The Little House Series Read-Along is happening throughout 2016! Join us for some or all of the books - find details here

Thursday, 1 December 2016

#Runemarks Blog Tour

Today it's my turn on the Runemarks blog tour, for which I am the most excited because Joanne M Harris is one of my favourite authors. If you're not familiar, she's the author of Chocolat and many other excellent books, and Runemarks is a retelling of Norse mythology. Retellings are my favourite!

It's been five hundred years since the end of the world and society has rebuilt itself anew. The old Norse gods are no longer revered. Their tales have been banned. Magic is outlawed, and a new religion - the Order - has taken its place.
In a remote valley in the north, fourteen-year-old Maddy Smith is shunned for the ruinmark on her hand - a sign associated with the Bad Old Days. But what the villagers don't know is that Maddy has skills. According to One-Eye, the secretive Outlander who is Maddy's only real friend, her ruinmark - or runemark, as he calls it - is a sign of Chaos blood, magical powers and gods know what else...
Now, as the Order moves further north, threatening all the Worlds with conquest and Cleansing, Maddy must finally learn the truth to some unanswered questions about herself, her parentage, and her powers.
From the bestselling author of CHOCOLAT and THE GOSPEL OF LOKI comes a fantastical tale of magic, adventure and Norse mythology.

If this sounds intriguing there's an extract being run across all the blogs taking part. You can read yesterday's excerpt at Nut Press and then come back for mine: 

THEY MET IN THE SUMMER OF Maddy’s seventh year. It was Midsummer’s Fair Day, with games and dancing on the green. There were stalls selling ribbons and fruit and cakes; there were ices for the children; Mae had been crowned Strawberry Queen for the third year running and Maddy was watching it all from her place at the edge of Little Bear Wood, feeling jealous, feeling angry, but nevertheless determined not to join in. 

Her place was a giant copper beech, with a thick, smooth bole and plenty of branches. Thirty feet up, there was a fork into which Maddy liked to sprawl, skirts hiked up, legs on either side of the trunk, watching the village through the crook of her left thumb and forefinger. 

Some years before, Maddy had discovered that when she made this fingering and concentrated very hard, she could see things that could not normally be seen. A bird’s nest underneath the turf; blackberries in the bramble hedge; Adam Scattergood and his cronies hiding behind a garden wall with stones in their pockets and mischief on their minds. 

And it sometimes showed her different things – lights and colours that shone around people and showed their moods – and often these colours left a trail, like a signature for any to read who could. 

Her trick was sjón-henni, or truesight, and it was one of the cantrips of the rune Bjarkán – though Maddy, who had never learned her letters, had never heard of Bjarkán, nor had it ever occurred to her that her trick was magic. 

All her life it had been impressed upon her that magic – be it a glamour, a fi ngering or even a cantrip – was not only unnatural, but wrong. It was the legacy of the Faërie, the source of Maddy’s bad blood, the ruin of everything good and lawful. 

It was the reason she was here in the fi rst place, when she could have been playing with the other children, or eating pies on the Fair Day green. It was the reason her father avoided her gaze, as if every glance reminded him of the wife he had lost. It was also the reason that Maddy alone of all the villagers noticed the strange, dark man in the wide-brimmed hat walking along the Malbry road – walking not towards the village, as you might have supposed, but in the direction of Red Horse Hill. 

Strangers were not often seen in Malbry, even at a Midsummer’s Fair. Most traders were regulars from one place or another – bringing with them glass and metalware from the Ridings; persimmons from the Southlands; fish from the Islands; spices from the Outlands; skins and furs from the frozen North. 

But if he was a trader, Maddy thought, then this man was travelling light. He had no horse, no mule, no wagon. And he was going the wrong way. He could be an Outlander, she thought. She had heard that Outlanders travelled the Roads, where all kinds of people traded and met, but she had never actually seen one for herself; those savages from the islands and the oceans beyond World’s End, so ignorant that they couldn’t even speak a civilized language. Or he might be a Wilderlander, all painted in blue woad; a madman, a leper, or even a bandit. 

She slipped out of her tree as the stranger passed and began to follow him at a safe distance, keeping to the bushes by the side of the road and watching him through the rune Bjarkán. 

Perhaps he was a soldier, a veteran of some far-off war; he had pulled his hat down over his forehead, but even so, Maddy could see that he wore an eyepatch, which hid the left side of his face. Like an Outlander, he was dark, his skin burnt brown by the summer sun, and Maddy saw with interest that although his long hair was going grey, he did not move like an old man. 

Nor were his colours that of an old man. Maddy had found that old folk left a weak trail; and idiots left hardly any trail at all. But this man had a stronger signature than any she had ever seen. It was a rich and vibrant kingfisher-blue; and Maddy found it hard to reconcile this inner brilliance with the drab, road-weary individual before her on the way to the Hill. 

She continued to follow him, silently and keeping well hidden, and when she reached the brow of the Hill, she hid behind a hummock of grass and watched him as he lay in the shadow of a fallen stone, his one eye fixed on the Red Horse and a small, leather-bound notebook in his hand. 

Minutes passed. He looked half asleep, his face concealed by the brim of his hat. But Maddy knew he was awake; and from time to time he wrote something in his notebook, or turned the page, and then went back to watching the Horse. 

After a while, the Outlander spoke. Not loudly, but so that Maddy could hear, and his voice was low and pleasant, not really what she’d expected of an Outlander at all. ‘Well?’ he said. ‘Have you seen enough?’

Read more tomorrow at teenlibrarian.co.uk

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Beginning to Read the World

I've been talking about diversity for a while and I've even mentioned wanting to read a book from every country in the world more than once in the past on the blog, but now I'm actually going to do it. With a little nudge from my friend Louise I've been inspired to join her in her #readtheworldproject

I'm planning to read a book from every country in the world by the time my 35th birthday rolls around in 2022 (eek it sounds so far away!), so this is an ongoing project... I am going to include a couple that I've read fairly recently but mostly I'll be starting from scratch. The idea is that in as many cases as possible I'll read books by authors originally from that country, but where that proves difficult or impossible then I'll be going for books set in that country instead. 

For inspiration I'm reading Ann Morgan's Reading the World and her blog, A Year of Reading the World, along with other things.

First up I'm ticking North Korea off my list because in the last couple of weeks I finished In Order to Live; Yeonmi Park's incredible, inspirational memoir of how she and her family escaped from North Korea.

Today I went to my bookshelves and pulled off everything I could see that I owned which fit in with the criteria. I felt good about it until I realised that this pile represents less than 10% of the countries in the world... I have a lot of reading to do! I thought it would be good, since I've been such an absent blogger of late, to post about this challenge in small stages and set myself smaller, more achievable goals. A TBR of 15 doesn't seem too overwhelming to keep in the corner somewhere, so here's my starting line of countries! 

Argentina : The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara

Canada : How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

China : Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

Croatia : Girl at War by Sara Novic

Finland : Moominland Midwinter (or anything else by her, really) by Tove Jansson

France : The Outsider by Albert Camus

Germany : Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes

Ireland : Philomena by Martin Sixsmith (I will probably find another book actually by an Irish author to read for this as well)

Italy : The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

Malaysia The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twang Eng

Mexico : I'll Sell You a Dog by Juan Pablo Villalobos 

Native American : The Bingo Palace by Louise Erdrich

The Netherlands/Australia/Scotland : The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber (who has a whole section on his nationality in Wikipedia because it's so confusing!)

Nigeria : Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Non White/Immigrant Experience: Sketcher by Roland Watson-Grant, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Spain : The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Thailand : (unpictured) The Sad Part Was by Prabda Yoon

I'm looking forward to the London Bookshop Crawl in February to stock up on some titles from other countries. Feel free to leave me any and all recommendation in the comments! 

Friday, 11 November 2016


I've been doing lots of talking about books on twitter recently and I stumbled across this diversity bingo running in December. It's a constant quest of mine to read more diversely and events like this are brilliant for that. I'll be posting about it mostly on twitter and it's pretty low commitment- you just have to complete a line of the bingo chart below.

I've picked a pile of four titles but only need to read two since three of my books fill three different criteria (sneaky, I know).

Secretly I want to read something for every category (and if you need suggestions there are some awesome ones on #DiversityDecBingo), but in the interests of actually being able to do the challenge I've picked the middle row. I have several choices, and I picked from my shelves because I have SO MANY BOOKS and need to read some of them, so here we go. 

Mental Health Awareness: The Silver Lining's Playbook by Matthew Quick (I may also watch the movie)

Asian Main Character/Own Voices/Non-Western (real world) Setting - In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park/The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng/The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri 

I'm probably going to compile a list of all the recommendations I come across during the event too,so look out for it! Let me know if you're taking part and where I can follow you to keep up with your diverse reading. So exciting!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

#LittleHouseRAL: On the Way Home & November Link up!

Keeping with the tradition of this read-along I finished On the Way Home early last month and then totally forgot about it until I picked up West from Home to read yesterday!

So here's the deal: On the Way Home was much more enjoyable to me than The First Four Years, but still nowhere near as enjoyable as the rest of the series had been. It's Laura's diary of their trip from De Smet to Missouri and it's pretty much just what they did each day. How far they travelled, who they saw, how hot it was etc, and it's fine but I wasn't enthralled. I miss the storytelling of the earlier books if I'm honest, but they're short so I'll get through West from Home pretty quickly I'm sure.

Link up your posts about West from Home here. Just two more months to go, guys - next month we're reading Pioneer Girl, A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert or your choice of Laura related book!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Book Chat

Hi friends! I'm still here, busy as always with Ninja Book Swap and wrapping a hundred things for the first Ninja Book Box, but here. My office space for the box is right next to my big bookcase of unread books, which means I've been getting a bit distracted but also really inspired to read my own books!

Lots of what I'm reading is still secret, but I wanted to finally mention a couple of books I read during DiverseAThon all those ages ago and haven't talked about here yet. Firstly I picked up Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, the story of a girl, Lydia, from a Chinese-American family, whose body is found in a lake. The book is about the ways that her different family members react to her death, and how their experience of their father being Chinese play into that. It's a really well written book and had an ending that I didn't see coming. Each of Lydia's family members has a really distinctive voice, and there's also flashbacks to when Lydia herself was alive so we get to see how the family functioned before her death, and how their father's feelings about his ancestry affected his relationship with his children. I bought it on the London Bookshop Crawl last year and I'm really glad I finally read it. Not an absolutely favourite, but a solid, recommendable book.

I also read Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, which they've been talking about on the All the Books podcast for ages now. I picked it up in Bath (apparently Diverseathon was my time for reading books I bought on bookshop crawls!) and although I don't think I loved it as much as some of the Book Riot crew did, I did very much enjoy it and am looking forward to the next book in the series! Zacharias Wythe is the Sorcerer Royal in a regency London very similar to our own, except that it obviously has magic. However fairyland has been cutting off the flow of magic to England and Zacharias sets out to find out why. He has some assistance from the excellent Prunella Gentleman, and lots of stuff goes on. They also face a lot of bullshit along the way (Zacharias is black and Prunella is mixed race) that's sadly entirely believable. People are shit. Rhys is reading this now and keeps asking me if stuff will be explained, and I'm like 'well, lots of stuff is explained but lots of stuff is not...' so bring on book two!

In unrelated book news, Nonfiction November is (I think) not happening this year, but I've decided since I've loved it so much the past couple of years, to have a little unofficial event myself and make a pile of nonfiction to read next month. I think I'm probably going to start with Reasons to Stay Alive or Man Up. I'm really excited about it - I've got far too much unread nonfiction!

That said, I'm also thinking about putting myself back on a mad book buying ban again for 2017 and trying to get my TBR down to a manageable number (currently it's about 350). I'd have to make exceptions for the bookshop crawls though, and obviously books would still come into the house through swaps, but I'm thinking about it...

What bookish things have you been up to?

Saturday, 15 October 2016

A Response to All the Twitter Hate.

Before we start: everything in this post is serious. You're not missing any sarcasm or different meanings. What I am writing is what I mean, and I'm writing it just because I feel the need to somehow respond to the daily pain I see people going through out there in the blogosphere and on social media.

I know people say stupid things like 'I don't see skin colour, I just see the person'. The fact of the matter is that when you first meet someone you take them on face value. When people meet me they think 'ginger'. When I met my sisters boyfriend I thought 'black guy'. The importance for me is not attaching anything extra to those judgements. While a person's skin colour is part of their story it's not all of it and I'm not interested in seeing people only by race, gender identity, sexuality or any other way society can categorise them.

I care about people's stories, but honestly? I don't care who you love, as long as it's fully consensual just go ahead! I don't care whether you're a cis woman or a trans woman (or man), it's none of my business unless you want it to be. I don't care where you're from, just whether you're a good person. I mean, obviously that's not true because I care about people. I read to find out about experiences I'll never have, and I'm interested in understanding people's stories and empathising with their problems. I'm deeply interested in standing up for people when I can use my voice to affect some change or help someone out. What I'm not interested in is stupid people defining 'all black/trans/gay people' because why?

Since the whole Brexit thing here in the UK I've been fuming to the point of throwing inanimate objects whenever anyone uses the phrase 'the British people' to describe people who wanted out of the EU, people who are giant assholes/racists/ignorant twats or basically anyone else who is using the referendum result to say or do anything stupid or offensive. I hate that a tiny majority means that they think they speak for all of us when the reality is they haven't got the first fucking clue what I think. I want to tear myself away from it and shout and shout and shout at them that they don't speak for me, that I don't think what they think, that we couldn't be further apart in what we want for our country. So I think that even the idea that you could possibly be speaking for all of any group is just ridiculous. Before you bad mouth anybody for any decision they've made that hurts nobody and has no effect on you and that's probably been way harder for them to make because they know that far more people will have an opinion about it than say if I, a white, straight cis woman, were to make the same decision, maybe we should all take a step back and try to understand a bit more. About the context of where they're coming from, sure, but also about them as a fellow human being. 

I needed to get this off my chest because it's been stewing for a while. I see people shouting (on twitter, it's almost always twitter) about how sexual harrasment doesn't happen and gay people are 'asking' to be assaulted and my friends having to stand up for their friends again and again for things that are nobody's goddamn business and it makes me mad, so I just wanted to say... I don't know. That I don't understand because I don't have your experience, and I don't know as much as I should know about race issues, gender issues, or LGBTQ+ issues but I'd like to know more, and that to me you are a person first and foremost, and your business is your business.

And that's it.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Currently: All the Projects

You could be forgiven for thinking that this blog is being sponsored by reading events and blog tours lately, since it's been a while since I've posted about actual books and I really apologise for that. Because of Ninja Book Box I've been doing a lot of secret reading and there's not been all that much that I can actually talk about, but also I've just been really busy promoting and working on Ninja Book Box plus planning a few other fun things and also getting on with daily life, looking after the boys and adjusting to autumn, but this is my attempt at getting back into talking about more general things here on the blog!

Reading: I'm reading something for inclusion in a future Ninja Book Box (please keep buying them so I can keep making them, it's so fun!) as well as re-reading the title for November's box so as is becoming the norm, nothing I can talk about there! However when I need a bit of relief from 'required' reading I'm dipping in and out of Letters of Note still. It's lovely because you can just pick it up and read one letter and then put it down again. I'm doing a similar thing with Happiness by Matthieu Ricard - a good reminder of what's important! This week I also announced my DiscworldAthon 2017, so I thought I'd prepare for that by finally reading my sister's copy of A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett (because every time I go to her house she says 'have you read any of those books you borrowed yet?' and then sighs). It's a collection of all of his non-fiction; journalism, speeches he gave, and other writings, and as expected it is hilarious and crazy and so wise and every other page I am sad that there will never be a new book by him again. What a loss.

Eating: Last week we randomly won a box of food at the supermarket and it had loads of Pick Up bars in it, which I hadn't had before but they're like a sweet biscuit with a massive layer of chocolate sandwiched between it and I am addicted to them! We also harvested a whole load of apples from our allotment so I've been doing things with them. At the moment there are apple chips in my oven - we'll see how they turn out!

Blogging: This week I posted this month's link up for the Little House Read-Along and wrote about how I didn't really get on with The First Four Years. So far I'm doing much better with On the Way Home, so we'll see. Along the same lines I also wrote the announcement post for DiscworldAthon 2017, a whole year of celebrating, reading, and talking about all things Discworld and Terry Pratchett. I'm seriously so excited to spend a year revisiting something I love so much but have read so little of lately. I haven't read The Shepherd's Crown yet and am sort of planning to do a readalong of it in December, more to give myself emotional support than anything! I'm planning all sorts - themed reading months, readalongs, giveaways, you name it. If you're interested in helping out with organization in any way (I need people to help with everything, from generating ideas to promoting the events to hosting themed months and holding giveaways - anything you can think of!) please fill in the form here. You also don't have to already be a die-hard Pratchett fan - everyone's welcome, whether you've ever read any Discworld or not!

Loving: We gave in to twitter pressure this week and started watching Stranger Things and it turns out people were right. I don't usually like creepy stuff but everything about it is just so well done that it's impossible not to love it I think. I'm not a Winona Ryder fan but oh my goodness she is  great in this series! We just finished episode 5 last night and it's getting seriously weird now! I'm also revelling in having Netflix and actually being able to watch Once Upon a Time episode by episode. At this point I'm too invested in the series to give up, but it is a little bit eye-rollingly ridiculous at times, however Hook is still there so I'm still happy :-D

I've also really been getting back into podcasts and listening to Spotify - if you're interested here's a playlist of every song I've ever thought was awesome (that I've remembered so far!). I've been really inspired by The Simple Show this week.

Promoting: Until the end of Monday you can get 10% off the November Mini Ninja Book Box. This is a side product I added for those who don't want or can't afford the full box (which is now sold out anyway) and it just contains an excellent independently published book plus one gift and access to any additional online content. It's £15 which includes UK postage, so get it for £13.50 using SURREAL10 at checkout.

Organising: I need this section to keep everything straight in my head! I've started shouting about London Bookshop Crawl 2017. It'll be either the first or second weekend in February and everyone's welcome! The only criteria is that you want to come book shopping with us - you don't have to be able to afford to buy lots of books, and please don't worry about not knowing anyone - last year almost nobody knew anybody, and a lot of us are fairly socially awkward. It's just a day of great fun, great bookshops, shoving the books you love into other people's hands, and often some fun extras and discounts. If you're at all interested in coming I'd love it if you'd add your email and any bookshop preferences here.

Also organising DiscworldAthon, as mentioned above, a bookish advent challenge for Instagram, and Ben's fourth (how??!) birthday next week!!

Autumn Ninja Book Swap sign up just closed so I'm doing some shopping for that, and today is Bookshop Day so we're hopefully heading out to meet Rhys from work later and do some bookshop supporting!

Image result for bookshop day

I'm also going to be reviewing the books I receive for Ninja Book Box consideration over on the book box blog instead of here, just to keep them a little separate, so look out for them there (and make sure you're following the box on Bloglovin!)

What have you been up to recently?