Thursday, 29 May 2014

Armchair BEA: Own Choice and Middle Grade/Young Adult

It's Friday, which means this week is almost at an end, bringing with it the inevitable end of Armchair BEA 2014. It was my first Armchair BEA and I absolutely love it. I definitely know I'll be signing up again next year! Now, today is the last day with topics to write about. I am flying to Germany today and hopefully will be having wi-fi access at the hotel. I won't be able to stop by anywhere during most of the day (for Europeans) but in the evening I'll definitely sneak in a few hours to stop by everyone's posts!

Topic of Choice
Today is the day to talk about something that you feel we have missed or that you want to spend a little extra time chatting about. Ideas include, but are not limited to: a genre that does not fit into those featured earlier this week; logistics, such as blogging resources, procedures, or advice; or something completely fun with book to movie adaptations or favorite blogging games, features, memes, events, and/or activities. It’s your freebie day to choose what you like! 

Whenever I'm given to much freedom to choose anything my mind draws a complete blank and I have no idea what to write. It's so bad that whenever I'm asked what I want for dinner my mind seems to go into hyperdrive, imagining all the possible options before forgetting what food even is. Rambling aside, I think I want to talk about blogging in itself and how it is perceived. This is partially due to some of the reactions I have gotten from people (in "real life") during this week. After Monday's Twitter Party I was so excited and happy. I can't even put it into words properly and it might be an exaggeration, but I loved being able to chat to so many different people and now that I had something in common with them: a love for books. However, when I told friends and family about it, there were quite a lot of eye rolls and almost derisive snorts. 'Talking to people on Twitter could hardly be considered a party, now could it'. And 'come on, you were only blogging and tweeting, that doesn't count as social interaction'. 'And those hours you spent writing those posts and reading others could've been spent better, surely'. Although I'm sure none of these comments were meant to be hurtful, in a way they were. Most positive comments I get about my blogging are usually regarding how dedicated people feel I am to this 'thing' and although some do see the benefit of it in the sense of me developing my writing skills, they always feel I'm not pushing my blog hard enough to be something intellectual or something money-making, even. Whereas I enjoy this blog being me expressing my feelings about books and book-related topics, it seems that in order for it to be considered an accomplishment it has to be profitable.

I feel book blogging, and being a fan of anything in general, gets quite a lot of flack at times. Here we all are, hundreds of us, sharing a passion we have and making some pretty amazing memories together. And above all, we are having fun and using the Internet to break down barriers between people by showing ourselves what we have in common with each other. I think some people forget how much time and effort goes into writing reviews (something I and many others touched upon in Tuesday's Twitter party) and maintaining a blog. It takes up hours and I give those hours gladly because I enjoy doing this. I just find it sad sometimes that it is then met with derision since it is only an 'online thing' and not real. But what this Armchair BEA has really confirmed for me is that the excitement shared between people is definitely real. I've been in a good mood all week and I've loved interacting with so many different people. And that is why I mainly feel sad for those who don't have something like this in their lives because they are missing out on something!

Wow, that turned into a bit of an unexpected rant! How do you guys feel about this? Do you feel your blog is taken seriously by friends/family? 

Middle Grade/Young Adult

Our final genre of discussion is one that we know is a popular one these days: books for the younger crowd, from middle grade to young adult. If you do not normally talk about this genre on your site, maybe you want to feature books that you remember impacting you during this stage in your life. If this is where you tend to gravitate, maybe you want to list your favorites, make recommendations based on genres, or feature some titles that you are excited to read coming later this year. 

I quite like reading childrens' fiction, as my review of Howl's Moving Castle will show, but I generally tend to stick with YA to whatever comes after that. When we discussed our thoughts on Literature on Monday I confessed to being a bit of a snob at times and unfortunately this expressed itself through me rejecting the YA genre quite decisively without really giving it a chance. I thought everything in the YA genre was paranormal and because I had the misadventure of reading quite a bad paranormal novel at the beginning of this blog I decided the whole genre wasn't for me, including YA. However, there were two books that really changed my mind. 
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan.

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.
But all that changes when the Lynburns return.
The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?
Yup, this book pretty much changed the game for me. I requested it on Netgalley because the cover was fun and I needed a read for a long train journey. I did not expect to be laughing out loud in the train. I got very strange looks, trust me. I'm currently rereading it (third time) in order to then start on the 2nd one with the first fresh in my mind. This book definitely changed my mind about the Paranormal genre. Although I'm still not a massive fan, I now know it has its gems.

11505797Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire.
Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.
Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.

I was equally derisive of YA Romance because I'm not a big fan of 'I see you there in that hall way and I know we'll have three children, a house and a dog  one day' kind of romances. How excited was I to realize not all YA Romances are like that! Nope, there can be well-written romances involving young adults. 

So although I still prefer Classics and Literary Fiction, I appreciate YA a lot more now and have added a good number of them to my TBR pile.

Comic Review: 'Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir' by Jeremy Barlow

I was unsure of how to review this story, not only because this is going to be my first comic review but also because how do you review only part of a story when you have no idea how it ends? With book series, most of the books are often individual narratives that form a whole in themselves. In many ways Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir #1 is very much tasked with setting the stage for the story to come. Before launching into my review, credit is due where credit's due.

Story: Jeremy Barlow
Art: Juan Frigeri, Mauro Vargas & Wes Dzioba
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Chris Scalf
Publisher: Mike Richardson, at Dark Horse Comics.

Some background information about this comic is probably useful, since the comic takes off pretty much where the Darth Maul arc left off in Star War: Clone Wars, namely defeated and captured by his old Master, Lord Sidious. This amazing cartoon series was cut short after only 5 season, the 6th appearing on Netflix, although it was recently revealed the plots for season 7 and 8 had practically been scripted. The resurrection of Maul, to the joy of countless, was a huge plot twist in the series and the idea of leaving the fans without a continuation of his arc was simply too much, which is why his story has been adapted into a comic book, the last Star Wars comic book, in fact, to be published by Dark Horse Comics. One of the main thoughts not only on my mind but probably on that of many who read it and reviewed it was that this story would have looked amazing on screen. The animation of Clone Wars became staggeringly good throughout the seasons and the fact this could have been on our screens is a sad one. However, Clone Wars director Dave Filoni said all their artwork had been turned over to Dark Horse Comics in order for them to make something as close as to what had been imagined and I have to say I absolutely loved the result.

The plot is introductory, in the best sense of the word. Not only are we re-introduced to Darth Maul and his current status as captive, but we also get to see the current Sith Lords all in the same room, may it only be for a page. As a fan I always wanted to see more of the dealings between the Sith, the interaction between Master and Apprentice, between former and current Apprentice etc. What Barlow's story beautifully shows is the back-stabbing, the jealousy and the ruthlessness with which these Sith operate. No wonder Maul turned out the way he did. The story doesn't linger too long though, progressing at a nice pace towards Maul's inevitable rescue by the Mandalorian Death Watch. Barlow does well in reminding the reader of the crime emporium that Maul built in the last season of the Clone Wars. I do hope there is some room for Maul to develop his character a bit more. As an avid Clone Wars watcher I know him quite well, but I can imagine that for newcomers, the plot very much appears as driven by Lord Sidious and Count Dooku.

I was very pleased with how much this comic felt like Star Wars. As a fan of both the Original and the Prequel Trilogy, I approached Clone Wars quite openly but I was less sure about the comics. However, the offbeat humour, the intensity of the battle scenes and the intricateness of the plot that, for me, characterised the Saga and the cartoon series are all present in this comic as well. Every moment I was expecting someone to say 'I have a bad feeling about this.' until I realised that, of course, only the "good guys" say that. A plot aspect I very much enjoyed is that of the importance of Mother Talzin. I don't want to give too much away, but I appreciated the fact that a woman forms a major threat and is one of the end goals. It shows that within the Star Wars Universe, female characters are very much on equal footing to male characters and that is always nice to see, especially in a time in which women are, unfortunately, still often reduced to eye-candy status in science fiction (yes, I'm looking at you Star Trek: Into Darkness).

I am very much a comic novice. This is the first one I've read since the Calvin & Hobbes ones my father owns. I would say I don't know much about the art conventions when it comes to how comics are drawn. I do know, however, that there are some spectacular frames in this comic. Especially those in which action rather than dialogue happens, are stunning. There is a surprising fluidity to the way one frame moves into the next. Maul and Grievous look as we're used to them looking and the former's facial expression, although generally set to angry, are very much in character. The only minus point, for me, was the way in which Count Dooku was drawn. He resembled neither the real life version of Christopher Lee nor the cartoon version of the Clone Wars very much, which means that his first appearance was interesting.

I've decided not to rate each separate issue by itself, but rather do a final review + rating when the final issue comes out and I can look at the arc as a whole. I can't wait for the next issue!

Favourite Harry Potter Moment of the Week - Free Week

In the midst of all the Armchair BEA madness I bring you something nostalgic, some Harry Potter love. Harry Potter Moment of the Week is hosted by Leah over at Uncorked ThoughtsThe aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object or quote from the books/ films/ J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related! 

This week is: 
Free Week! We get to choose ourselves!

And of course choosing anything yourself is harder! I feel like my brain is slightly fried from sleep deprivation so I have gone for something really cheesy:
Favourite Quote:

Obviously it is impossible to pick one quote from an entire series, but this is definitely one of the best ones from the whole series of books:
'For in dreams we enter a world that is entirely our own. Let them swim in the deepest ocean or glide over the highest cloud.' - Dumbledore

 I just absolutely love this quote. Dreams, whether the sleep kind or the motivational/life ones, are incredibly necessary because it allows for people to reach for something they otherwise wouldn't have reached for. I also love that Dumbledore says this quote, because it shows that despite his potentially questionable choices regarding Harry, he also understands how important it is for everyone to be able to escape their life every once in a while. 

This wasn't my best answer, by a long stretch, but I can't wait to see everyone else's choices! 

Armchair BEA - Beyond the Borders

I'm incredibly tired as I'm writing this post so hopefully before I post it tomorrow something will make sense to me and I'll be able to write something intelligent (as if)! Unfortunately I wasn't able to join yesterday's Twitter party or really join in on any of the blogging! I will be catching up with all of that today! Expect some major commenting going on!

Beyond the Borders

It’s time to step outside your comfort zone, outside your borders, or outside of your own country or culture. Tell us about the books that transported you to a different world, taught you about a different culture, and/or helped you step into the shoes of someone different from you. What impacted you the most about this book? What books would you recommend to others who are ready or not ready to step over the line? In essence, let’s start the conversation about diversity and keep it going! 

Diversity, yaay! Diversity is an amazing thing! I just wrote a ranty post about how the British Education secretary Michael Gove was apparently considering kicking To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men and The Crucible off the British GCSE syllabus (check out the post for any of this to make sense). Basically I ranted about how literature should be taught exactly because it supports diversity in such an amazing way. A book doesn't judge you, a book allows you to experience something you'd never otherwise encounter and do so at your own pace. Go literature! There is nothing like a book to lift you from your own position and allow you to see through someone else's eyes. I chose my blog name, A Universe in Words, because I wanted to read books from everywhere in the Universe, yes that includes potential future non-terrestrial literature.

A book that really transported me to a different world was Wild Swans by Jung Chang. 

The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history—a bestselling classic in thirty languages with more than ten million copies sold around the world, now with a new introduction from the author.
An engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love, Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a “barefoot doctor,” a steelworker, and an electrician. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving—and ultimately uplifting—detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwind of history.
This book manages to be historical, beautiful, insightful and educative. I know that's a lot to expect of one book, but this one manages to make it all come true. I really felt like I had learned something about China and its history after reading Wild Swans and it was also just a really interesting read. There were also some really tragic moments and I still haven't forgotten this novel after years of reading it! Not only did it give me real insight into Chinese culture but it was also a great novel about women. 

I also just got accepted for review (on Netgalley) for The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg. I can't wait to read it.

In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated to “dressed up like a boy” in Dari) is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for the New York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom. 
The Underground Girls of Kabul is anchored by vivid characters who bring this remarkable story to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian who sees no other choice but to turn her fourth daughter Mehran into a boy; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and refuses her parents’ attempts to turn her back into a girl; Shukria, now a married mother of three after living for twenty years as a man; and Nader, who prays with Shahed, the undercover female police officer, as they both remain in male disguise as adults. 
At the heart of this emotional narrative is a new perspective on the extreme sacrifices of Afghan women and girls against the violent backdrop of America’s longest war. Divided into four parts, the book follows those born as the unwanted sex in Afghanistan, but who present as the socially favored gender through childhood and puberty, only to later be forced into marriage and childbirth. The Underground Girls of Kabul charts their dramatic life cycles, while examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who live under oppression everywhere.
Honorary mentions goes to The Lynburn Legacy series by Sarah Rees Brennan for featuring a half-Asian main character. Kami Glass is a delightful main character, she's absolutely hilarious.

So, what books transported you?

R.I.P Maya Angelou

Angeloupoem.jpgToday I unfortunately have a very sad message for all of you: Maya Angelou has died. Angelou, born April 4th, 1928, is, or I guess was, in my opinion, one of the defining African-American poets of the 20th and 21st century. She had a hard life, living through rape, a self-enforced vow of silence afterwards, and constant confrontation with the issue of race. She dealt with all of it beautifully through her poetry, inspiring women all around the world to love themselves. I know it sounds cheesy, but she really did. Some of her most inspirational poems are My Arkansas, Phenomenal Woman and her novel I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

I did a R.I.P post (that shouldn't be a thing, it really shouldn't be) for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but this post will be very different. My "relationship" with Maya Angelou is a lot more personal than it ever was with Marquez. Angelou was one of the poets we studied during my penultimate year in high school. We were studying 'identity', one of the vaguest themes to pick for teenagers to explore, and just like every other poet and author forced upon teenagers, I disliked her. I just felt I couldn't associate with her at all and the teacher's repeated insistence she was a genius somehow didn't help. But then I found a poem by her that just hit me, in a good way. I already talked about this poem on here once, but I decided that I should, once again, share this poem with you.

The Traveller
Byways and bygone
And lone nights long
Sun rays and sea waves
And star and stone

Manless and friendless
No cave my home
This is my Torture
My long nights, lone

I love the contrast between the first and the last stanzas. In the first Angelou explores the idea of travelling and exploring the whole wide world. There is something beautiful and free about it's complete lack of punctuation marks and mentions of everything from 'sun rays' to 'stone'. And then there is the harsh juxtaposition with 'manless' and 'friendless'. Suddenly nature isn't enough and you realize that in life you need friends and family as well. The line 'My long nights, lone' somehow always strikes me as incredibly sad. Everyone knows those nights in which you feel incredibly lonely and as if there's no one there for you. Angelou was amazing at capturing feelings like these in her poetry.

She will be missed, very much so.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Big Summer Book Challenge 2014 - Kick-Off post!

I haven't done a challenge in a very long while and I have found myself staring at my copy of Tolstoy's War & Peace and James Joyce's Ulysses for a very long time now. This is why I'm extremely excited to have found the Big Book Summer Challenge, hosted by Sue at Book by Book

It can be really hard to convince yourself starting a massive book is a good idea. Sometimes there are just so many pages, so many words, that it is easy to become intimidated. And when there are big names like Tolstoy and Joyce attached to the book I tend to cower a bit. That is why this is the perfect challenge for someone, like me, who just needs that extra push to actually read one of those whoppers! Here are the details:

  • Anything over 400 pages qualifies as a big book.
  • The challenge will run from Memorial Day weekend (May 24-26 this year) through Labor Day weekend (Labor Day is September 1 this year).
  • Choose one or two or however many big books you want as your goal.  Wait, did you get that?  You only need to read 1 book with over 400 pages this summer to participate! (though you are welcome to read more, if you want).
  • Choose from what's on your shelves already or a big book you've been meaning to read for ages or anything that catches your eye in the library - whatever peaks your interest!
  • Sign up on the links list on the 2014 Big Book Summer Challenge page.
  • Write a post to kick things off - you can list the exact big books you plan to read or just publish your intent to participate, but be sure to include the Big Book Summer Challenge pic above, with a link back to this blog.
  • Write a post to wrap up at the end, listing the big books you read during the summer.
  • You can write progress posts if you want to and/or reviews of the big books you've read...but you don't have to!  There is a separate links list on Book by Book for big book review posts.

So, this is my kick-off post! As I said above, my two Big Books for this summer are War & Peace and Ulysses! I don't know whether it's cheating that I've already slightly started War & Peace, but then in a novel like that a 100 pages more or less really don't make that much of a difference!

These are my two editions and I plan on doing progress posts as well, just because I feel that might help me keep track of Tolstoy's characters and Joyce's plot. For the latter I'll also shamelessly will be using the Read-Along Adam did at his blog Roof Beam Reader last winter! Every bit of help is welcome.

So, does this sound like the challenge for you?

Armchair BEA - Expanding Horizons & Novellas/Short Stories

As we hit the middle of this BEA week I just want to take a moment and say I am having a spectacular time! I was already in love with the book blogging community but the continuous happiness and energy coming from everyone is just making me fall in love with it all over again. I think I'm going to shed a genuine tear when this is over and I'll be waiting for next year with all my heart.

Now, mushy feelings aside, time for some more interesting posts!

Expanding Horizons

What do you think about when you think about going beyond blogging or expanding your horizons? Is it a redesign of your blog? Have you branched out into freelance writing or even published a novel of your very own? Or, have you moved into a different venue like podcasts or vlogging? This is the day to tell us about how you have expanded on blogging in your own unique way. 

I don't think I really have expanded that much beyond book blogging, rather I've extended the book blogging itself. I very much started blogging just to be able to write about the books I was reading. When I got my first review request I think I fell of my chair because I was not expecting it at all. You mean people were actually going to give me books? To read? For free? Wow... Since then I've done Author Interviews, Spotlights, Book Tours, Guest Blogs, the list goes on. I was never expecting any of this and the Armchair BEA is another part of me branching out.

What I do want to do though, eventually, is write my own books. I always get incredibly jealous (in a good way) when I see bloggers who have published their own books. I do quite a lot of creative writing, a lot of it mentally rather than on actual paper but oh well, but I don't think it's ready for anyone to see yet. I also believe, though, that my writing will get better with experience so at the moment I am just enjoying all the time to read and blog and once I have collected enough life experience I will begin writing properly.

Novellas/Short Stories

Now it is time to give a little love to those little stories in your life. Share your love for your favorite shorts of any form. What is a short story or novella that doesn’t get the attention that it deserves? Recommend to readers what shorts you would recommend they start with. How about listing some short story anthologies based upon genres or authors? 

I have recently been on a short story anthology binge. Somehow they just seem to keep falling in my lap, not that I'm complaining. There is something amazing about a well-written short story. A good author can capture a whole novel's worth of emotions into a few pages. It's not for everyone though.

A short story I would definitely recommend is The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. I had no idea how powerful a short story can be until I read this one. As a starter it is definitely impressive, but also terrifying!
Shirley Jackson's The Lottery is a memorable and terrifying masterpiece, fueled by a tension that creeps up on you slowly without any clear indication of why. This is just a townful of people, after all, choosing their numbers for the annual lottery. What's there to be scared of?
I haven't read any of her other stories but this one should give you an idea of why I love short stories. Another very good one is The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin. In it we hear the story of a woman who receives news of her husband's death and everything that follows after. It has become an incredibly important feminist classic and I personally love it.

 One of the first short story anthologies I read was The Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield. I just sort of stumbled upon it and fell in love with the genre. My favourite story from this collection was probably Bliss, which is also deeply tragic (I'm spotting a theme here) but beautifully written!

The Bloody Chamber and Other StoriesFinally I want to give some attention to The Bloody Chamber and other Stories by Angela Carter. This is definitely one of the best short story collections ever. Carter reworks fairy tales in such a way they seem hardly recognizable. She also manages to suggest some really interesting ideas regarding gender and I just think everyone should read these stories. My favourites were definitely those derived from The Beauty & The Beast. You can find my review of the collection here.
From familiar fairy tales and legends - Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves - Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.
A more YA anthology would be Grim which includes stories by Ellen Hopkins, Julie Kagawa and Claudia Gray, The Professor and the Siren by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and The Architect of Flowers by William Lychack.

Are you a big short story fan? And are you planning on branching out from your blog? Leave a link, I'd love to come and visit and find out! :)Arm

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Armchair BEA - Author Interaction

It's the second day of Armchair BEA. Yesterday was amazing, I loved connecting with so many people over Twitter and by visiting their blogs. I haven't been able to visit half as many blogs as I would've liked to and unfortunately I have to work today which means my visits will have to happen in the evening. 
Let’s talk interacting with authors IRL (in real life) or online. This is your opportunity to talk about your favorite author readings that you have attended. Or, you can feature your favorite author fan moment (i.e., an author sent you a tweet or commented on your blog). Maybe you even want to share how your interactions have changed since becoming a blogger or share your own tips that you have learned along the way when interacting with authors as a blogger.
I haven't really met a lot of authors IRL, unfortunately. I once went to a Q&A session with Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which was absolutely brilliant but I was way too terrified to approach him afterwards, let alone talk to him. That was two years ago and I'd like to believe that now I am more collected and would be able to have a normal and sane conversation with him, but who knows. Another interaction I really enjoyed was when I got to send some questions (here in case you want to have a look) to Geraldine Brooks regarding her novel People of the Book. What made it all the more special was that it was me grand father who recommended the book to me because he absolutely loved it and I managed to ask Geraldine some questions that he himself had been wondering about.

Most of my author interaction happens via Twitter or through interviews and emails. Although there is something amazing about interacting with well-known and established authors I actually really enjoy talking to "normal" authors. Whom I mean by that are the authors who haven't reached worldwide renown (yet) but simple are writers. Getting to interact with them and see how they manage to write their novels while often maintaining a day job and a family life is a major inspiration for someone like me who desperately wants to become an author as well. This is the place where I want to thank all of those authors for being so incredibly kind and patient with bloggers like me who simple manage to lose all grasp of language when they come in contact with them!

One of my favourite moment of online interaction wasn't technically with an author, but I'm still going to count it because she does write. I tweeted Brenda Chapman, a writer and director who has been involved with some major Disney and Pixar movies. She was a story artist for The Beauty & the Beast, she was Head of story for the amazing The Lion King and became the first woman to direct a major studio film when she became part of the directing team for The Prince of Egypt. All three of those movies are absolute favourites of mine and I think Chapman has been incredibly important in making way for women in the industry. I basically tweeted my admiration for her and she thanked me, which made me fawn all over my phone. I was in the best mood for the whole day. More recently she co-directed Brave.

So, those are some of my favourite author interaction moments! How about you? I'd love for you to tell me about them, so leave a link in a comment and I'll come visit :)

Teaser Tuesday - 'The Magus' by John Fowles

I have been completely swept up in Armchair BEA excitement. Anyone who hasn't joined, I really recommend it. Twitter parties are officially my favourite parties! But now back to some more scheduled blogging! Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading. To join just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week I'm using The Magus by John Fowles, a book I'm planning on starting on my train journey on Wednesday.

The Magus is the story of Nicholas Urfe, a young Englishman who accepts a teaching assignment on a remote Greek island. There his friendship with a local millionaire evolves into a deadly game, one in which reality and fantasy are deliberately manipulated, and Nicholas must fight for his sanity and his very survival.

The cover to the right is also the one my copy has. Isn't it beautiful?

The teasers:
'He took me round the village kaphaneia and tavernas, and I got a taste for Greek food and Greek folk music. But there was always something mournful about the place in daylight.' p.45
Usually places look mournful at night so I wonder what makes this Greek village so sad-looking during the day.

'"I do not ask you to believe. All I ask you is to pretend to believe. Just pretend to believe. It will be easier."' p.124

I love the phrasing of this quote. It just seems so incredibly sad! I have a feeling this book might make me cry at some point!

So, how about you? What are you teasing with today? I have work during the day so I'll be stopping by in the evening!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Armchair BEA - What Do I Call Literature?

Today's BEA topic of conversation is 'literature'. Hop over to the website, to see Suey's (from It's All About Books) response. 

What do you think of when you think of literature? Classics, contemporary, genre, or something else entirely?

When I think of the term 'literature' I can't help but compare it to how the word 'genre' is often used. On the one hand we use 'genre' to divide books into categories like Gothic, Paranormal, Romance etc. However, there is also the idea of genre fiction. This is usually used for "popular fiction", itself a questionable term, which are plot-driven and want to fit into a certain genre. For example, Twilight would be considered genre fiction because its plot very clear pushes it into the Paranormal Romance genre. However, rather than just being a classification, 'genre fiction' is often used as a judgement on a book as well. Although I'm not a very big Twilight fan, not at all really, I wouldn't go as far as to call it trash because it is still a book that can be enjoyed by others. The reason I've gone on this slight tangent is because I feel it will explain the opinion I'm about to give on the term 'literature'.

I quite honestly admit I am at times a terrible culture snub. In many ways I can't help it that I've been raised to appreciate classic literature and classical music. However, I also very much enjoy going out dancing to Kesha's 'Timber'. Where the snobism comes in, unfortunately and often accidentally, is that I'll say that obviously Mozart is better than Kesha. I do the same thing to books. I call books 'literature' when they have, in my eyes, reached a certain level of proficiency and have made an impression. Other books I call 'fiction'. To stick with the example made above, I would not call Twilight literature but fiction. Yes, the books have proven to be very popular but I doubt they'll survive the years. Already they're being pushed aside by new series, although this of course doesn't mean it hasn't got very dedicated and loyal fans. Besides this I think there are serious plot and character development issues which, for me, prevent it from being literature.

However, I don't just apply the term 'literature' to books I like. I would call Dickens' novels literature even though I find them terribly hard to deal with. I have only read Hard Times and afterwards decided to avoid all the modules at university that want to make me read more of his works. The reason I would call them 'literature', then, is because his novels have managed to capture a certain time spirit, a cultural change in England, and still resonate with a lot of people. And it can't be said that, at times, he writes very beautifully. His characters have become stereotypes and England would be different without his novels.

If in fifty years we're still talking about Twilight, I guess I might have to change my opinion on what makes 'literature', but I have a feeling we won't. But there are a lot of authors and books that tend to get forgotten until someone picks them of a library shelf and is sucked into a whole new world. I also do think the term is very much up to the reader. Everyone has their own classics and their own list of hits that they think everyone should read. And to be honest, that is one of the things I love about books, that they are so personal while being available to everyone! I also want to add to a caveat that I never insult books or say that they are terrible. I believe every book is loved by someone and because I know how much books matter to me, I'd never insult something they love that much.

What are your thoughts on literature?