Thursday, 25 October 2012

Slightly Book Related Stuff and Other Things...

So, time for a quick update post in between attempting to feed my lovely little boy and attempting to get some sleep before he wakes up and wants to feed some more, and freaking out that he is dying of some mysterious disease related to his body temperature/the amount he's eating/any other little thing that presents itself as slightly weird. Babies are scary... (and awesome, but yeah, scary). 

Rhys is almost at the end of his paternity leave, and has to go back to work on Saturday :-( Hopefully family will be coming down to help me out and keep me sane but we shall see. I have been reading quite a lot, unexpectedly, and also knitting myself a nursing shawl which I'm ridiculously proud of because it looks really fancy (it actually isn't, but you know). With the reading, I've finally got hold of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovich, which everybody else in the entire world read months ago, and I'm really enjoying it despite it being a lot less bookish than I thought it would be. I may or may not get around to writing a proper review of it - there are a lot of turned down corners where I've found interesting quotes I'd like to think about more, but who knows if I'll actually find enough time to concentrate enough to review it? Expect a lot of these kinds of posts while I'm adjusting to being a mummy! I'm also reading The Politically Incorrect Parenting Book by Nigel Latta which Hanna sent me in her box of baby awesome  and it's brilliant and hilarious and really reassuring, unlike a lot of the other baby related books I've read which seem to be written by hysterical, schedule obsessed women. It is really nice to read a book that's basically just telling me to calm down, but in hilarious fashion. My mum came round the other day and informed Rhys that he should just 'give me a slap' when I'm being hysterical and ridiculous, because apparently it's really the only way to deal with me. I would like to point out that she never has actually given me a slap, she just tells other people that they should on a regular basis, but in a joking kind of way. Because that's how she is. And that's how this book is too. It's great. 

I'm also knitting this but in purple, in case I ever find myself having to breastfeed in like McDonalds or somewhere, because I really don't want 14 year olds staring at me. And yes, it's pretty, and I'm impressed with myself for my ninja multitasking skills. 

In other news, my wedding ring finally fits again! I have been wearing it round my neck for the past eight or so months and unfairly scowling at people when they don't realise I'm married. It's nice to have it on again. :-) The baby has a library card, and also got free books when we went to register his birth. Plus he can take out thirty items and doesn't have to pay late fees or reservation charges. Win. 

How's everyone else doing? I'm trying to keep up with blog reading and commenting, but as with everything else, some days are better than others. Babies are great :-) 

Friday, 19 October 2012

What I Did This Week...

Finally, exactly one week late and after 40 hours (!!!) of labour, baby Benjamin was born. He's pretty ginger and pretty gorgeous and we've pretty much spent the rest of the week running about like headless chickens trying to work out how the hell to keep both him and ourselves alive at the same time. It's a terrifying task, but we're gradually getting there as much as we ever can hope to! I'm such an unnecessary panicker that I'm just having to try not to worry about anything or I'd worry about it all all the time, and I really don't want to be one of those women who calls the hospital every time he breathes weirdly...

Anyway! I just thought I should update those of you who don't live on Twitter, and thank the people who sent lovely cards and awesome parcels (thankyou thankyou thankyou Ellie and Hanna!!) and say that there probably won't be an awful lot of book related content on here for a while at least, although I am currently reading The House at Riverton by Kate Morton and really enjoying it! If you can bear with me through the randomness and baby posts, I'm sure I'll be back to something resembling normal at some point in the not to distant future! :-)

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Grapes of Wrath Part 1 - It's Not Tuesday...

I got a really good start on this as I was panicked the baby was going to arrive on his due date over the weekend (all the mothers everywhere are laughing at me now) with the result that I finished the first part like last Friday and felt like I had to stop reading so that I wouldn't forget what had happened in the first bit and get confused. I'm very easily confused nowadays. I tried to write this yesterday, but I got distracted by making a teacosy which looks like a cupcake. So there was that. Also I think I was a bit overwhelmed by how much there is to say.

I started reading The Grapes of Wrath and at first I was like 'oh god, the description. Why is there so much description?', but after a while I sort of got immersed in it and I realised that Steinbeck is an actual genius with words. And then I started doing this thing I do where I turn up the bottom corners of pages to mark bits that are interesting or awesome and I just looked at my copy now and there are like... nine? 

The basic story so far is that people are being kicked off their land in Oklahoma (because of the big, evil banks), and told to go to California, where there will be eternal oranges and jobs forever. Focusing on the Joad family, of whom there are many, so far all that's happened is that they have packed up their life in California and at the end of Chapter 11 they started out for California. I say *all* that's happened, but for taking 11 chapters to happen I really don't mind. The set up is that it's pretty much one chapter about the Joads, followed by a chapter about the general situation - one I particularly liked was chapter 7, told from the perspective of a car salesman, about how many cars they were selling to families heading out to California, which is funny because that seems to be the chapter everybody else hated. I just thought it was interesting as a mark of the changing times - people are getting rid of their horses and buying cars. I don't know, maybe I'm just too easily interested in uninteresting things...

I'm putting quotes I liked up on my Tumblr because if I put them here you'd all get bored and leave, but there was a lot of stuff that was really thought-provoking for me in the first part. I think that in my current state of mind this book was always going to make me a little bit ranty anyway. I'm not very political really, but the current UK government make me want to hit things so regularly that it's difficult not to have an opinion, and there was quite a lot in the book that bore quite a bit of similarity to our situation in some ways. There's a whole chapter where the guy who's been sent to kick people off the land and demolish their houses turns out to be one of their own and they keep asking him how he can stand to do it and he keeps going on about his three dollars a day and how he has to feed his family. Which I get, I really do, but at the same time I have some major issues with people only thinking about themselves and having no respect for what happens to other people. And this is totally relevant to today as well. Yes, Mr. Cameron, I'm talking to you. 

Anyway, the thing I like probably the most is the atmosphere. I love that while I'm reading I really feel like I'm there. I know that this is kind of what you're usually going for with literature, but Steinbeck just does it so well! I am definitely in the 'I love Steinbeck' camp, and to be honest the book hasn't even depressed me that much. I have some serious love for the Joads as well, especially Grampa. I just love how they're all kind of angry but how they still pull together as a family (despite the sexism - Ma is awesome and obviously runs the show but I kind of hate how she's always waiting for the men to speak first). Also I really like the image of the truck all piled up with people and stuff. 

This post is only managing to go up at all because I haven't talked about loads of things I was going to talk about. I'm so ranty at the moment I feel like if I don't restrain myself, we could all be here for days! :-/

Friday, 5 October 2012

The Classics Club October Meme: Why I Read the Classics

I will admit that I've not been keeping up with The Classics Club as I should be, and will probably be doing so even less in the coming months, but then the basis of its initial appeal was its unpressurized nature, and I am currently reading The Grapes of Wrath which is on my list, so. Anyway, the October meme question is Why are you reading the Classics? which is a really difficult one to answer. 

I guess part of why I'm reading the classics is inbuilt snobbery. Having been raised throughout my school life to see the classics as the really worthwhile books; the ones that would teach you things about the world and about people, part of me kind of feels like reading them will make me a better person. Because they have stood the test of time for so many years and are so often such great historical, political, and social portraits as well as just entertaining literature. I guess that if I thought about it, which I haven't really, I would define the classics as books which are representative of a certain period of history; which teach me something about a place that I've never experienced or a time that I've never been. I read them to learn, I guess. When I read classics I often find myself doing background research, which I don't really do when I'm reading otherwise, and I often find that one classic will lead me to another and so on. I forget that the classics take concentration. 

At the moment I'm having one of those jumpy phases where I've started to read about five books and not finished any of them and it's making me feel uncomfortable, but when I started Steinbeck, I had to put all the other books to one side and just concentrate on Steinbeck and it is so worth it. If I read the classics that way, they are immersive and I love that about them. They are transportive (is that a word?) and totally escapist. I also love that there are so many books which could count as classics. I am a totally obsessive list lover, and I adore that there are so many different potential lists associated with this project. I love that if I wanted to I could read purely classics from the ancient world, or only 20th century classics, or only classics by women. I have to constantly restrain myself, or else my already ridiculously ambitious list will get totally out of hand. I love that there's that much potential with the classics. 

So there we go; to learn, to escape, and to make lists. :-) 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Baby Related Craft Things..

I thought I'd put it up there in the title to warn those of you who aren't interested in reading baby posts. This is a post all about babies! I've just had the midwife round to make my birth plan and now with four days to go until my due date (three if you don't count the actual date itself, two if you don't count today as we're already most of the way through...) it's all starting to feel a bit real!

I'm fairly into crafts, as some of you may know, and I also have this horrible habit of going round shops looking at baby stuff and squealing about the extortionate prices and how I could make it myself for much cheaper. It's annoying, but it's true! I've been waiting a while to do this post, as I started several projects at the same time and was waiting to finish them before I posted. Alas, I've run out of time - most of them are only partly finished but I'm going to post them anyway. So, to begin with the one thing I have actually finished:
Excuse the light reflections and general bad photography in all of these - I'm really not good at photos! We saw an alphabet mural we liked in TKMaxx for £15. While I want to make the nursery walls more interesting than plain old white (we can't paint because we're renting..), I really didn't want to pay that much so we made our own. Some of the animals are kind of obscure (M is for macaw, Q is for Quail, X is for X-ray Fish..) but all are totally legitimate and I'm quite proud of myself. It's been a loooooonng time since I've done any paper craft type stuff!

The blanket I've been working on for what seems like ages but actually isn't because I knitted a smaller one for Rhys' neice who has also just had a baby first. The one I decided to make for us is bigger and really nearly finished which is good because it's cold in our house and currently baby only has one smaller knitted blanket and a big one my grandma made him. While it's taken forever, I have been looking for more blanket patterns as the repetitive motion is quite soothing...

This is the bottom half of Captain Hook. I haven't done cross stitch since I was about fourteen, but we found some little kits in a charity shop and they were unopened and really cheap and I needed things to do, so here it is! I could've got a 101 Dalmations one, but for some unknown reason I decided it would be better to put a creepy pirate on our baby's wall...Now he just needs a head, cos you know there's nothing more relaxing for your baby than a creepy pirate, unless it's a headless creepy pirate...

The final thing I've made isn't actually for the baby so much as to stop him from stuffing his head in plastic bags and suffocating. It also represents a turning point for me, as I've realised that I need things like plastic bag stuffers in my life a lot more than I need admittedly beautiful but definitely too small Monsoon bridesmaid dresses and 4 inch heels that I sold on eBay this week. Sob. I think this is how middle age begins... :-/
This is one of those things that would have been a lot easier if I'd actually ever figured out how to use my sewing machine rather than just shoving it in a corner and continuing to hand sew everything. I also had a slight crisis with how to get small pieces of elastic through much bigger amounts of material till my mum came round and did it in two minutes with a safety pin. Sigh. If you also feel the need for a bag stuffer, I made it from the pattern here.

The last couple of things are not things I made myself, but just highlight the absolute loveliness of bloggers. Laura really unexpectedly sent me some hats that she had made for the baby, which I am ridiculously excited about because, well, look! They're super cute! (I don't know why the picture is sideways - it isn't sideways on my laptop but somehow it is when I come to put it up here!). I also got sent The Very Hungry Caterpillar yesterday in board book form, slightly less unexpectedly but still amazingly by Ellie. For people who haven't been keeping up with my Books for Baby feature, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the book that I've been lamenting our lack of from the start and so I'm really happy that he finally has it, because it's so beautiful! People in my real life keep commenting on how lovely it is that people I've never met would continually (and they are continually sending things!) send presents not just for me but also for the baby and every time they say it I have to be like 'oh yeah, we've never met'. It feels like we have. Why haven't we?! Anyway, I just wanted to put this in so they know how much they're appreciated :-)

This is probably the most photos I've ever put in one post so I'm going to stop now, but there we have it. I am currently feeling very proud of myself, and now I just have to actually finish the blanket...

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Review: - Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

People have been telling me to read this book for a really long time. They keep telling me I'll love it because of the immense love that I have for How to Be a Woman, and although I still don't quite understand the need to make the covers so similar (the cover on the book I actually read has lettering incredibly similar to How to Be a Woman), they were so, so right. Just to clarify, the book is similar, but only because both talk very openly and hilariously about stuff that often makes people uncomfortable. Disclaimer over. 

For anybody who doesn't know, the author of Let's Pretend This Never Happened Jenny Lawson blogs over at The Bloggess and let me apologise straight away for the fact that purely by including the link to her blog, I've probably lost you anywhere between 1 and 5 hours of your life. It's amazing and hilarious and part of the reason why I've been so desperate to read this book. She suffers with depression and anxiety disorder among other things, and she blogs about it ridiculously openly. People come to her blog and relate to what she's saying and realise that they aren't alone with their problems and it is generally a very 'reaffirming your faith in people' kind of place. The book is the same. 

It's not so much a coherent narrative as sort of mini essays and bits and pieces about her life. It does follow an autobiographic pattern, as it begins with her childhood and goes through her marriage, the birth of her daughter etc. I loved her description of the experience of giving birth, because I believed it. In the past few months I've had a lot of people tell me their birth stories and sometimes you just know they're niceing (totally a word) it up for you because they totally think you won't be able to cope with what really happens, but Jenny Lawson says it will all be worth it, and I believe her. There is a lot in this book that may make people a little uncomfortable. My husband told me (after the fourth time I passed him something hilarious that he absolutely had to read) that he didn't think he 'gets her sense of humour'. I think I said something like 'remind me again why we're married?' and spent three hours apologising and feeling really bad, because he's lovely and it's not his fault that he doesn't find writing people notes on your cat as hilarious as I do.

So, the bit where I knew I was going to like the book; the dedication. 
It's about the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments - the ones we want to pretend never happened - are the very same moments that make us who we are today...Because you are defined not by life's imperfect moments, but by your reaction to them
 I really like this, and I've been telling it to people for years. When I was younger (around sixteen) I was in a situation (read; relationship) that was pretty horrendous in many ways. There was some pretty big, therapy inducing fall out from it, but now whenever people who knew me at the time ask me if I wish it had never happened I always say no, because if it hadn't I wouldn't be who I am today and I know that despite its awfulness it's made me stronger and better able to cope with some of the things that have happened since than I otherwise would have been. 

I think I've just demonstrated the biggest difference between Jenny Lawson and me, because I write about stuff like that and people immediately feel they have to be all sympathetic and feel bad for me, whereas she writes stuff like that and somehow makes it hilarious and you end up sat in the bath giggling hysterically for about ten minutes about the phrase "No-one ever expects vaginal arthiritis (Or the Spanish Inquisition)". And then your husband comes to ask if you're alright and you explain and he looks at you like you're entirely insane. 

The other thing that I really like about both Let's Pretend This Never Happened and about her blog is that she is really open about mental illness. On her blog she talks a lot about depression, and in the book she talks a lot about OCD and anxiety disorder. Having suffered with both depression and social anxiety disorder in the past I really appreciate when it doesn't make people uncomfortable. I loved that she just writes about how it affects her and it is entirely relatable. I have to admit that I've never ended up talking to strangers about necrophilia before, but I have spent a lot more hours than I'd like to admit hidden in bathrooms just to avoid having to talk to people. 

Apparently I had a very personal reaction to this book, and so this post probably should have been entitled 'Reaction' rather than 'Review' for all the purists out there. I apologise for the soul-baring and promise that by the next time I do it I'll have learned how to be hilarious about it!

So there we go. I read the book, I loved the book, and now I have to go out and buy a copy of the book. I will probably also buy copies for lots of other people, because of how I do that when I love a book.

Other reviews can be found at Devouring Texts and Booking in Heels

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

John Steinbeck - How He's Awesome and Why There's All The Pressure

Today is the first day of posting for Laura's Grapes of Wrath readalong. If you want to join in (and you totally should) you can do that here. And so, today is the day we are supposed to post about our previous experiences of Steinbeck and suchlike. I first tried to read The Grapes of Wrath when I was about thirteen and hated it. This is probably where I went wrong with Dickens as well - I just really didn't have the appreciation for the complexity and detail in the writing when I was that age. Let's face it, I was still in the tale end of my Saddle Club phase, and fully immersed in The Babysitters Club. Not the most complex of series, but anyway. Borrowed it from the library, tried to read it for about a week, got through approximately two pages, gave up and took it back. Then we got to GCSEs and all of the other English classes in my year (literally, all of them) were studying Of Mice and Men, but because we had a teacher who actually trusted us to read a book that was proper length, we studied To Kill a Mockingbird, and thus I avoided more reading of Steinbeck. 

Fast-forward six years and I started a very (very) brief phase of tutoring Korean kids for English Literature GCSE, and so I finally had to actually get myself together and read Of Mice and Men, and eek. There I was, happily reading away and thinking about how the book was kind of great in a really subtle way but not a lot was happening, and then the last few pages happened without me really noticing and I reached the end of the book, shut it, opened it again, re-read the last few paragraphs, shut it again, opened it again, and went back to the beginning. I love that book. I don't think any book before or since has had quite so much of a 'what the fuck just happened while I was momentarily daydreaming about cupcakes' kind of impact on me. Brilliant.

Then last year I signed up to read East of Eden for the now defunct Classics Circuit, and that was also a brilliant idea. I knew it was going to be a better experience than the epic failure with The Grapes of Wrath because reading the pages of description which make up the beginning I kept stopping to read bits out to whoever happened to be there at the time. I really enjoyed it, especially for its' darkness. I loved that Steinbeck wasn't afraid to create characters that it was pretty impossible to like, and that he didn't particularly seem to care about conforming to social stereotypes of what people (mothers, especially) should be like. 

I know little to nothing about Steinbeck himself, but my research tells me that he won the Nobel Prize for Literature which is pretty impressive, so well done for that, Steinbeck. Also that he was from California (which I'd kind of guessed, because his books appear to be mostly set in California...), and that he never actually graduated from college, which just goes to show what can be achieved without a degree. 

I'm really excited about The Grapes of Wrath, and I'm really hoping that I'll still be able to finish it once the baby is here with us. We shall see!

Monday, 1 October 2012

RAK September Wrap Up & October Sign Up

I signed up for RAK again this month after a month off with intentions to restrict myself to sending out just the one book. Obviously I failed, but I didn't do too badly I don't think! For anybody who doesn't know, RAK is hosted monthly by the girls at Booksoulmates with the idea that you sign up your wishlist for every month you want to participate and then randomly select somebody from the list of participants to send a book to. If you're lucky, somebody may do the same for you! 

I tend to have good months and bad months in terms of RAK; if I'm having a good month I usually get more than one book sent to me, on bad months I don't get any but to be honest it doesn't bother me too much. Half the excitement is in sending books to people anyway, because we all know how awesome it is to receive a free book in the post. I don't know about everybody else, but it immediately makes my day better and I like the feeling of knowing that by buying a couple of books a month I can make a couple of people's days better :-) 

This month I sent out two books. Regular followers won't be surprised to hear that one of them was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Yes, I am continuing my crusade to get the entire world to read it, and no I don't plan on stopping any time soon! 

Anyway, September's copy went to Andrea of The Busy Bibliophile, and I hope that she falls in love with it as much as I have done!

The second book I sent out is by another one of my favourite authors: The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett. I kind of feel like everybody should read Sir Terry at some point in their lives, mostly because he often wears a top hat/cape/cane/all of the aforementioned in his author photos, but also because he is generally hilarious and great and while this isn't the strongest of the Discworld novels, it is the first one, and as Julie Andrews says, the beginning is a very good place to start!

Anyway, this was sent to Lauren of Northern Plunder, and I hope she likes it!

I also got entirely ninja'd (yes, that's a word!) by Ellie this month, because she is awesome. She sent me a copy of Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, which I've wanted to read ever since the first time I saw Sister Act 2 which just shows how easily influenced I am....

So rambling aside, I think I've done pretty well this month. I'm a totally selfish RAKer in that I almost always send out books I either love or really want to read myself, because I love the idea of promoting the things I love. Despite the imminent baby having of this next month, I am signing up for RAK again for October and will do my very very best to remember to send out at least one book! Here are the rules from Booksoulmates

Please read carefully & follow all rules!  Thank you!
  • Please sign-up each month that you can participate (and by participate, we mean give as well as receive).
  • Show off your participation by grabbing our RAK button (code is in the right sidebar).
  • Create a wish list (on Amazon, Goodreads, or your blog, etc) and post it in the Google Doc located in each R.A.K post for the month.
  • If you choose to do a R.A.K for someone, check out their wish list and contact that blogger directly for their information.
  • Once you receive a RAK, send us an our new email to [rakbybooksoulmates @ gmail . com] so that we can update the Google Doc. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU SEND EMAILS TO THIS ADDRESS!
  • E-book participation is limited to files being gifted directly to a person from the e-book store. Amazon's Kindle Store is set up to allow this, as well as the Kobo store and we believe Barnes & Noble with Nook as well.
  • At the end of the month, SHOW US YOUR R.A.K by making a "RAK Wrap-Up" post.  This post should include who you SENT gifts to as well who you RECEIVED gifts from :)

Should anybody be interested in sending me books, my wishlists are here and here, and the baby's wishlist is here. I have no objections whatsoever to being sent books from either.

On the Subject of Banning...

**Warning - this will turn into a rant**

In America from September 30th - October 6th it is Banned Books Week. I know that I live in a country where in the library service at least book banning is not really an issue (although you can read an interesting article here about why it may be in the future), but even so we still have quite a history of book banning (and burning?!), and in America the amount to which books are challenged and banned in libraries and in schools is both ridiculous and awful. I spent the morning looking through lists of the most banned and challenged books and was absolutely amazed at how many awesome books are on it. The one that most amazed me is that on all the lists I've looked at, sat right up close to the top is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, possibly one of the most moving and motivating books I've ever read. Every single time I read it I put it down wanting to right all of the worlds' wrongs and just make sure everybody is happy and treated fairly. Idealistic? Me? Never. The book is frequently challenged because of its' 'racism', and this is a subject which is bothering me massively at the moment. As with the dispute about the censored version of Huckleberry Finn and Disney's refusal to release Song of the South on DVD due to its' racist overtones, I think that some people are missing the major point. You cannot and should not censor something for being either a representation of the time in which it was made, or for (as TKAM does) trying to get people to challenge themselves and think about what is the right and wrong way to live your life. The issues are much bigger than race, and by banning these things we are just trying to pretend that things with which we are uncomfortable never happened.

It would be lovely if a lot of things never happened, try slavery, genocide and the Holocaust for starters. It would be wonderful if nobody in the world ever behaved in a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, anti-semitic or otherwise offensive way. It would be brilliant, but unfortunately it isn't human nature. I've had conversations with people in recent memory who just don't understand that because they're white/a man/straight/Christian it doesn't make them any better than other people. The mind boggles, it really does, but how are we doing future generations any favours by trying to hide that these people are there, that we live in a world where these things have happened? If we ban them and forget about them then what's to stop them happening again? Every time I read To Kill a Mockingbird it reinforces the absolute wrongness of making assumptions about people based on any stereotype about them, whether it be the colour of their skin, like Tom Robinson, or their supposed mental deficiencies, like Boo Radley. Humanity cannot move forward by trying to repress things it is uncomfortable with, and parents cannot stop their children from finding out about things they're too uncomfortable to discuss with them by getting books banned from their schools, libraries etc.

I am British, and the Empire was a pretty bad thing. We really didn't do well there, but nobody as far as I'm aware has tried to ban books like A Passage to India and Heart of Darkness. We were also pretty much the first people to use concentration camps, and then there's the BNP (who apparently aren't racist, but you need to be white to join..). So yeah, our slate is not the cleanest, but is there any point in denying it happened? It's still contributed a huge amount to the way the country is today - if it wasn't for the Empire, we wouldn't have tea. It's a shocking thought. I do not understand what it is that people are trying to achieve by banning books. If you find a book offensive, don't read it. Personally, I was so disgusted by American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis that I physically could not finish reading it. It made me nauseous and I have some serious worries about the man's mental health, but I'm not going to go out ranting about it and trying to stop other people from reading it. I gave my abandoned copy to a friend who wanted to read it, because she's a grown up and she wanted to read it. Also, there's always the chance that he was being ironic or making some big socially important point that I just failed to get, and I wouldn't want to deny other people the chance to get it just becaue it repelled me.

As well as people who want books banned because they are personally offended by them, there are the even more incomprehensible people who want books banned without ever having read them. It's like when my dad wouldn't let us watch The Simpsons (which he had never seen an episode of) because his friend told him it discouraged the traditional family unit. Then he watched an episode and realised, actually, that's total crap. Homer and Marge are one of the most solid family units ever - they always work it out in the end. A little off-topic I know, but how can you possibly find something so offensive you must immediately ensure that everybody in the vicinity is unable to read it, without ever having read it yourself? Also if you start telling people what they can and can't read, where does it stop? Soon you'll be telling them what they can eat, watch, where they can go, what religion they can practice. That's called a dictatorship, and I don't think there are many people on the planet who would volunteer to live in one of those.

None of these things that are challenged for being racist or whatever are actually promoting racism as a good idea. For me, that's where the problem would come in, because I don't like things - and this doesn't just apply to books, but to films, events, and even to people- which promote hatred in any form. People manage enough of it on their own, they don't need encouragement. Of the American Library Association's list of most challenged books 2000-2009, I've read twenty two (counting series as individuals for now), and I don't remember a single one of them in any negative light. Yes, some of them were a little silly (Angus, Thongs & Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, for example, which I read when I was about fifteen because it came free with one of those teenage girl type magazines), and some of them are more than a bit weird (In the Night Kitchen is on my baby's bookshelf but the fact that the child is miscellaneously naked all the way through slightly unnerves me. Although it was read to me as a child and doesn't seem to have done me any harm...), but many of them are among my personal favourites, and I'd go so far as to say that a few at least - Catcher in the Rye, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, and To Kill a Mockingbird - have been lifechanging for me. I was going to talk about specific books in this post, but I feel like it's probably already long enough and if you've stuck with me this far you probably deserve a medal.

I feel like it's really important to go on and on about this and to shout about it, because the fact that it isn't a problem in the UK at the moment doesn't mean that it won't be. Literacy is already under threat in the UK due to the mass closures/redistributions of libraries and, as mentioned in the article I linked at the beginning of this, the fact that when libraries become (as a great number are) volunteer run, there is the risk of pressure being brought by different groups for the removal of things they find offensive. Everybody should be able to read whatever they want to read. I really do believe that. As my tagline says 'once you learn to read you will be forever free', and nobody should be trying to take that freedom from you. Yes, read things that are age appropriate, and no don't read things if they upset you. But don't not read them because they upset your next door neighbour/priest/teacher/parent (although the last one is a little more subject to opinion). Reading is personal and it should stay personal. If I want to shout about books I've read and loved or hated, that's what I have my blog for, it's what I have friends for and family. Books are a gift, and they should never be taken away from anyone. I believe that the gift of reading was among the greatest my parents ever gave me (I recently thanked them for reading to me all the time as a child - they looked at me like I was mad), and I hope that it's one I can pass on to my children.

I will probably be posting some more on censorship and book banning this week, because I like research and I have a bee in my bonnet now. In case you want to know more, here are some useful links:

The Banned Books Week Website - official website telling you all about events and what's going on for the 30th anniversary year.

The American Library Association - this link will take you specifically to the Banned and Challenged Books section of the ALA's website, where you can find links to the most challenged books lists, information about Banned Books Week, and merchandise to support it.

Banned Books UK - the smaller, UK based version, containing a list of 100 banned and challenged titles from around the world, because this problem isn't just American or British, it's worldwide.

The Telling Tales Challenge - October Link Up!

So it's October already! My baby is due in six days and I've not got around to finishing the reviews I hoped to finish and schedule for this month, but that's life I guess. Hopefully I'll find a second to get them done before the end of the year! This month I have a beautiful copy of The Annotated Brothers Grimm which I'm hoping to review at least some of, although I haven't quite decided how I'll do it yet as there's a huge amount in it! 

September seemed to be a bit of a quiet month again, although Nicola has completed the level she signed up for which is awesome! :-) Other people are getting close, and some have changed their level and I'm just continually excited that other people are still reading for this. All being well with the baby I do plan to host this challenge again next year if people are interested, and hopefully it will be a little more organised and slightly less straggly!

Anyway! You've still got a couple of months to go if you want to sign up. The master list of all the reviews written for this challenge is here, and as always if you want to talk about the challenge on twitter you can do so using #taleschallenge. I am @fairybookgirl if you want to add me and shoot me a tweet so I know you're a participant! 

Here's the link up for this month, happy reading!