Saturday, 30 May 2015

Book-Buying (or, just another weekend with Emily)

Last weekend, I went to London ... and then to St Andrews. It is a beautiful place - go if you ever have the chance - and it has some quality charity shops. 

You know I love a charity shop.

These were bought in Oxfam, Cancer Research, British Heart Foundation and Salvation Army.

Inkheart and Inkdeath -- I loved this trilogy years ago. I've had Inkspell for a while and been on the look-out for these two, and now I am well primed for my reread! Oh, and I got that hardback, never-been-read Inkdeath for 50p. That's right. I love charity shops.

Romola -- hadn't heard of this, but I love Adam Bede by George Eliot ... and also it's pretty. And two volumes, in a box. Which is exciting.

Anne of the Island, Anne's House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, and Rilla of Ingleside -- you know I absolutely LOVE the Anne series. Neither I nor the library had book 5 onwards, but now I have 3, 5, 6, and 8, as well as 1 and 4 which I already had! So exciting. I'mma read book 5 soon. 

Withering Tights -- as a massive Georgia Nicolson fan, I was very pleased to snap up book #1 of the Misadventures of Tallulah Casey for only 99p.

House of Hades and Blood of Olympus -- now this IS exciting. Only £1.99 each. I'm so excited for pursuing this series. 

These beauties were bought today and yesterday in Oxfam and Age Scotland. Did I mention that I love charity shops? I also got a copy of The Lord of the Rings but it is unavailable for photography, currently. 

Sorry for this weird size disparity going on. I'm not a tecchie. 

The Minaturist -- Ruby (Feed Me Books Now) said this is good .... and the cover is pretty. £1.50.

Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging -- you know I luuurve Georgia Nicolson. I now own 7/10 of the books. Yes!

Lost In Translation -- not a book, but Anna from Anna and the French Kiss loves this film ... so that's recommendation enough.

The Secret History -- again, Ruby says it's good. I have The Goldfinch, though I've not read it yet.

The Lord of the Rings -- this is such a pretty vintage edition. We already have one copy but I may have accidentally broken it in two and not told my mum yet so I was very happy to find a replacement. 

What have you hauled lately? Have you read any of these books? What's good?! Have you seen Lost in Translation? Do you ever take book/film recommendations from fictional characters?

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Art Tuesday: Inventing Impressionism // Overwhelmed

We Brits have a hereditary cultural aversion to tourists, tourism and, worst of all, the dreaded Looking Like a Tourist. We especially don't want to look like tourists in our own country. Walking around with our noses buried in A-Z roadmaps? Getting lost on the tube? Buying an I <3 London T-shirt? These are all no-go areas. I may have only been to London three times in my life, but I still try to convey a savvy air of the Brit-about-town. "Me? Yeah, I know how the tube works! I do this all the time!"

However. I know, and you know also, that I am as big a tourist as the next one. It was just this weekend that I had the chance to go to London with le mother. It was a brilliant trip. As well as having dinner with my brother (who lives there), we also went to the National Gallery and saw a stunning exhibition called Inventing Impressionism. Me throughout:

Then on Friday night we saw Les Mis at the Queens Theatre. It was INCREDIBLE. They had this rotating stage. And the costumes. And Valjean WAS JUST--

Me throughout:

On Saturday morning we went to Dulwich Picture Gallery to see an exhibition of the work of a British artist called Ravilious. Me throughout:

Now then.

Because I know that you love it when I bore you senseless stimulate you with pictures .... 

Inventing Impressionism

The exhibition centred around the life and work of a chap called Paul Durand-Ruel. He was a nineteenth-century art dealer who, at a time when the most famous Impressionists - Monet, Pissarro and Sisley, to name a few - were being rejected by the Royal Academy and lampooned by critics, bought their work and supported them. He revolutionised the art of curating an exhibition and made it possible for these Impressionists to keep working at a time when the world was stacked against them.

Me: People didn't like Monet??

But apparently so. The genius of the Impressionists went unrecognised by most for decades. It was only the tireless work of Durand-Ruel that allowed the Impressionist movement to flourish.

The Valley Of Saint-Vincent (1830) - Theodore Rousseau 
This is very small in real life, but incredible.
La Pointe de la Hève, Sainte-Adresse (1864) - Claude Monet
The Thames below Westminster (c. 1871) - Claude Monet

Road at La Cavee, Pourville (1882) - Claude Monet 

I am a cardinal Monet fan. That last one is probably my favourite, because the colours.

The Avenue, Sydenham (1871) - Camille Pissarro

The Lock at Pontoise (1872) - Camille Pissarro

Pont Boieldieu in Rouen, Rainy Weather (1896) - Camille Pissarro

Fox Hill, Upper Norwood (1870) - Camille Pissarro

Were I forced to choose (but don't force me), Pissarro is my favourite Impressionist. He's up there in my favourite artists ever. These four: so beautiful. I love all the colours, but I especially love the scale of 
Pont Boieldieu in Rouen, Rainy Weather. It conveys the idea of the city, the beating heart of people and buildings and life.

Ferry to the Ile-de-la-Loge, Flood, 1872. Alfred Sisley

The Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne (1872) - Alfred Sisley
Sisley is my other favourite. I especially love that second one, which I bought a card of and am going to put in my room. The colours. The water.

OK. You'll be extremely glad really sorry to hear that, as I am now going to bed, and this post is long enough already (though not too long - considering there were 85 works in the exhibition, I think I've done pretty well), that is all of Art Tuesday for today. I would dearly love to show you some Ravilious, though, as well as other things I saw in the National Gallery ... but I'm aware that this is (technically) a book blog, which I don't want to overrun with my pictorial indulgences. But then again ... a painting is like a book, just wearing different clothes.

Tell me: which of these is your favourite? Do you like arty posts like this (should I fire away with Ravilious at a future point?)? Have you seen any good exhibitions lately? And who is your favourite artist?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015


Ten-year-old Darling lives in Paradise: a shanty town where the sun bakes the earth and the roofs are corrugated iron, and there is no school to which to go. She and her friends spend their days in play, stealing guavas and imagining life in the other worlds of America and Europe. Darling dreams of a new country for herself, but she will learn that the America she has pictured holds its own miseries.


I read this last month after a long period of wanting it. In a word? Stunning.

As someone living in Britain, a country that's not known war on our own soil for 70 years, where poverty is as invisible as the beggars that we glide past in our cities, the level of want depicted in Zimbabwe was shocking. The really affecting thing was the juxtaposition of the poverty among Darling and her community, and the hope that the children still retained. It was heartbreaking and hopeful by turn to see these young children, understanding little of the adult world, playing and loving one another with perfect happiness; and, at the same time, tainted by the frustrated needs of children who have none of the things they deserve, obsessed with western culture and products.

This portrayal of the Zimbabwean children's view of western culture was a sharp wake-up call to us living in America and Europe. Throughout the novel Darling is captivated by the image of America, but the America presented by Bulawayo is one of dissatisfaction, inequalities, social divides; the sexulisation of children, the broken education system, the lack of fulfillment of any and all hopes. In that way, We Need New Names follows in the tradition of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, presenting the reality of an America that cannot deliver the Dream it promises. 

The book falls into two sections: Zimbabwe and America. Whilst the first was more raw and beautiful and strange to me, the second was equally hard-hitting because it showed me something of the reality of our Western society. It also presented interesting questions about the nature of suffering. There is a very acidic chapter in which Darling condemns a rich American teen who is suicidal after being dumped, and that got me thinking about the different types of suffering and the rights we have to complain.

The most powerful thing for me was the writing. It was absolutely beautiful. There is something incredible, I think, about works not written in the author's first language. They have a fluidity, a freedom with language because the writer is not constrained by the conventions and dead metaphors that entrap a native speaker. Therefore the writer can express things in striking new ways, which Bulawayo did perfectly.
(And if you've skimmed this far, unable to bring yourself to read my waffle, please read this.)


They did not come to Paradise. Coming would mean that they were choosers. That they first looked at the sun, sat down with crossed legs, picked their teeth, and pondered the decision. That they had the time to gaze at their reflections in long mirrors, perhaps pat their hair, tighten their belts, check the watches on their wrists before looking at the red road and finally announcing: Now we are ready for this. They did not come, no. They just appeared.

They appeared one by one, two by two, three by three. They appeared single file, like ants. In swarms, like flies. In angry waves, like a wretched sea. They appeared in the early morning, in the afternoon, in the dead of night. They appeared with the dust from their crushed houses clinging to their hair and skin and clothes, making them appear like things from another life. They appeared with tin, with cardboard, with plastic, with nails and other things with which to build, and they tried to appear calm as they put up their shacks, nailing tin on tin, piece by piece, bravely looking up at the sky and trying to tell themselves and one another that even here, in this strange new place, the sky was still the same familiar blue, a sign things would work out.

Some appeared with children in their arms. There were many who appeared with children held by the hands. The children themselves appeared baffled; they did not understand what was happening to them. And the parents held their children close to their chests and caressed their dusty, unkempt heads with hardened palms, appearing to console them, but really, they did not quite know what to say. Gradually, the children gave up and ceased asking questions and just appeared empty, almost, like their childhood had fled and left only the bones of its shadow behind.

Generally the men always tried to appear strong; they walked tall, heads upright, arms steady at the sides, and feet firmly planted like trees. Solid, Jericho walls of men. But when they went out in the bush to relieve themselves and nobody was looking, they fell apart like crumbling towers and wept with the wretched grief of forgotten concubines.

And when they returned to the presence of their women and children and everybody else, they stuck hands deep inside torn pockets until they felt their dry thighs, kicked little stones out of the way, and erected themselves like walls again, but then the women, who knew all the ways of weeping and all there was to know about falling apart, would not be deceived; they gently rose from the hearths, beat dust off their skirts, and planted themselves like rocks in front of their men and children and shacks, and only then did all appear almost tolerable.

I would recommend this book to everyone. It left me deep in thought and the prose was incredible.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Emily's Bloglovin Ineptitudes

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

So, I've spent the past few months with a Bloglovin button that links to my old blog url.

Good work, Emily.

Now claiming this actual blog.

Sunny (who pointed this out to me), you are a queen. Thank you thank you thank you.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

What I Did Today // The Bookshelf Link-Up

Apart from reading, what are a book blogger's favourite activities?

a) Organising their books.
b) Photographing their books.
c) Telling other people about these marvellous, organised, photographed books.

Sunny over at A Splash of Ink is tying these wonderful elements together in her current Bookshelf Link-up!


(Sunny has a fab blog, by the way. You should check it out.)

1. If you can, share a picture of your bookshelves (piles of books, boxes of books, anywhere you store your books) or describe the set-up you have. 

So. What you see right now has only been in operation for a few hours.

 This was my setup beforehand.

I did not have enough space so all unread books got shunted horizontally.

But after bookbuying yesterday, I'd gone past breaking point. There was no space for my new haul, or my Roman Mysteries (recently reclaimed from a different part of the house after I reread the first three and remembered what a top-notch series it is).
Look at that dog's face. That's a pictorial representation of how I felt about my lack of book space.

But. As you can see, the top three shelves were taken up with board games, craft stuff and goodness knows what else, whilst the space at the bottom was filled by a shoe rack. 

I thought: this has gone on long enough.

Board games were banished to a cupboard full of other board games in a different part of the house.

Some craft stuff I ... let go. I mean, can you see me sitting using my Creative Candle Making kit of an evening? No? Me neither. Someone at the charity shop might enjoy it ...

The shoes relocated to a different part of my room. Then, putting my DIY skills into practice, I moved the remaining shelves so that they were properly spaced. I cleaned the dust off everything, disturbing several spiders, and cleaned my gross spotty walls behind the shelves. 


Do you know how much it was hurting me having those books stacked horizontally, not in alphabetical order?
But NOW there is space for ALL, and also room for expansion!

2. How do you sort your books? Author, genre, not at all?

Alphabetically. It's the only way I can handle. 

3. Do you have any special trinkets or decorations on your shelves, or are they purely business?

The bottom two shelves (plus The Book Thief, which of course couldn't fit on the above shelf because that is life). 

The Book Thief // Zambian box // Victorian sewing box // Pincushion // Doorstop dog // Wooden timer // Wand // Knitting kit // Sewing stuff // Jigsaw // Lego Campervan

However, this is probably temporary - with the advent of more books, some of this stuff will have to get lost.

"The flowery Tybalt" -- a hilarious syntax on "the fiery Tybalt" from Romeo and Juliet. I know, I know, I'm too funny. Your sides are splitting.
He was a gift from a friend last year. Ugly, but I love him.

My Harry Potter wand, made by my excellent friend Cat.

4. What genre dominates your bookshelf? Or what genres make up your bookshelf?

Classics and fantasy, with a fair smattering of YA. Then the occasional adult book: a bit of contemporary, a couple of crime novels. Oh, and children's books. Quite a lot of children's books.

5. Are there any books on your shelf that you're particularly proud of?

My pretty hardback classics collection. Of course, I do not buy books like this firsthand because EXPENSE but, from left to right, top to bottom:
Gift // gift // prize // prize // prize // secondhand // gift // prize // secondhand // gift // prize // prize // gift // secondhand // secondhand // secondhand // gift // gift // secondhand // gift // prize // secondhand // prize // prize // prize // gift // prize

I do enjoy colour order. Shout-out to Sunny who made a very helpful post on making gifs! 
The polite thing, blogglings, will be not to comment on how the framing and lighting changes so drastically throughout. I tried, OK??

My series collection takes up nearly two shelves! And almost none of them are complete! I only completed Harry Potter yesterday, when I finally found Order of the Phoenix secondhand. I've had the other six for months so it's very pleasing to at last see them all sitting there.

6. What is the ratio between read books and TBR books on your shelf?

77:75, so almost exactly 1:1! Which is kind of scary. I buy books a lot faster than I read them!

7. What is the most recent addition to your bookshelf?

All bought with book tokens from school prizes, apart from that tiny adorable Mill on the Floss, which I got for £1 secondhand! I love charity shops. 
Also Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which I forgot to include.
Can I get a SCREAM for Black Dove, White Raven?? 


8. Describe your dream bookshelf setup.

I'm really happy with it right now, because SO MUCH SHELF SPACE, but in the future I would like .... the library from Beauty and the Beast? Is that too much? 
I don't know. But I would really love an actual library in my dream house. Maybe ... a round one. In a tower. Yes, please.

Thanks so much to Sunny for hosting this extremely enjoyable link-up! Now please tell: which of your books are you proud of? And can you spot any of your favourites on my shelves?

Emily x

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Books and Their ~Ships (3): On Trios


OK. OK. I am not accusing Rick Riordan of anything. Having recently reread the first three Percy Jackson books, with the intention of reading them all soon, I can assert that they are a top-notch series.

I just think it's interesting that this is the prevailing trio demographic.

I was considering the reasons why this might be. My first thought was about invisible gender double standards: the idea that has slipped into our consciousness that whilst it's fine for a girl to have male best friends, a boy with all female best friends must be effeminate/camp/in some way less than a man. Therefore, the only acceptable trio dynamic is one girl and two boys.

However, on considering it further I wondered if there's a more simple reason: merely that every MC wants a best friend of their own gender, for fraternity/sisterhood. Thus, Harry and Percy need their Ron and their Grover. 

It's also interesting to note that the boy/boy/girl structure is also dominant in love triangles. Again, this can be understood two ways, the first by gender double standards: that a girl with two boys chasing her just can't help it, and they are both noble/devoted/in every way in the right to be pursuing her even if there's another man in her life. However, a boy with two girls chasing him can be seen as a bit of a player, and the girls as obsessive harpies who need to back off.

The other, perhaps more likely reason, is that in a book with a love triangle, the girl is almost always the MC, and maybe it's easier to like the object of two people's affections, rather than one of the two "chasers". Therefore, the girl ends up being the one who is chased by two guys.

As you can probably tell, this is all idle speculation on my part. I have no answers, or even strongly formed opinions. So, you have to tell me what you think. Help me figure it out! Why is the boy/boy/girl structure the common one? Can you think of other trios that follow a different pattern? And what about love triangles? Any girl/girl/boy ones that spring to mind? And can you think of any other reasons that both the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson trios fall into the roles they do?

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Books and Their ~Ships (2): Keeping It Classy // The Unsaid

** Ahoy! Discussion ahead of Blue Lily, Lily Blue! Haven't read the The Raven Cycle? Want to go in knowing nothing? Be very careful. **

I find myself faced with a constant conflict.

On the one hand, I am a Class-A Shipper who fangirls, squees and asdfghjkl-s with the best of them. I sob at a beautiful love story. I have copious fictional crushes. I could light a fire with the strength of my obsessions for my various OTPs.

But on the other hand, too much romance? Too obvious? 

Now, I should probably clarify what I mean by "too much". I do not mean in content. I will, and do, happily read books that are entirely romance. Didn't I read and love Anna and the French Kiss? Aren't I a little (a lot) obsessed with the Georgia Nicolson series? And what about some of my favourite classic fiction? Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Adam Bede, Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, are all centred around relationships. 

Rather, what I mean is when the romance grows to obscure the supposed plot; and when it is so overt, so explicit rather than implicit, that I am left with no mystery remaining. 

For me, the unsaid element of romance is always the most powerful. Let's take Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater.

(No, I do not take every opportunity to spout about Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Why would you say that?)

[source - Treskie's blog]
Blue/Gansey is, of course, my OTP. I ship them like the Titanic; I will go down with this ship. But what, I ask, is it that makes them so perfect? It's the fact that their relationship is not overt. It's the unsaid.
Snatching a pillow from the chair, Blue rested it on top of her goose-bumped legs before picking up the handset. She listened to make sure there was a dial tone and not psychic activity on the other end.
Then she called Gansey.
It rang twice, three times, and then: “Hello?”
He sounded boyish and ordinary. Blue asked, “Did I wake you up?”
She heard Gansey fumble for and scrape up his wireframes.
“No,” he lied, “I was awake.”
“I called you by accident anyway. I meant to call Congress, but your number is one off.”
“Yeah, because yours has 6-6-5 in it.” She paused. “Get it?”
“Oh, you.”
“6-6-5. One number different. Get it?”
“Yeah, I got it.” He was quiet for a minute then, though she heard him breathing. “I didn't know you could call hell, actually.”
“You can call in,” Blue said. “The thing is that you can’t call out.”
“I imagine you could send letters, though.”
“Never with enough postage.”
“No, faxes,” Gansey corrected himself. “Pretend I didn't say letters. Faxes is funnier.”
Blue laughed into the pillow. “Okay, that was all.”
“All what?”
“All I had to say.”
“I've learned a lot. I’m glad you misdialed.”
“Well. Easy mistake to make,” she said. “Might do it again.”
A very, very long pause. She opened her mouth to fill it, then changed her mind and didn't. She was shivering again, even though she wasn't cold with the pillow on her legs.
“Shouldn't,” Gansey said finally. “But I hope you do.”
Blue and Gansey can't be together, so of course, all of their romance is implied. It comes in snippets, snatches, glances. For me, the unsaid is the most powerful.

But Emily, wait a minute.

You just said that you love Anna and the French Kiss and the Georgia Nicolson series. Is there anything unsaid about those two? No, there is not! Both of these stories detail a teenage girl's first love. They are readable, relatable, compelling. It is true that they leave little unsaid; but this makes them more raw. They are both told from the first person, and as such they detail the narrator's thoughts and feelings: her emotions, ideas and whimsical impulses. 

They maintain romance. But at the same time, they keep it classy.

By "classy" I do not mean demure/clean. This is not a discussion about sex scenes/the place of explicit thoughts, vocabulary and discussion in literature. That is for another time and place. Instead, by "classy" I mean genuine and fresh.

For someone like me, the aforementioned Class-A Shipper, there is nothing better than a beautiful description of love. And there is nothing classier than the words of these authors, and hundreds of others:

Give me my Romeo, and, when he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night, And pay no worship to the garish sun. - Yahoo Canada Image Search Results
Have I ever mentioned that I'm a Romeo and Juliet fangirl?
You know that How I Live Now is one of my absolute favourites.

A beautiful poem called I Gave You Immortality, translated from Gaelic.

One of my favourite poems by my favourite poet.

But my problem begins when the descriptions of love/romance/relationships that I read in YA fiction are tired, cliched or shallow - and sadly, it seems that they often are.

When reading Throne of Glass, I often found myself rolling my eyes at the feelings and emotions displayed, which most of the time seemed "cheap" or rather, badly described. Of course, I'm not saying that a description of emotion needs to be a deeply profound and metaphorical musing on the nature of true love. If that was the case, how could we ever describe the whims, impulses, conflicted feelings and everything else that makes us human? But even in describing the most shallow, fleeting or short-lasting of teenage crushes, I desire truth. I desire words that strike a chord with me. On that, Throne of Glass just didn't deliver. It wasn't the love triangle that I disliked, or Celaena's confusion as she navigated her interactions with Dorian and Chaol. Of course, her emotions were common to many. But I never had that "yes" moment that separates great books from good ones. Alan Bennett describes brilliantly what I'm trying to explain:

The most mundane, even the most base, of feelings can be described in such a way as to speak from the book to the reader. What I'm really talking about is good writing. I never felt that the descriptions of Celaena's feelings cut to a bone of truth -- and that is my problem with so many YA romances.

Do you like the romance that is left unsaid, or would you prefer to track every detail? And - since I'm in a quoting mood - have you any descriptions of love to share?

What is your favourite YA love story?