.

You wait with bated breath for them to meet, as it’s so unlikely and waited for, and anything could happen. I wish they still had cause to write letters during these times.

They’re funny, emotional, addictive and a real snapshot of what the war was like. I don’t want to give anything away, but the brief chapters on what happened after are interesting and wonderful and emotional. I hated the letters coming to an end but at the last letter, when Chris was hours away from reunited with his beloved Bessie he signs off:

Dearest, Darling, Only One, thank you for all that you have been to me through these years, and be sure that we shall overcome with our love any difficulties there may be later on. I can never be as good as you deserve, but I really will try very hard, and I know you will help. We shall be partners, collaborators, man and woman, husband and wife, lovers.

I love you. I want you. I need you. ALWAYS.

YOUR Chris

I really was mesmerized. And jealous! I’m so glad they found each other and didn’t have any way to communicate except through ‘LC’ letter-cards. It truly is amazing. A rare, wonderful book and really worth reading if you are a fan of post and letters, and true love.

Scouring twitter during reading I discovered that Benedict Cumberbatch and Louise Brealey read the parts of Chris and Bessie for Radio 4 last year. Oh I don’t know if I could handle it.  I found this clip of Benedict, lovely man, reading one of the letters on youtube.

Creativity and Real Magic

A whole month since Christmas today. ‘It’s as far away as ever.’ as the Derry saying goes. I have just finished reading my second book of the year. I was totally blown away and I wanted to share it.

Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love) has created a wonder in ‘Big Magic.’ To
be honest, we have it in work and I picked it up a few times but I don’t think I would have chosen it myself. So I would like to thank SongBirdSignBird for the wonderful Christmas present. She wrote inside (my favourite, book inscriptions) that it helped her, and a little birdy (pardon the pun) told me she’s been writing nearly every day since reading it in November. I’m hoping it has that effect on me! I feel like it does.

I’m in an emotional place at the moment, the book made me cry three times when I’m not sure it would have that effect on anyone. But my overwhelming feeling is of RELIEF. No it’s not too late to get back to writing (if I ever started), it’s allowed to be fun, who cares if you’re not successful, do this for you. I can’t even tell you. Self-help books I avoid partly because ironically they are usually full of pressure. You must do this, you must spend this long exercising, how are you going to write if you don’t put in this effort. Big Magic is the opposite of pressure. There’s bits about fear and how that stops people. There’s a permission slip of you’re waiting for one.

Anyway, I think I will give you a few examples. If you ever wanted to write, make art, create anything (which, Gilbert points out, is all of us) I urge you to read this book.

The first part of the book is Courage. We hear of the legacy of a poet named Jack Gilbert (no relation) who once said to a young poet in his class after hearing she wanted to become a writer, ‘Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping that you will say yes.

She writes of the burden of genius and the obsession of getting and staying at ‘the top’. Harper Lee, Gilbert wishes, that right after To Kill a Mockingbird and her Pulitzer, she had ‘churned out five cheap and easy books in a row.’ She could have tricked us all into forgetting, herself into forgetting she was Harper Lee. ‘It would have been a gift to the world. And it would have been a gift to her, as well- to have been able to remain a writer, and to have enjoyed the pleasures and satisfactions of that work for herself. (because in the end, creativity is a gift to the creator, not just a gift to the audience.)

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All my notes. Wow such a book. 

I’m afraid to give too many secrets away so I think you should read it! Yes, some of her ideas about Inspiration and an idea ‘moving on’ to someone else and even the Trickster thing kind of weirded me out but over all the book is a little miracle.

Highlights for me, which I have diligently post-it noted for this occasion are:

Here’s a trick, stop complaining

Day job- there’s no dishonour in having a job. What is dishonourable is scaring away your creativity by demanding that it pay for your entire existence.

Done is better than good.

Nobody’s thinking about you.

A beautiful story about perseverance. That made me cry.

An exquisite tale of painting stars on children’s bicycles that had me cry just now like a crazy person while reading aloud to my Mum.

I’m forever changed by this book. I feel the permission, the freedom, the lightness and pressure free chance to write. To make art. Creative Living Beyond Fear as the lovely book boasts.

P.S Thank you so much to Laura and Eoin if you’re reading for really cheering me up on Friday. You’s made my night! Thank you for the blog support:) Means a lot.

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Yes. Image from here

My year in books

A very genuine Happy New Year to any and all of my readers. Thank you for sticking with me. I was trying to think of a post to do and I saw this simple one from Lou Morgan. So I was inspired. I didn’t want to be a downer but I didn’t feel that I had anything to really point at to say  that I had achieved in 2015. But I have read almost 30 books so here is my list. As Lou said, I’m not going to make any judgement on them, just document them. Thank goodness for my instagrams of my books!

I find it hard not to have hope, so even though I feel a little sad that some of 2015’s hopes were in vain, I’m choosing to hope more and I’m going to try to be more active in changing my life for the better.

Reading is a way to escape the hard times and to store up inspiration until a time when I’m ready to use it! Books are such a blessing and a comfort. I wish you many wonderful books to read, and adventures to go on in 2016!

  1. Funny Girl – Nick Hornby
  2. Stoner – Williams
  3. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride
  4. Flavours of Love – Dorothy Koomson
  5. Us – David Nicholls
  6. Staring at Lakes- Michael Harding
  7. All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven
  8. Ancient Light – John Banville
  9. Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
  10. Apple and Rain – Sarah Crossan
  11. The Apple Tart of Hope – Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
  12. The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa
  13. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistestop Cafe – Fannie Flagg
  14. Late Fragments – Kate Gross
  15. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D Salinger
  16. The Children Act – Ian McEwan
  17. The C Word – Lisa Lynch
  18. The China Factory – Mary Costello
  19. Hour of the Star – Clarice Lispector
  20. Remains of the Day- Kazuo Ishiguro
  21. The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett
  22. In the Name of Love – Patrick Smith
  23. The Electric Michaelangelo – Sarah Hall
  24. Night Owls – Jenn Bennett
  25. The Love Song of Queenie Hennessey – Rachel Joyce
  26. The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith
  27. Reasons to Stay Alive- Matt Haig
  28. Slam – Nick Hornby
  29. Love, Nina – Nina Stibbe
  30. Spill Simmer Falter Wither – Sara Baum (presently reading)

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Reasons to Stay Alive

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Little book recommendation. A wonderful, comforting and hopeful read by Matt Haig. Have really liked Matt since I read The Humans, and chose it to give away for World Book Night in 2014.

I think this book could really help someone with depression, or someone who loves a person with depression.

Matt had a severe depressive episode when he was 24. He was living in a beautiful part of Ibiza at the time. The book starts here.

I have never been diagnosed with depression but I think I have been at least close to it at several times in my life. Some of Matt’s descriptions could therefore maybe be triggers for people as his experiences were so difficult and at times seeming hopeless that I was afraid I was going to be ‘sucked in.’ I hope this isn’t the wrong thing to say. It’s all because of the great writing.

It’s a really amazing journey and you will feel so much better after taking it.

The things I liked most about the book were the beautiful words, the honesty, the funny and wonderful lists and the book recommendations. I have already bought a book that Matt mentioned for a Christmas present for a friend and I am sure to seek out more. Also he seems a real, fair feminist guy and I loved him for it.

Some of the lists from the book are Things that make me worse, Things that (sometimes) make me better, Things that have happened to me that have generated more sympathy than depression, Famous People, How to live (forty pieces of advice I find to be helpful but which I don’t always follow), Things I have enjoyed since the time I though I would never enjoy anything again.

The last item on the Reasons to Stay Alive list p.119

10. You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down at a baby’s face as she lies asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious food you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view from a high place and not assess the likelihood of dying from falling. There are books you haven’t read that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for suns by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.

I instagrammed several pages from this book. I found it really inspiring. It is very wise and so hopeful. And I really love the chance to send hope to people who are suffering because there is always hope. And it breaks my heart when people can’t see any.

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Matt Haig. Image from here.

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I think everyone needs an Andrea! And I really want to know more about Matt’s children and how he felt when they were born and stuff. Maybe another book?

Anyway, I greatly recommend this book. It’s quite compact and easy to read, and it might make a life saving Christmas gift to someone. There are so many reasons to stay alive!