January has come and gone, with new national lockdowns, cups of tea and a really lovely amount of snow and frosty mornings. These past few years I’ve really enjoyed using this blog as a way to track the months passing, and this year I’ll attempt to do so in books read and (hopefully) enjoyed. Maybe it can be a source of “hm, that looks like an interesting read,” or “oh gosh, nope, never picking that one up,” for someone?
The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern
“Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.“
Beautiful novel, beautiful language – just the right blend of poetic twists and turns and well-written prose. The seemingly (but definitely not) random fairytale stories linking the chapters together piece by piece, creates a really interesting ambience for the entire book, and the feeling when the different plots and storylines start weaving together is delightful. The huge character gallery sometimes makes the story a bit difficult to follow, and it’s a bit of a slow starter, but all in all, definitely worth both a read and a re-read.
Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett
“On Discworld, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born. The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late. The town witch insists on turning the baby into a perfectly normal witch, thus mending the magical damage of the wizard’s mistake. But now the young girl will be forced to penetrate the inner sanctum of the Unseen University- and attempt to save the world with one well-placed kick in some enchanted shins!”
I always find Terry Pratchett’s books to be all about the journey and very little about the destination. I love how he dances and plays with lanuguage, and his characters are a lot of fun, but at the end of a Pratchett book I often find myself wishing for the resolutions to be done a bit more center-stage and get a bit more focus. Equal rites was a very interesting and good read, with love-to-be-annoyed-at-characters, gender discussions and politics, and that wit and heart that Pratchett’s books are always properly infused with. 10/10 would read again.
The Magicians – Lev Grossman
“Quentin Coldwater’s life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter: when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton University, he finds his interviewer dead – but a strange envelope bearing Quentin’s name leads him down a very different path. Instead of Princeton, he finds himself invited to study at Brakebills – a secret college of modern-day sorcerers.
Quentin plunges deep into a secret world of obsession and privilege, a world of freedom and power; and for a while, it seems to answer all Quentin’s desires. But the idyll cannot last. There are others powers than sorcery, powers that are as seductive as they are dangerous – and when the illusion of safety shatters, Quentin is drawn into a world far darker than he ever imagined. After all, power corrupts. No exceptions.”
When it comes to books and stories I really enjoy, I’ve got to admit I can grow a bit hyperfocused. Stories with heart and characters that really draw you in, a storyline that keeps you on your toes and that little extra nerve I’m still trying to identify what actually is (after years of recognising this habit but not being entirely sure what causes it) has me falling completely in love. The SYFY-show The Magicians (season 1-4, at least, I’m trying to forget about season 5) is one of those stories. The book didn’t do it for me as the show did, though – the characters felt a lot more negative and destructive, the casual charm I fell in love with in the series was just not there in the book, and I felt like the story didn’t feel as cohesive. It feels like the story Grossman was constructing while writing this book, definitely needs a longer format (like for example a TV series), where you get more time and chance to really explore both the characters and the main and minor themes. Thumbs up to the show, but not sure I’ll be rereading the book anytime soon.
Also, in true blog fashion, at the end of the month, here’re my seconds of January, a quaint month of working at the library, getting into studying part time, breathing in snowy air and reading in front of the fire place.
As cliche as it might be, sometimes books just speak to you. I was looking through old folders of videos, and I found two videos recounting my favourite book quotes of years long gone and passed. There was one video from 2010 and one from 2013 and it was interesting to see what kind of quotes and books made it into those videos, what quotes I felt it important to remember “for ever” and what words I wanted to share with the world. It made me think about the quotes that are important to me now, and it made me want to remake that video with my favourite books as of late.
So here goes; a couple of words to live by, some to laugh at, and others to simply enjoy.
It will come as a surprise to no one that I didn’t end up reading most of the books on my summer reading list. The library job and my short attention span got in the way; the library because I just kept finding new books I was more excited to read than the one’s I’d decided I’d read, and the attention span for making me start multiple books at the same time. However, I did end up reading a lot of interesting books, and I figured I’d gather them all in a post to see how this summer turned out, reading-wise!
Grab a cup of tea and get cosy, this is gonna be a long’un!
Heaven by Cristoph Marzi
This book got me hooked like a good YA book is supposed to do, but it also completely lost me at the end. I loved the creative and innovative story, and the characters’ voices were really well written. It is also set on the rooftops of London (“ooo, what a sight”) and in and around the city, and the writer clearly knows the city well, as it was easy to follow the plot around. The end felt really rushed, however, and had the main character leave a really bad taste in my mouth. It was the kind of ending I can imagine 13 year old me would find super romantic and heroic, but now I just found it problematic and unnecessary. There was a lot of angry, gendered language, and a lot of yelling of the variety of teenage boy being rude, brash and threatening to an adult woman for not letting him into a skyscraper in Canary Wharf in the middle of the night. The ending didn’t fit the rest of the story, which was frustrating, because the rest of the book was one of the better stories I’ve read in a very long time. Plus, the idea of a secret “underground”(overground?) network above London city is such a great start for a story about a girl with a stolen heart.
Blurb: The night that Heaven lost her heart was cold and moonless. But the blade that sliced it out was warm with her dark blood…
David Pettyfer is taking a shortcut over the dark rooftops of London’s brooding houses, when he literally stumbles across Heaven: a strange, beautiful, distraught girl who says that bad men have stolen her heart. Yet she’s still alive… And so begins David and Heaven’s wild, exciting and mysterious adventure—to find Heaven’s heart, and to discover the incredible truth about her origins.
GoodOmens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
I really really liked this book! It came into my life in 2016, as the phrase “an angle who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards” really got me intrigued. Life happened, however, and it took watching the 2019 tv series to pick it back up and woosh through it. There are some quiet stretches in the middle which felt a little bit redundant, but all in all, I adore this book and the characters and ideas portrayed in it. Definitely a good contender for the next reread. Also, the blurb is its own work of art.
Blurb: According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Anges Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner. So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon – both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since the Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle – are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.
Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
I’m not sure what I feel about this book. I really loved the blurb (“Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire“), but I’m not sure the stories managed to deliver what was promised. I quite liked the poems, like “Fairy Reel” and “Locks, and loved some of the stories, like “October in the Chair” and “Harlequin Valentine”, but the book completely lost me on stories like “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” and the ones that were based on the American Gods book. It took me a while to finish, as I wanted to read all of the book, but the stories I couldn’t get into slowed in down a lot. As a short story collection it felt a bit thrown together, and it was a bit difficult to follow the connection between the stories, but I do love Neil Gaiman’s writing and voice, and the parts I liked I really, really liked. If you’re picking it up, maybe give each story a go, but skip the ones you can’t get into, so you’ve got more time for the good ones!
Blurb: Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire. Or after-hours drinking and unanswered phones, of good deeds and bad days, of trusting wolves and how to talk to girls at parties.
There are stories within stories, whispered in the quiet of the night, shouted above the roar of the day, and played out between lovers and enemies, strangers and friends. But all, all are fragile things made of just 26 letters arranged and rearranged to form tales and imaginings which will dazzle your senses, haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your soul.
The Reprieve – Jean-Pierre Gibrat
I got this book at the library but can’t find the blurb anywhere online, and for once I didn’t get a picture of the back. In the Norwegian version it says that this is the prequel to Gibrat’s Flight of the Raven, but there doesn’t seem to exist an English translation of this originally French graphic novel anywhere? Well, here goes the plot, from memory:
The story is set in France during the WWII occupation, and we’re following the novel’s main character Julien. Julien is in the army, but jumped off a train to escape the war. Just after, the train he was on crashes, leaving very few survivors. A dead body is found in the wreckage with Julien’s wallet and papers on him, and so Julien is officially declared dead. He runs away back home and hides in the loft of an abandoned school, with the intentions of staying in hiding until the war is over. However, Julian grows impatient and bored, not satisfied with watching the village life from afar through an old telescope.
The colours and the illustrations in this graphic novel shows the days of war as both something terrifying and very concrete, but also as a haze, a sort of dance where people just had to keep living their lives and ignore the situation. As we see Julien watch his loved ones, his old friends, and even his own funeral from afar, we’re transported into a little french village of the 40s, with its quirks and its habits, its fashions, its politics and its aesthetics. The book got a little bit too long for what I felt the plot could fill, but still a great reading experience.
Flight of the Raven by Jean-Pierre Gibrat
A sequel to The Reprieve, this graphic novel can also be read on its own. I wanted to like this more than I did, especially since I really liked the first book in the series. However, I felt like it didn’t deliver the strong female lead both the blurb and the cover promised you, and the feeling of “the places between shadows” (which I was very intrigued by) was also never really explored. The plot twist at the end also felt a bit hollow, as you as a reader wasn’t really given enough time to properly start caring about the characters. The relationship in the story starts of as snarky and sarcastic, and as a reader you’re not really sure when the romance starts to blossom as it suddenly just seems to be there. However, it is filled with absolutely stunning art work and beautiful depictions of late 40s France, with its people, its rivers and its streets.
Blurb: The story takes place in Paris during the German Occupation and stars a memorable heroine in the French Resistance, named Jeanne. With the help of an apolitical cat burglar named Francois she tries to save her comrades, including her missing sister Cécile, from the Gestapo. They walk in the places between shadows, as Gibrat uses the evocative Paris rooftops and river barges on the Seine almost as separate characters.
Finna kyrkjedøra i meg (To find the church door in me) by Per Helge Genberg
I really wanted to like this book, but turns out it wasn’t for me. It’s written almost like prose poetry – a story about a young queer boy growing up on a farm. It portrays his love for the animals on the farm, and coming to terms with his sexuality in a small and traditional place. It’s an explosion huge ideas condensed into punching, short lines, and it is written in nynorsk, which is another standard of Norwegian written language than the one I use. I love reading books in nynorsk, so that’s not what got me about this book, but I could not wrap my head around the ideas, I couldn’t catch a hold of the plot. All of the ideas felt so specific, but written in such a poetic way that I had no idea what I was reading, and it felt a bit like the writer was speaking a language in which I knew the words, but none of the implied meaning of any of the concepts. However, I’m so glad books like this one are being published though, as I’m sure it is the perfect read for someone else.
Blurb: (translated) The thirteen year old boy sees a grown man naked on a warm day. It awakens an excitement strong enough to tell that something’s not entirely straight about his affections. What will happen to the farm now, the duties to his heritage which have been planted so firmly in him, and what about his inherited love for the animals? Everything may end with him. Finne kyrkjedøra i meg is a gripping and tender story about growing up in rural Norway at a time when being gay brought more shame with it than it does today. It is about being without friends, and about social damage. It is about being who you are, where you are, and about finding and being allowed to live with the love of your life. It is a story covered in the love a farmer feels for his farm, his land and his animals, a love as strong as there are days in a year.
Wilder girls by Rory Power
This book is a ride! The cover is beautiful, and I must admit, the reason why I picked it up. There are few flowers within the pages though; it is a very violent and gritty story, with a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas about illness, dysfunction, grief, pain and survival. I loved how unlikeable the characters were, it was interesting to read a completely female-lead story that was on one side exploring the characters and who they were growing up to be, but on the other hand having those same characters battle life threatening dangers, all on the same page. I also loved how unapologetically angry the characters were allowed to be, and how naturally characters who were part of the LGBTQ community were written. The ending rubbed me the wrong way, though, it felt super rushed and like there are a couple more chapters hidden away on Power’s computer that really should have been included. I do quite like books where the ending makes you question literally everything you’ve just read, but this book didn’t feel finished when the last page was turned; a very frustrating feeling. It was also occasionally a bit challenging to keep track of all the characters, as some of the names are quite similar, but this was a very small issue all in all.
Blurb: It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything. But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
Harvey’s mum, Tara, read this book while we were in France, and told me I had to read it. It’s always a little bit scary to read books other people tell you they’ve loved, cause you kind of feel like now you have to love them too, but I wanted to give it a go. I mean, you’re not sat in a wicker chair in an idyllic French garden overlooking a field full of horses NOT to read books with beautiful sentences like: “I put my hand on his hair. I’d stroked that hair when it was long and blond and full of sea salt, heather and youth; brown and shorter, full of building plaster and the kids’ play dough; and now silver, thinner, full of the dust if our life.” I loved the beginning and I loved the ending of this book. The middle got a bit too long for me, and there were a couple of chapters I’d definitely cut if given the chance. But all in all, a very calm and quiet read, which made me want to underline a bunch of sentences because the language was very poetic.
Blurb: Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home and livelihood is taken away. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.
They have almost no money for food or shelter and must carry only the essentials for survival on their backs as they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
I finally read Will Grayson, Will Grayson! 2013 saw both my David Levithan and John green book obsession, but I never read this little gem. I remember my sister reading it and loving it, but I just never got to it. However, the campsite in France found me book-less, and so Harvey’s uncle very kindly lent me this one. I’m so glad I’ve finally read it now – I loved the journey that both writers took the reader on, from not really liking any of the Wills, to falling deeply in love with the characters, their thoughts and the changes they went through. I loved how explicitly they talked about how love and romance can’t fix mental health issues, and how friendly and familial love wasn’t looked down upon as less than romantic love. Lowercase will grayson’s mum was also a character I came to really appreciate, as a mum who’s been doing her absolute best with her own ups and downs. Also, how can you not love a book that reminds you that “you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you cannot, under any circumstance, pick your friend’s nose.”
Blurb: Will Grayson meets Will Grayson. One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers are about to cross paths. From that moment on, their world will collide and lives intertwine.
It’s not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and will grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurtling in new and unexpected directions. With a push from friends new and old – including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire – Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most awesome high school musical.
Long post done, thanks for sticking with me! Of course, as we’re at the end of September, summer’s been over for quite a while, but I hope you had some lovely reading experiences this summer past, and that autumn and winter will bring you many more evenings of snuggled up reading.
This is our time to shine, fellow blanket loving, hot chocolate craving book enthusiasts.
July is here and summer’s officially started. I mean, it’s been summer for a while, but July is kind of the “proper” summer month, you know?
The strange thing about reading is that it’s one of my favourite things to do, but I’m just really bad at doing it. There’s always something more important to do, an exam to revise for, work to go to, social media to scroll through (this is the worst one, but I know I’m guilty of it). May saw exams and June saw work, and books haven’t really been brought center stage yet. Until now.
Work won’t stop me now because I’m back to working at the library, and let me tell you, nothing fuels your want to read like working in a library. I love to hear people chat about the books as they hand them in, or be excited about new titles they are checking out. Stacking books others have picked out of the wooden shelves exposes you to a lot of books you wouldn’t have found any other way, and I’m so here for it. Also, I got a little bit obsessed with the new Good Omens mini series, and have therefore dug out all the Neil Gaiman books left on my own shelf that I haven’t read yet for this. This is why, this summer I’ve made a provisional Summer Reading List, which will most definitely change throughout the summer. I’m excited.
But without any further ado; here we go. Bring on 2019’s Reading Summer.
The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes
Blurb: Tony Webster and his clique first meet Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, terribly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life. Now, Tony is retired. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove.
Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman
Blurb: Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire. Of after-hours drinking and unanswered phones, of good deeds and bad days, of trusting wolves and how to talk to girls. There are stories within stories, whispered in the quiet of the nights, shouted above the roar of day, and played out between lovers and enemies, strangers and friends. But all, all are fragile things made just of 26 letters arranged and rearranged to form tales and imaginings which will dazzle your senses, haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your soul.
Smoke and Mirrors – Neil Gaiman
Blurb: In Gaiman’s richly imagined fictions, anything is possible – an elderly widow finds the Holy Grail beneath an old fur coat in a second-hand shop; under a bridge, a frightened little boy bargains for his life with a very persistent troll; a stray cat fights and refights a terrible nightly battle to protect his unsuspecting adoptive family from unimaginable evil…
The View from the Cheap Seats – Neil Gaiman
Blurb: “Literature does not occur in a vacuum. It cannot be a monologue. It has to be a conversation.” This collection will draw you in to exchanges on making good art and Syrian refugees, the power of a single word and playing the kazoo with Stephen King, writing about books, comics and the imagination of friends, being sad at the Oscars and telling lies for a living. Here Neil Gaiman opens our minds to the people he admires and the things he believe might just mean something – and welcomes the conversation too.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson
Blurb: Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon. The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They will conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of the empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she’ll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.
The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion
Blurb: “Terry’s last request to me was to make this something he would be proud of. And so that has been my job.”
As already mentioned, and as you can see, I’ve got a Gaiman-heavy summer planned. However, this is just a suggestion. Like I said, now that I’m back at the library, my favourite thing is picking up books from there and reading stories I’d never been introduced to otherwise, so I’m still not sure what the Books (with capital B) have got planned for me this summer. It’s best that way.
Do you make reading lists, or do you just read whatever you feel like, next? If there is a list, what’s on it, and what are you reading nowadays?
Of course, I wouldn’t really call myself that, but with a book collection that just crossed the 600 book-mark (he he, see what I did there?) I can see why I maybe should. I think books make a room cosy, a living space warm, and a temporary small student flat a home. The reason why I hold on to a lot of these books are because I really like them, and keep coming back to them. There are books on my shelves with more notes scribbled in the margin than actual ink on the paper, and books so tattered that they’re bandaged with three years worth of tape. However, there are also books that never received the love and care they deserve, and I have no issue letting go of books I don’t enjoy or that I can’t see myself reading again in the nearest future.
The reason I’m going on about my book keeping habits is because one of the student organisations at my uni is doing a book swap day; you bring in 1 to 10 books you don’t enjoy anymore (but someone else might love), and get to swap them with the same amount of new (to you) books.
So I thought we could have a look at some of the books I’m letting go of this time. Mind you, these are picked from the small collection of books I keep on the shelves in my uni room, which is why there aren’t more.
I also really want to point out that I’m not giving any of these away because they’re bad books! Maybe the story or the voice just didn’t resonate with me, maybe I just can’t make the time to get into it, or maybe it’s just not my cup of tea anymore. No matter the reason, these are all good books that will get a second chance at spellbinding someone else.
Fire and Heist by Sarah Beth Durst
This book just didn’t grab my attention the way I hoped a badass fantasy story about people who are able to turn into dragons would. I really liked the premise, but I just didn’t feel like it focused on the interesting parts of the story. I was also unsure about the tone of it, sometimes it felt like it played too much into humour and comedic timing, when the situation surrounding the dialogue or comment was quite serious. However, this story has a lot of potential of becoming someone else’s new favourite book, and so hopefully someone’ll pick it up on Monday!
Blurb: In Sky Hawkins’s family, leading your first heist is a major milestone–even more so than learning to talk, walk, or do long division. It’s a chance to gain power and acceptance within your family, and within society. But stealing your first treasure can be complicated, especially when you’re a wyvern–a human capable of turning into a dragon.
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
I must admit that I haven’t really given this book as much of a chance as I should have. I often struggle with enjoying post-apocalyptic stories, and I must admit that the blurb beginning with words like “Defeated, crushed and driven almost to extinction” didn’t reel me in, it felt a bit too heavy, if that makes sense? But I’m sure most of this can also be accredited to me just not being that much into Sci-Fi. I’m sure someone who are is gonna love this, though.
Blurb: Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.
Wicca by Harmony Nice
I’ve always been really interested in nature religions and find Wicca intriguing to read about. I love the idea of whatever you put out into the world you’ll receive threefold and being in balance with oneself and with nature. I’m not a religious person though, and even though I’m really interested in Wicca as a concept, I’m not looking for a religion to practice. This book became a bit too handbook-y for me, which makes sense as the undertitle is A modern guide to witchcraft and magick. Still, a well written book that’s gonna bring someone else a lot of joy.
In the end I parted with six books for the exchange; the ones shown above, a collection of Norwegian essays, and a couple more novels. Books are a great and wonderful hobby, but always buying new ones is also a form of consumerism. I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy new books or get a book you’ve been waiting for, as soon as it hit the shelves of your local bookstore, but it is worth it to maybe have a look in a charity shop or a second hand shop, or a book exchange like this one, – they may surprise you with wonderful new reads. The second part of the book exchange is on Monday, and I’m so excited to both get to see my old books get picked up by new, excited hands, and to maybe pick up some new favourites myself; favourites which someone else have decided deserve a second chance.
When your childhood stops by for a minute, in the shape of a sudden new book in a series who shaped you at 14 years of age, you run to the mail box. You run in your red wellies and your pyjamas, with sleep still misting up the corners of your eyes.
When you open the book for the first time, you’re going to be 14 again, clawing at the covers of what you thought was the end of the story. When you turn the title page, sat on a chair in your student flat-kitchen, you’re going to be transported back to that holiday when you were 10, that time you almost didn’t get in the pool because the story had you more captivated than chlorine water ever could. When you run your fingers along the pristine pages, the shining dust jacket and the black silk bookmark, you’ll remember the feeling of the tattered covers of books reread, of books well-loved, in your 12-year-old hands.
When your childhood stops by for a minute, in the form of a book you thought you’d never read, you put aside linguistic terms and phonetic theory, to dip into this world that welcomes you back, with cloaks and scrolls and fairytales.
When your childhood stops by for a minute, you stop too. You make a cup of tea, you put on some cosy socks.
And just like that, the story never ended.
So, context time! I loved this book series called Phenomena, by Ruben Eliassen, when I was a kid. The first book of the series came out in 2006 and the last in 2011, and these stories were important companions that proper helped shape my reading journey as a child and teen.
Through crowdfunding, the author has now published a new book; one that can either be seen as a finale to the old series, or a new beginning to what happened next in this story. Whether a final bow or an opening number, I’m so so so excited to get into this book, and I can’t wait for a deep dive back into that part of my childhood were the skies in the books were as real as the ones above my head.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone! I am in a holiday-sized bubble of Christmas cosy at the moment. Harvey’s visiting for the holidays, I’m at home with my family, we’re all shrouded in soft pyjamas and old cartoons and more Christmas food than anyone should ever eat. It’s great.
As we’re reaching the end of 2018, I’ve taken a look at my Goodreads 2018 reading challenge, and I figured I’d make a post about that next week, as we’re rearing closer to the end of the year. For now, though, I wanted to revisit my 2013 reading challenge, to see how it went five years ago!
I’ve always loved reading and I’ve always loved books. Ever since I was a kid I just couldn’t get enough. 2013 however, at the age of 17, was when I proper started recording what and how much I read. It was my first year of using Goodreads as a way to keep track of my books, and it was when I started setting myself reading challenges to complete.
First of all, my goal for 2013 was 40 books, and I managed to read 38. I’ve decided to sort these books into three lists, the ones I remember reading, the ones I have no recollection of, and the ones I’m pretty sure I didn’t read and might have added just to up my number on the challenge. Embarrassing, but hey, it’s years ago.
Total of books: 38
Books I read and remember to this day: 28
-Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury -An Abundance of Katherine’s – John Green -Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls – David Sedaris -The Fault in Our Stars – John Green -Looking for Alaska – John Green -Paper Towns – John Green -The Time Keeper – Mitch Albom -A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I learnt while editing my life – Donald Miller -Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs -The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky -The Island – Victoria Hislop -Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – David Levithan -Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares – David Levithan -Naomi and Eli’s No Kiss List – David Levithan -Eighty Days Blue – Vina Jackson -Eighty Days Yellow – Vina Jackson -A Street Cat Named Bob – James Bowen -The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom -One Hundred Names – Cecelia Ahern -Me Before You – Jojo Moyes -The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald -To Kill a Mocking Bird – Harper Lee -City of Bones -Casandra Clare -Dear John – Nicholas Sparks
–Every You Every Me – David Levithan -The Lovers Dictionary – David Levithan -Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman -Søskenkjærlighet – Katarina von Bredow
Safe to say it was the year of John Green and Young Adult fiction, but it was also the year I found my favourite author, David Levithan, and my all time favourite book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, and realised that I didn’t just have to stick to the YA romances. 2013 was also my first time dipping my toes in the classics and the advent of buying books online; i.e, asking the cashier in the bookstore to order books that you could never get in my little Norwegian town, otherwise.
It’s also interesting to look at what you read at a certain point, because I feel like it can show what you were thinking about at that point in time. Your taste in books can’t really define you, but it absolutely shows what you care about, and offers pointers at what was important to you.
Books I have no recollection of reading: 3
Boy meets Boy – David Levithan I’m so sure I’ve never read this, but I can remember starting it so many times. Not sure why I never got through it, maybe it was just the one Levithan book I couldn’t get into?
The Book of Tomorrow – Cecelia Ahern I cannot for the life of me remember this one! All I can remember is the fact that I bought it on my first ever trip to a Waterstones and read it on the plane back from my second time ever in London.
I Don’t Know How She Does it – Allison Pearson So, I added this book to the list twice, but I’ve no clue what it’s about. I just know that I read it on a beach in Mallorca, and eventually forgot it at the hotel room.
Books I’m 100% sure I didn’t read and just kind of pretended to have finished: 6
Evig søndag – Linnea Myre This book was a Christmas present if I can recall, but I have not read this. I think I wanted to be cool and say I’ve read it though, because it was kind of “the book” of my year in school that year.
Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Yeah, I remember actively putting this book away after the opening pages. This was one of those books that really weren’t what I was expecting, even though I knew nothing about the book before starting it, and it just didn’t sit well with me. I’ve wanted to pick it up again so many times, but just never get around to it. It felt like a very “grown-up” book, though, and I wanted to be able to say that I’d read and loved it, I remember..
The Reader – Bernard Schlink
Same situation, I have never read this book. It was very adult-y, and historical and quite gritty, though, so saying I’d read it felt impressive. Goodness me, sixteen-year-old me was a mess.
Will Grayson Will Grayson – John Green
I remember my sister loved this book, but I just couldn’t get into it! It also didn’t help that I didn’t get that the two Will Graysons are two different people, either, but to be fair, that’s my bad. Maybe I should give this a go again, 5 years later.
James Potter and the Hall of Elder’s Crossing – G. Norman Lippert
Okay, I’ve done my googling. What is this book? Not that I’ve got anything against fanfiction at all, but I’m very certain that it’s never been in my bookshelf, and I’ve no clue why I’d put it on my “read-shelf”.
Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
I never finished this, I didn’t get along with the narrator’s voice, I think.
As I’m back at my parents’ for Christmas, I had a little look around for how many of these books I actually still own. We all know I’m a bit of a book hoarder, but I was surprised to find that 36 of these are still on my shelves (and the other two I can remember borrowing from a friend) which basically means that I’ve never been very good at throwing books away, huh…
But I figured it could be a bit fun to have a look at some of the ones I’ve still got!
2013 was the year I felt desperately and irrevocably in love with David Levithan’s writing, a love affair that to this day is still churning in the pit of my stomach. I remember ordering these at the bookstore, as online shopping wasn’t really as easy an option as it is today, at that time in my town. Well, it all began in 2013, but to this day, I still have all of David Levithan’s books on my shelf, he’s got his own one as he has quite a lot of books published. His stories embody the feeling of home, safety and comfort even in the sadder tales, a warm cup of cocoa written in between the covers.
This copy of The Great Gatsby was the first classic I ever properly read because I wanted to, and also the first time I realised I could make notes and highlight in my own books. After this, I finished To Kill a Mockingbird, and to this day those are the two only classics I’ve ever really gotten through on my own.
The beginning of a long and true love story; Mitch Albom, my designated November reads.
The year of all the John Green books in both Norwegian and English, and a rather large school assignment based on (among many others) John Green’s books and his characters. “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, could she exist?” I think it was called.
This copy of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses has been read to absolute pieces, and surprisingly enough it also showed up on my uni set list for a Children’s fiction module, in 2017!
This post got a bit list-y, but it was fun to have a look through. Like I said, I hope to make a little walk through my 2018 reading challenge, plus I want to write a post about New Year’s resolutions and a bit more about 2018 and its lessons learned. I want to update the blog more and have got some fun ideas I’d love to work on more in the new year.
So, do you do Goodreads reading challenges? Did you read any of these when you were a teenager or a young adult? And have any of these been, or are some of these maybe still, a favourite?
It should come as no surprise to any reader of this blog, that I like words. I love reading, I’ve got a writing degree done and dusted, I attend poetry readings and sometimes perform my own work. I really like words, language and stories, and I talk a lot about them.
Another thing I talk a lot about, is the job I really like at the library. I love it because it lets me talk to a lot of people, I get to learn a lot of cool things, and it’s introduced me to books I never would have found on my own.
One type of book I’ve fallen completely in love with, I found when a lady came in and asked for “the book about the cats”. We should be able to find that, I said, there are lots of books written about cats, but no, she said, it’s not written. It’s just the book about the cats. I didn’t understand what she was looking for, however, the proper librarian who was also there, knew exactly what book the lady wanted.
Where Shall the Cats Live by Torill Kove. Published by Gyldendal in 2018, it is classified as a “wordless book”.
Wordless books have no words (as it says on the tin), and even though (as already mentioned) I love words, I’m so here for these books. On Gyldendal’s webpage, the publishers write that wordless books can be read both by those who love to read and those who struggle a bit more, but their purpose is to give kids who struggle with reading that feeling of having read an entire book all by themselves. This is because the wordless books aren’t read by reading the words, but by “reading the illustrations, discovering details, patterns, feelings and actions – solely by watching and understanding the visual cues; an ability our youngest readers already have.”
Yes, these books are absolutely wonderful for children. But the reason I fell in love with them is the wide audience they can appeal to. The illustrations in these books are colourful, vivid and vibrant, and not necessarily just for children. The book I’m running away by Mari Kanstad Johnsen, for example, is an example of a wordless book, that uses a darker style of imagery to maintain a vivid, emotional and thought-provoking nature.
In an interview with BOK365, Johnsen says that “I wanted to explore the possibilities that are hiding in a book without any text. I wanted the pictures to invite different readers to read different stories.”
This brings us back to the lady who wanted “the book about the cats”, again. She had moved to Norway from Sri Lanka a couple of years ago, and when her grandchildren came to visit, they made a game out of reading the wordless books together. How many different stories can we make out of these illustrations today?How many words can we point out in Norwegian and how many words can we name in Sinhala?
She said that sometimes she even read them on her own, just to practice using Norwegian in her head, without reading words off the page. Difficult, she said, but helpful.
To understand more about these wordless books and what they can offer, I read a study called “Using wordless books to stimulate language: Why, how and which ones?” In said study, language scientist Monica Melby-Lervåg points out that creating the stories on their own, helps build children’s understanding of narrative, which is an important part of understanding language and grammar, and also later, reading comprehension.” She also references another study, “Cognitive stimulation of pupils with Down syndrome: A study of inferential talk during book-sharing” done by Kari Anne Næss, Liv Inger Engevik and Mette Hagtvet, which states that reading wordless books is a great way to help children develop and use their vocabulary and to help them express themselves; they recognise what is happening in the illustrations and learn by putting their own words to what they’re seeing.
How wonderful is it that a little book of maybe 20 pages can be so valuable to such a wide and varied audience? This is a little niche market I had no idea existed up until a couple of months ago, and now I’m getting really into and interested in it. It is going to be interesting to see if these books manage to catch some ground in the Norwegian book market, and if there’ll be done more research on them in the future. And on the bright side, if the authors of books such as these have to branch out internationally to reach an even bigger audience, at least the translation costs won’t be breaking any banks!
What are your thoughts on wordless books? A little bit silly or really, really cool? It would be great to hear what you guys think about this!
Time for another tag! And this time I’ve actually been tagged in it so it’s twice as exciting this time! I know I also quite recently did the Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt tag, but this tag’s different, it’s just the Bookshelf Tag, which means that we’ll chat a bit about organizing bookshelves and stuff like that.
This tag was created by Sajiid from Books are my Social Life and a huge thanks to Ceri from Bookmarks and Postcards for tagging me!
A note before we start; I have already accepted that this tag is going to expose me as the book hoarder I am. It’s not that I get all that attached to the books I read, but I really like the feeling of having books in the room, if that makes sense? Like, I feel like a shelf filled with books you’ve read and loved gives the room a chill and cozy vibe, and so the books do pile up a bit. I’ve also been able to keep my shelves in my room at my parents’ house while I’ve been away studying and moving around, so I haven’t had to have any proper clear outs yet either, meaning there are a lot of old favourites in there. Now let’s get started!
1. How many bookshelves do you have? I’ve got two proper book cases and then four shelves in two other cases. Not the best solution but it works. In our old house I used to have these really beautiful “floating” bookshelves lining the top of the walls, framing the bed room. Here the ceiling is too low for that, and I’m just happy I’ve got enough space for all of the books.
2. How many books are on your bookshelf? I’ve never actually counted them before, but doing so really surprised me! Turns out I’ve got exactly 450 books on my shelves right now, a lot more than I thought!
3. How do you organize your books? Very badly. Let’s have a look:
My bookshelf is a a chaotic mess, and I’ve gone through so many different ways of organizing it throughout the last couple of years. Colour-coordinated, organised by genre, height, alphabetical order, year of publication – you name it, my shelves have probably seen some attempt at it. I also originally tried to have one Norwegian and one English shelf, but quickly discarded the idea. As you can see, I’ve got a little Norwegian shelf on the top there, but that’s only Norwegian children’s books. I’ve got both English and Norwegian editions of a lot of books, and I wanted to keep those together, plus I like having the different languages together, as it kind of represents how languages can mix in your head! Now, most of the books I care the most about (I’m big on nostalgia, gotta be real with you) are organized by authors (not alphabetically, though) there is a poetry-and-fairytales-shelf, a shelf for old “fandom” books (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Supernatural, etc.), all of my uni books are sitting together on the bottom shelf there, and there is a top shelf filled with both well-loved and unread classics.
4. What is the oldest book on your bookshelf? The answer for this one is already featured in the Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt, but I love this book and am excited to talk about it a bit more:
The Journey to the Christmas Star by Sverre Brandt.
Published in 1925 and given to my grandmother as a Christmas present when she was a child, this is one of my favourite books. Every time Christmas comes around I have to get it out and have a read of the story about the little girl who travels on the northern wind to find the Christmas star that the evil count has cursed. It’s a wonderful book and I cherish this illustrated version of it.
5. What is the newest book on your bookshelf? Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
I talked about this book in this www Wednesday-post, and it’s so good!! You should definitely read it, right here, right now.
6.What is the longest book on your bookshelf? Bringing back Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, here.
This book is too much book. What I’ve managed to get through is really good, it’s just a lot of book.
7.What is the shortest book on your bookshelf? New American Best Friend by Olivia Gatwood
On the other side of that spectrum, this book could be a bit more book. Gatwood’s poetry is hard hitting and gritty, witty and smart, and the end of the book just leaves you with this longing for more like it.
8.What is the predominant genre on your bookshelf? It’s either YA fiction or fantasy. Like, not high fantasy (even though I really enjoy high fantasy as a genre), more realist, modern fiction.
9.Have you done a bookshelf tour? I have! It’s here if you wanna take a look!
10.Go on a random number generator and talk about the book that corresponds with that number. I used this number generator, and got the number 199. This corresponds to the book How to Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee.
This was the first classic I read when I was about 16, and I remember really liking it. I’ve never read it again since, though. Might have to get on that sometime soon.
11. Do you have fan merch or any other decorations on your bookshelf. I do have a few book-y fandom decorations in and on top of my shelves, but one of my favourites is this Jane Austen pendant-thingy.
I got this at the Jane Austen House museum in Chawton with my sister and I really like it. It’s a quote from Sense and Sensibility that says “Know your own happiness. Want for nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name and call it hope.”
12. Show us your bookshelf! Sure! Here we go again, + the four extra shelves.
13. Tag someone!
I got so excited when Ceri tagged me, and now I’m excited to tag other people! Of course, if you’ve already done this or you simply don’t want to do a post like this, that is perfectly fine and nothing to worry about at all. If you do want to do this though, please leave me a link so I can check out your bookshelf! It’s my favourite thing ever to look at other people’s bookshelves. Also, if you’re reading this and I haven’t tagged you, this very much applies to you too! Just do it and comment a link if you want to!
It’s finally here; The Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt!
Okay, I know it’s not “finally” for you, as I haven’t really told you about this, but I’ve been planning this post for ages.
The Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt is quite an old challenge, created by TheLibraryOfSarah, but I’ve never done it before, and thought maybe this post could work as a loose recommendation post, to remind you of books you’ve left forgotten at the back of your bookshelf, or maybe the covers will make you curious and eager to try something new? I also hope this post can work as a reminder to myself about what these books mean and why I keep them around, that they’re not just a static collection on a shelf, but items I cherish.
This post’s gonna be a long one, so go make yourself a cup of tea and hit that “Continue Reading” bar and lets have a good chat about some books!