THE AUTUMN BOOK TAG

FullSizeRender

I was recently nominated by Charley at the wonderful booksandbakes1 for The Autumn Book Tag. How could I refuse! As always a delight and matter of indulgence!

  1. What’s your favourite thing about Autumn?    

I  love the feeling of promise that Autumn brings with it as the cold cracks the morning awake and the summer finally slips away. As with New Year,  Autumn comes with the tension and excitement of new beginnings, where anything is possible.

Also in Autumn the big kid in me is unleashed and I’m incapable of walking past a pile of russet leaves on the ground. Instead I will rush in and kick them around with abandon. The sound, the scent, the scrunchy feeling underfoot – what is there not to like?  

2. What Book reminds you of your school days?

copper

In my last year of primary school we read a book that resulted in a large display of copper items in the reading area. I nagged my mother until all her precious copper pots and pans made up most of the display. It took me years to find the book that so inspired me and this wonderful coppery show. It was the ’The King of Copper Mountain’ by Paul Biegel and I reread it recently, this time falling for the warmth of my childhood memories stored within the tale. 

3. What book cover reminds you of Autumn?

queenieThe hues of deep russet to light orange brilliantly reflect the colours of Autumn as the leaves dazzle us with their extravaganza. The lighter yellow is the cooler sunlight that shines through the leaves, the shell a hint of beach walks in the crisp chilly winds, the deeper orange a reminder of the warmth of the fire in front of which one sits, nursing a hot chocolate and marshmallows. Subtle, striking cover and perfect for Autumn beauty.

4. What is your favourite horror or Halloween book? 

cujoI’m not into horror books, frightened easily by the ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’.  However, many years ago I read Stephen King’s ‘Cujo’. Once started, I was incapable of stopping but I remember reading it in terror followed by sleepless nights. It was simply one of those books I had to finish. Relentless.

5. Which is your favourite horror or Halloween film?

weeping:jpgI have managed to go through life without watching a single horror film and intend to keep it that way. The weeping angles in Doctor Who are scary enough and have me hiding behind a cushion! I know, I’m a real wimp!

6. What Fall book are you most looking forward to?

shopholicYou can’t go wrong this time of year with a feel-good book and not many do this better than Sophie Kinsella and her shopaholic series. The latest one is released next Thursday 22nd  October so I’m look forward to curling up on a sofa and reading ‘Shopaholic to the Rescue’.

7. What Autumn movie release are you most looking forward to?

It’s strange isn’t it? As a student I seemed to live in the cinema, then with a young child, we all adored the children films. Now with a teenager I feel the film years returning as my son is busy with his friends. I saw great reviews for Suffragette (a topic I wrote a thesis on) with Meryl Streep and Helen Bonham Carter and I’m tempted to go on a ‘date’ with my husband to see this.

8.  What are three books you are planning to read this Autumn?

On top of the one mentioned, I have three kindle books I bought with my birthday money and look forward to reading in the coming weeks.

I hope you enjoyed reading these and are also planning your Autumn reading. If you have a chance I would enjoy to read some of your own Autumn Book tags. 

For now, have that blanket at the ready, book handy, candles alight. Right,  time to snuggle and read…see you soon…

‘Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.’

F. Scott Fitzgerald

FIRST SENTENCES…

booker

The usual furore over the Man Booker Prize is now diminishing but as always I could not help but be intrigued. 

It’s one of world’s largest monetary literary prize awards giving £ 50,000 to the winner. On top of this international success and world-wide renown is guaranteed for the winner and a sure-bet for the short-listed books. 

So, what are the winning and short-listed books like? 

Here is a taster with the first sentence of each of them…enjoy!

sevenkillings

‘Listen. Dead people never stop talking. Maybe because death is not death at all, just a detention after school.’

satin

‘Turin is where the famous shroud is from, the one showing Christ’s body supine after crucifixion: hands folded over genitals, eyes closed, head crowned with thorns.’

fishermen

‘We were fishermen: My brothers and I became fishermen in January of 1996 after our father moved out of Akure, a town in the west of Nigeria, where we had lived together all our lives.’

runaway

‘Randeep Sanghera stood in front of the green-and-blue map tacked to the wall.’

blue

‘Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny.’

little life

‘The eleventh apartment had only one closet, but it did have a sliding glass door that opened onto a small balcony, from which he could see a man sitting across the way, outdoors in only a T-shirt and shorts, even though it was October, smoking.’

Source: BBC online news.

Did any tempt? Do you now want to buy any of the books and read on?  

Also, for all writers out there take comfort in the fact that Marlon James at one stage deleted his first novel following numerous rejections, only to revive it later when he discovered it in an email!

My Life in Books Tag

booktag

I enjoyed reading Charley’s recent post at booksandbakes1  on the tag of My Life in Books and she kindly nominated anyone who wanted to participate. My hand shot up as the prospect of having an excuse to study my books was irresistible. What a treat!

Blimey! Where to start? By my reckoning I read at least 80 books a year, so that alone adds up to … a lot of books. I slowly dawdled past my old flames, scanning the covers, stopping to flip through the pages, reading a snippet here or there. It quickly became evident that this post would take some time to complete…hours later…

Here are my book selections for the tag and I’ve added a twist by including the first sentence/paragraph of each book as a taster. I want to mention that the books read in recent years, most of which have been on Kindle, are sadly ruled out. The choice was still staggering however.

  1. FIND A BOOK FOR EACH OF YOUR INITIALS.

I cheated a bit here by including my middle name too.    

A.

2015-10-05 15.02.01 

This is the  last of Thomas Eidson’s excellent and heart-stopping trilogy.

‘Like a frigid hand of ice gripping the back of her neck, the winter wind blew in across the prairie, over the quiet farmyard and into the garden where they stood staring at the coffin. She shivered.’

M.  

me

Get your tissue box out for this one – although I rarely cry whilst reading this one had me weeping by the end. Beautiful but so sad. I’ve put the sequel ‘After You’ on to my Christmas list. The sequel is a first for Jojo Moyes but she could not resist the clamour from her fans to learn more about Louise and her life.

‘There are 158 footsteps between the bus stop and home, but it can stretch to 180 if you aren’t in a hurry, like maybe if you’re wearing platform shoes.’

P. 

papillon1

Gosh, I re-read this many times in my teens and then later relished seeing Steve McQueen in the film version. I suffered with him throughout and by the end collapsed on the sofa exhausted. 

‘The blow was such a stunner that it was thirteen years before I could get back on my feet again.’

2. COUNT YOUR AGE  ALONG YOUR BOOK SHELF – WHICH BOOK IS IT?

A tricky one as the house is encumbered with bookcases but I have an antique-style desk with top bookshelf where my all time favourite books reside. I counted and stopped at my age.

2015-10-05 14.58.06

A must-read for mankind I feel. 

‘You who live safe

In your warm houses,

You who find, returning in the evening,

Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider if this is a man

Who works in the mud,

Who does not know peace,

Who fights for a scrap of bread,

Who dies because of a yes or a no.’

3. PICK A BOOK SET IN YOUR STATE/COUNTY/CITY/COUNTRY

god1

This book starts in the county I’m living in now, so just slides into this category by my reckoning.

‘I decided to enter this world just as my mother got off the bus after an unproductive shopping trip to Ilford.’

4. PICK A BOOK THAT REPRESENTS A DESTINATION YOU WOULD LOVE TRAVEL TO

ladies2

I am a great fan of Mme Ramotswe of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1.  Ladies Detective Agency and I would love to travel to the warmth of Botswana, sit in a cafe and do nothing but gaze onto life outside whilst sipping redbush tea. Oh well, I’l make do with reading the books and watching the TV series. 

‘Mme Ramotswe had a detective agency in Africa, at the foot of Kgale Hill. These were its assets: a tiny white van, two desks, two chairs, a telephone and an old typewriter. Then there was a teapot, in which Mme Ramotswe – the only lady detective in Botswana – brewed redbush tea.’

5. PICK A BOOK THAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE COLOUR

hand

As such I don’t have a favourite colour but I adore this cover of the sunset over the sea and must say that I bought the book for that alone, before becoming engrossed and anguished by the tale that unfolded. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

‘Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl.’

6. WHICH BOOK DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF?

the hob

As so many writers I was inspired by a wonderful teacher. When I was aged 8-years-old Mr Kewley introduced this book to us. I have re-read it countless times, the magic of words still beating their song in my heart. The book holds a particular pathos for me as my then favourite teacher passed away two years later from leukaemia. 

‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with thing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.’ 

7. WHICH BOOK DID YOU HAVE MOST DIFFICULTY READING?

mason

Having read and mostly enjoyed ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ I bought this hardback with confidence. Alas all my attempts to read beyond the first chapter failed and it now sits in my book shelf, unread, pristine. Such a pity as I loved the concept and it felt such a noble enterprise.

‘Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs, starr’d the Sides of Outbuildings, as of Cousins, carried Hats away into the brisk Wind off Delaware.-the Sleds are brought in and their Runners carefully dried and greased, shoes deposited in the back Hall…’

8. WHICH BOOK IN YOUR TBR PILE WILL GIVE YOU THE BIGGEST SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT WHEN YOU FINISH IT?

2015-10-05 14.55.20

In my twenties I was introduced to this and it is a tricky read and took a long while to attune myself to the complex language. I was thrilled to have finished it but also surprised how much by the end it had become part of my inner self.

‘When conversation at school turned to the Russo-Japanese War, Kiyoaki Matsugae asked his closest friend Shiegkuna Honda, how much he could remember about it.’

I hope you have enjoyed reading about the books in my life and I would like nominate you fellow bloggers to carry on with the tag. I  look forward to learning about the books that have featured and are present in your life, please grasp hold of the baton and carry it forwards. It’s a great fun tag to complete. 

‘THE FUTURE STARTS WITH THE ALPHABET’ *

image

How often don’t we take it for granted  – this reading and writing. Let’s spare a thought today on International Literacy Day for the one fifth of the world’s population who are unable to enjoy and reap the rewards of what is now recognised as an inalienable human right – literacy.

Whilst in Roman era only 1% of the population was literate this has gradually increased over time in the western world and beyond to 99%, particularly following the Industrial Revolution. However, many areas in the world, such as Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Afghanistan, suffer from literacy rates of just above 20%. Of the one fifth illiterate people in the world, two-thirds are women, further disenfranchising and disempowering them from an active involvement in the community.

The International Literacy Day was established in 1965 by UNESCO to highlight the shocking illiteracy in the world as well as supporting and creating multifold organisations to improve literacy. They see a direct link with illiteracy and poverty and ill-health and recognise the relationship between improved literacy and economic growth and progress. Therefore the theme of International Literacy Day 2015 is Literacy and Sustainable Societies.

imageIt is increasingly recognised that in today’s 21st Century literacy means much more than the basics of working with words and numbers. Communication is a central factor of literacy, not only through reading and writing, but also through the ability to listen and speak. Early on it is important to develop critical and visual literacy.

Of course technology now plays a huge role in society and individuals need to be computer literate, able to research information and then learn how to effectively use this. As many teachers will no doubt admit, their students now often know more than the teachers regarding modern technology and the teaching emphasis in this area has shifted to a form of partnership in learning.

Furthermore, computers, tablets and mobile phones are themselves seen as offering ‘fresh opportunities for literacy for all’. *

imageThis is not a hopeless cause and it has been proved that with determination and concerted effort literacy rates can dramatically increase over just twenty years. Hopefully the the hundreds of activities and events across the globe today can move more people towards improved literacy.

Personally I cannot imagine a world where I could not read or write – a lifeline of joy, education, entertainment, knowledge. Let’s hope that many more can soon drink from this fount of enlightenment.

* UNESCO Director-General

PLANT A BOOK

image

We all know books are special but an Argentinian Children’s Publisher have truly put the magic into one of their books.

imageIn an attempt to teach children the origins of books – trees – they have created a hand-stitched children’s book into which Jacaranda seeds are carefully sewn. Once the book is read, it is buried and within seven to fourteen years the beautiful purpleblue blooms of the Jacaranda tree will flourish.
image‘Mi Papa estuvo en al selva’  (‘My Daddy was in the jungle’) is hand made on acid-free paper, uses ecological ink and is finished with silk. The story itself follows a father’s adventures in the South American jungle and is aimed for the 8-12 age group, although it can obviously be read to younger children.

imagePequenos, the publishers based in Buenos Aries, believe that ‘trees and children can grow together’ and with this book they have successfully achieved the world’s first truly recyclable book whilst teaching children about ecological responsibility.


The book caused a sensation when launched earlier this year, gaining not only national but also international notoriety. Some bookshelves promoted the books by half-planting them in soil and allowing the seeds to germinate – a spectacular and thought-provoking sight and visualising the novel concept of not only do books come from trees but trees come from books.

image

It will be interesting to see if their idea of ‘Tree, Book, Tree’ will be picked up by other publishers and grow across the globe. How can it lose? Teaching children the love of reading and ecology. Alas the stunning sub-tropical Jacaranda seeds will not flourish in colder climes and adjustments must be made accordingly. Ahh…

Please do take a look at their promotion video which also shows the book production.

http://www.fcb.com/our-work/tree-book-tree

‘Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.’

Confucius

Here Comes Pippi…

IMG_1024

Happy 70th Birthday this week to loveable anarchic Pippi Långstrump / Longstocking.

The Pippi Långstrump stories are hugely successful and enjoyed by children (and adults) across the globe. So far they have been translated into over 70 languages and the author Astrid Lindgren has sold more than 144 million books.

However, it’s on a personal level I want to say thank you to this mischievous character. Her independent fun-loving free-spirit had me believing anything was possible. Well, maybe not lifting a horse (I never tried!) but I got up to many wild-cap adventures during my childhood, surely influenced by Pippi. IMG_1026

Escaping from nursery aged four being one of my first clear memories! Alas we did not get too far as teachers caught up with myself and merry band of followers en route to the dark mystical wood near the school.

When older in England I often stood in front of Mary, the shop-keeper of our local sweet-shop on Saturday mornings, my pocket money clasped tightly in my fist and fantasied about being able to buy all the sweets to share out amongst my friends. Just like Pippi.

Pippi is naturally fearless just by daring to be herself. She could not imagine being or doing anything else. She does not have a malicious streak in her body, instead she means well all the time although sometimes things do not quite work out. The few times she realises she has done wrong Pippi is mortified and full of remorse.

Isn’t it every child’s dream for a few hours to be totally free from grown-ups, to do things that are not allowed? In her beautifully observed and amusing adventures Pippi makes friends with two other children and introduces them to her wonderful version of the world. These friends, well one in particular is my second reason for my love affair with the Pippi stories.

The two friends are siblings Tommy and Annika – my namesake. There I was, in a book, in a record, same blonde hair, same age, yellow jumper, brown corduroy trousers led safely astray by very original Pippi.

I spent so many hours listening to my record of the stories that at times fiction blended in with reality. Did I or did I not strap scrubbing brushes onto my feet and dance around on a soap-sudded kitchen floor to clean it? I know I often lay non-conformist style on my bed, my feet on the pillow, my head at the end of my bed. Just like Pippi.

At times Tommy and Annika tried to tame this wonderful maverick character; even convincing her to attend school with them for a day. The experiment  does not go not well and Pippi decides school is good for the holidays it grants you!

220px-Astrid_Lindgren_1924Astrid Lindgren felt a close affinity for children; perhaps as a result of being mostly absent for the first years of her own first child’s life as he lived with foster parents far away in Copenhagen whilst she worked in Stockholm. Throughout her life she campaigned for Children’s Rights and was instrumental in the banning of corporal punishment against children. I imagine Pippi’s  exuberance and courage reflected Astrid Lindgren’s own approach to life.

So, Happy Birthday Pippi – you’ve given so much with your larger than life personality, your pigtails, your stomping nature. May we all live as impulsively and free.

“If I have managed to brighten up even one gloomy childhood – than I’m satisfied.”

Astrid Lindgren

BROWSING BEAUTIFUL BOOKSHOPS

elateneo

Ever long for a good bookshop?

Whilst buying books online is undeniably convenient there is nothing like the mystique in entering a shop filled with floor to ceiling books. The opportunity to hold fresh crisp books in ones hands, to skim through the pages, flicking back and forth, to pause by a particular paragraph. Imagine this experience whilst browsing books in some of the most beautiful bookshops in the world.

Come with me as I explore three of these amazing bookshops.

ateneo2The luxurious theatrical bookshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina is awe-inspiring. El Ateneo, with its gold tiered levels and actual stage was in fact a theatre which opened in May 1919 and later became a cinema showing the first sound films in Argentina in 1929.  It was converted into a bookshop in 2000, although it retained its theatrical features including some chairs and the original box seats. In  2007 El Ateneo welcomed over one million visitors and sold over 700 000 books.

selexyzdominicanenAnother converted building which now serves as a bookshop is the former Catholic Dominican Cathedral in Holland. The Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht is over seven hundred years old but was closed by Napoleon in 1794 and used as a warehouse. It was renovated in 2005 and now houses black bookshelves over three storeys as well as books along the walkways. If you need a rest and a chance to read take a pew in the cafe in the old choir section.

Selexyz-Dominicanen-bookshop-2

Porto shop

The architecturally stunning Livraria Lello bookshop  is located in Porto, Portugal. Its Neo-Gothic facade hides a beautiful Art Nouveau interior. Built over a hundred years ago it opened to great acclaim in 1906. The main feature is the beautifully dipped wooden staircase that stretches across the shop. The wood panelling and red carpet contributes to the rich lush experience of book browsing. Of particular note is the stunning stained glass ceiling with its monogram of the bookshop’s motto of ‘Decus in Labore’ (Dedication at Work). window one

I hope you have enjoyed the tour. Have you personally visited any of these bookshops? I would love to hear from you. Or do yo have a particular favourite bookshop you frequent? Please let me know what makes it special for you.

“It is clear that the books owned the shop rather than the other way about. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat, breeding and multiplying, and clearly lacking any strong hand to keep them down.”

Agatha Christie, The Clocks

COLOUR YOUR WAY TO STILLNESS

IMG_0886

Writers! Down your pens. Push aside the keyboards. Remove the laptops. Now, pick up your colouring pencils and set to join the latest craze sweeping across our nations – colouring books for adults.

The intricate exquisite illustrations of these books are truly magical and delighting millions of adults as with care and affection they set to colouring.

IMG_0888Some books, like Scottish Johanna Basford’s million blockbuster ‘Secret Garden’ and latest offering ‘Enchanted Forest’ offer not only beautiful inky drawings set around forests, taking you on a journey through them; they also replicate the sense of childhood adventure as you discover hidden objects and unveil nine secret symbols to unlock the castle at the end of the quest.

Basford, who had a hard time selling her initial idea to her sceptical publishers, says she was keen to create something she herself would enjoy. Whilst she stresses the fun and relaxing element of the colouring, the books are not only about nostalgia and reliving childhood as there is certainly a deeper meditative aspect to the books.

IMG_0891In our non-stop 24/7 culture, ‘Enchanted Forest’ and many other colouring books like it allow us a few moments of quiet and solitude, time to be at utter peace within oneselves. The calm achieved, away from the bombardment of the outer world and tuning out one’s inner ‘chatterings’, is increasingly recognised as a form of therapy. Indeed other colouring books for adults are being sold as Art Therapy and Mindfulness. The market is huge with these books alone accounting for half of Amazon’s top ten non-fiction hardback book sales.

IMG_0889Has anyone caught the colouring bug already? Is it a hit abroad? I would love to hear from you and if possible share some of your colourings.

So, as I take a break, join me in this adventure. In a few minutes of vital mindful downtime. Relax, enjoy, get colouring.

Below is a time-lapse video of Basford creating an illustration for one of her books click on the link below. As you can see, it’s all done by hand.

“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination.”

John Keats