I have bookshelves! Woohoo! Time for some shelfies!

Hello all! Today’s a very chill post, cos I’m feeling in a chill mood, hope you’re all having a chill Sunday 😉

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As I’ve mentioned before, most of my books are in boxes/storage. Recently though I’ve had to rearrange some things and I’ve managed to commandeer two and a half shelves for my lovely books! Anyway, people love ogling books and bookshelf tours are all the rage, so I thought I’d share them, cos, well they’re pretty.

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Most of these are books I had/acquired at uni and have been with me through an awful lot- which is why I think it’s kind of special that these are the books I get to show to you today (don’t expect any childhood books though, they’re all in storage- *sob* my poor HPs). And even though there are a couple on these shelves that I don’t like (*cough* Lolita *cough cough*), I wouldn’t part with them for anything.

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The first shelf kicks off the show with my pretty splendid fairy tale collection, then for purely logical reasons/cos I felt like it there’s gothic literature, Scottish-literature-that’s-somehow-not-gothic, a part I like to call “America Fuck Yeah!” and after that the remainder’s supposed to be English- only you can probably see my beloved To Kill A Mockingbird chilling next to Shakespeare- whatever, if I’d put it somewhere else, looking at the height difference would have killed me.

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Okay the first book on this shelf was a gift and I’ve not read it- it does look great- but I don’t tend to read author biographies- I’ll get to it one day STOP GUILT TRIPPING ME BRAIN! Moving on, we’ve got good ol’ Norton Theory, next to some sheer awesomeness in the way of Shakespeare, Austen, Chaucer (incidentally you can hurt your back carrying those to uni- word to the wise, download backups on your kindle!). Annnd after that’s my very modest classics collection, followed by some poetry. I definitely want to bring attention to my *gorgeous* copy of Blake at the end- it’s the Tate edition, very artistic and really compact! (great for travelling, just sayin’)

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I also have these on another shelf cos WHERE DOES ONE PUT KAFKA?

 

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JK! (mostly) And I also wanted to show off my lovely Greek Vases book- in case you didn’t know how cool I was 😉

And that’s all for now- hope you enjoyed the sexy book pics and my ramblings 😉

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#SAVETHEPANDAS

*Not suitable for underage pandas*

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My mum and I were having a very sensible conversation the other day about how to save the pandas- this is what we came up with… or you know, we could all just donate to a reputable charity like this one. That might work too 😉

My Pratchett Journey- So Far… A Love Story

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I’m absolutely giddy for today’s post! Because today, on the day of love, I’m going to tell you the story of how I fell head over heels with Pratchett books. Believe it or not, I wasn’t always the giant orange monkey you see now. In fact, once upon a time when I was a wee uni student, two of my closest friends (hi if you’re reading!) were astounded to find that I was a barely familiar with the Discworld. Sure, I’d heard of Pratchett (who hasn’t?)- I even had vague but pleasant memories of The Wee Free Men from when I was younger- yet I’d never launched fully immersed myself in the wackiness of Pratchett’s universe. That, of course, was a mistake 😉

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it”

mort nice editionBecause I knew, the second I started reading Mort that I was reading something special. And, incidentally, so did the rest of my train carriage, where I sat for four hours, smothering laughter through my hand. I instantly fell in love with the humour. I mean, even years on, I still find myself randomly cracking up over the Great A’Tuin- a giant turtle hurtling through space with four elephants resting on its back which support the Discworld… Seriously, I just finished that sentence and I’m laughing again!  Really the jokes and wit *never* gets old.

“Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”

“Apes had it worked out. No ape would philosophize, “The mountain is, and is not.” They would think, “The banana is. I will eat the banana. There is no banana. I want another banana.”

“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods. They have not forgotten this”

hogfatherSoon I’d leapt into the rest of the series- in fact the Death series ran away with me- I couldn’t stop with that one. I absolutely loved the quirks and eccentricities of the entire world- not least of the characters! I still chuckle over the fact that Death enjoys a good curry- that is so quintessentially English and I love it!! (chicken tikka masala is the national dish after all). Plus, oh my goodness, the stories are so unconventional! If you’re looking for a different Christmas story, you won’t get anything better than the Hogfather.

“Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom”

witches abroadAnd actually that leads me onto the pure genius of the ideas. Not only is Hogfather a lovingly satirical take on the way we all act around Christmas, but it also gets right into the heart of the love of stories. Actually, this is a running theme with Pratchett- and is especially noticeable in the witch’s plots, such as the play with fairy tales in Witches Abroad and the *double double toil and trouble* Shakespearean mischief of Lords and Ladies. It’s this complexity and depth which makes the series *so awesome*.

“HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.”

going postalAs you know, I absolutely *love* satire, and this is such witty and intelligent fare. And on such varied topics as well! Sometimes it’s simply about some good fantasy tropes like dragons in Guards, Guards. Sometimes it’s on a much larger scale, like questions around war, in Jingo. And sometimes books like Going Postal are just about that weird British obsession with the post office dammit- incidentally this is one of my favourites and the only one I’ve reviewed.

“What kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter.” 

guards-guardsAnd yet there’s more to it than all that. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love time and again with so many bonkers, wacky and fun characters from the series! If they were simply flat archetypes for satirical fodder, they wouldn’t be half as endearing as they are. But no! They are so much deeper than that. Death, the anthropomorphic personification of death, doesn’t just exist as a vehicle for the plot- NO!– he actually comes to learn about and sympathise with humanity. Vimes, the slightly world weary copper, who manages to upstage everyone with his unbending sense of right and wrong. Granny “I can’t be having with that kind of thing” Weatherwax, who takes common sense to a whole new level. Vetinari is the kind of despotic politician I can admire (thank you Sir P for giving me the opportunity to utter such odd sentences). Then there’s other favourites like the Death of Rats, Susan and Moist. And lastly, but certainly not least…

“Ook.”

unseen academicalsThe Librarian- who inspired me to create this blog! For those of you who don’t know, the Librarian is one of my favourite Discworld characters. My monkey owes its existence to the great big monkey in the sky… or something (*ahem* that sounded more poetic in my head…) Say hello to my little friend!

“If you try to to take my bananas from me, I will reclaim them from your cold dead hands.”

shepherd's crownAnd so we’re coming to the end of my journey so far… And the fact that I can say “so far” is something else that I’m happy about. Because, as I mentioned a couple of weeks back, I’m not done yet- and that only makes me more excited!! I have heard so many wonderful things about books I haven’t got to- not least the Shepherd’s Crown– and I’ve got to say I can’t wait!

So have you read Pratchett? Are you inspired to pick any up now? Let me know in the comments!

Can we enjoy propagandistic art?

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It’s something I’ve been mulling over for a time and I’m not sure I’ve reached any satisfying conclusions. In fact, I’ve been puzzling over what even is propaganda– some definitions seem too narrow and some too broad. I’ve heard some weird things (some that would imply the only way to not be a propagandist is a to be a pantser), yet rather than talk on anecdotal evidence, let’s look at a definition, because I like definitions, as un-definitive as they often are:

information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.”

grapes of wrathOkay now we’re getting somewhere- if we focus on the misleading/biased element of this definition, most artists can be let off the hook. Yet, still there’s room for some, like Steinbeck with his pro-socialism bias. And not just a casual bias (for someone’s certainly going to argue “aren’t we all biased?”) but a conscious bias. There is no doubt, for instance, of the messaging in Grapes of Wrath. Now I’ve often joked that “when you can write like Steinbeck you can write what you like”- but the inescapable truth is he was trying to convey a political message in an emotive and ergo manipulative manner. Maybe the term is apt.

Here we get to the crux of the issue- because stating all of this will make many recoil in disgust. Either from my arguments, with a design to spare poor Steinbeck this label, or from his beautiful work, which is not my intention. It would, however, be a shame that reasoned individuals would fail to see the wood for the trees simply because the term is distasteful. It would be even more of a shame if art was dismissed entirely on these grounds.

Granted, not all propaganda is beautiful or interesting or worth examining- but then nor is a lot of art. I will not make the argument that all propaganda has merit- indeed I have a particular dislike for the Soviet or Nazi brands for instance- yet some, as I’ve mentioned, is very aesthetically pleasing. Take, for instance, the Roman propaganda machine. From the Republic to the last of the Emperors, they constructed divine monuments to display their power and beliefs. One of my favourite ancient monuments, the Ara Pacis, is designed purely to show the peace and prosperity of a new saeculum aureum under Augustus. Its friezes depict scenes of tranquillity and fertility- but make no mistake, this enters into the thorny snare of politicised art. Its very position on the Campus Martius dictated as much.

 

With that, all that remains is to discuss how effective it is. And the truth is I do not profess to know how susceptible people are to propaganda- especially the written kind. I have long held to the view “you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink”. Frankly, unless you have an unformed opinion, books do not subvert entire mind sets, only nudge you in a direction you were probably already headed. My own perspective is that if I’m being clobbered over the head with an idea or thought I don’t hold, I instantly pull back from it…. so maybe potential propagandists should watch out- they don’t realise how many people they’re alienating with their heavy handedness.

And that rambling point leads me to my conclusion– for if it is not effective and potentially beautiful, I cannot discount all propaganda as unartistic. Personally, as curious as I am about where the intersection of propaganda and art lies, I do not think acknowledging that it is propagandistic is the be all and end all. So, yes, I guess you can enjoy propaganda.

What do you think? Do you agree with me? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Why I’m Happy to be Positive ALWAYS

Okay I can’t actually be happy all the time, as I explained in my post about why I’m happy to be negative sometimes. Since the beginning of the year, though, I’ve been a bit of a slump, which has made me more selective about what books I pick up. On the bright side, this book diet has actually been rather slimming, because though I’m reading less, I’m reading BETTER. So I decided to share a list about why this is a good thing and why I ought to stick to this strict regimen… (even though I’d really like to be able to whizz through more books 😉 )

I’m picking up better books– thanks to you guys I’ve been able to realllly screen out a lot of books. So while my tbr is always growing, it tends to be full of books which I have a lot of high hopes for!

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It also means I’m picking the right books for me! Especially with ARCs I’m super selective about what I do pick up- which has worked out well for me personally- cos even if I end up with fewer books at least I’m confident I’ll like them 🙂 . Not everything is my thing- and that’s okay- I just have to make sure I balance out trying out new things avoiding things I know I won’t enjoy.

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And I’m picking them up at the right time! I’m a massive mood reader- so if my mood doesn’t match the story, it’ll be to the books detriment. So actually listening to my mood is helping pick up better timed books.

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Also, if I don’t feel like reading, I’m not reading– which is such a weird thing to list as positive- but I will say it’s definitely helping me be more zen about reading (well, as zen as a stressball like me can be)

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I’ve also been better at keeping things fresh this month– I’ve been trying new things, but mostly reading from different genres, which has helped with the monotony I felt from reading too many series back to back last year.

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It’s FUN– I know I made this point in my post about negativity- yet let’s be fair it’s much more fun to enjoy yourself! Well, while it lasts…

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I feel AWESOME after I’ve written a positive review. It’s nice to spread a little joy and it’s cathartic in a different kind of way. I hope you’re all enjoying my excitement. Cos…

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Who doesn’t like a happy, satisfied monkey? I’ve been showering books with so many bananas that I’m feeling rather sated. Long may it last!!

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So do you agree with me? Disagree? Do you think reading fewer books can be better? Let me know in the comments!

All the ways you can shoehorn politics into your book

Hello!! After my post yesterday, I thought it might be fun to talk about all the ways you can (and some of the ways I’ve seen) shoehorn politics into books- enjoy!

Usual *disclaimers* that this is satire and should not be taken too seriously applies…

First and foremost, let’s address the elephant in the room: Donald Trump is ORANGE- and there’s no way that joke’s been overused- so make it at least five times. For no reason. Preferably with cheerleaders over lunch. Because cheerleaders are very politically engaged.

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Yeah laugh it up… but all us orangutans are *offended*

While we’re at it these high schoolers are having a normal conversation and then BAM *moralising*. It’s been a lonnng time since I’ve mentioned this but you can and you must *insert the most banal opinions* into dialogue. Preferably something that virtue signals just how on message the author is and strawmans the opposing view. My favourite is the good, old-fashioned “war is bad”. You can follow this up with “yes, but it’s necessary”, then “but it’s b-a-d”. Etcetera, etcetera, until the bell tolls.

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Well done, have a pat on the back

Oh look, your character has litter- and you know what that means don’t you… GLOBAL WARMING (of course there are several stages in between, but who cares, what is science anyway) And you know when I’m reading a fluffy teen romance, I want to be reminded that the polar ice caps are melting. Please, tell me more. Time for a page long monologue while they walk the halls…

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Remember: “catch it, bin it, kill it”- put that on your book’s tagline 😉

Now your character is sitting in class. Perfect time for some internal thoughts! Perhaps akin to: “Something, something, red button, something something, we’re all gonna die… oh is that a hot guy! Never mind.” That’s called stream of consciousness and it’s for only the smartest writers!

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BREXIT (there’s no punchline, just put that in and leave your reader to squirm)

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Also, the teacher gets to use their lesson as a soapbox for their political views- YAY MORE MORALISING! (actually this happens … I don’t know why I’m being so sarky about books for, they’re kinda just representing the politicisation of everyday life- which means all of the above is actually just representing real life- which makes me wonder WHAT THE HELL is happening in the real world arghhhh)

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Annnd that’s all I have for now! What other ways do you think politics can be shoehorned into a book? Let me know in the comments!

Politicked Out

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Well here’s something I’m not sure many people on here know: I’m obsessed with politics. It’s pretty hard to get me to shut up about it in real life and I follow a lot of it (too much). So by rights you would assume that every time an especially political book comes out that I’d be excited to read it… but that’s not the case at all.

You see, what with all the podcasts and articles I read, I can’t say I’m especially excited to read books that moralise to me about matters that I’m pretty sure they know nothing about (well the arguments often use generally betray that)

Now I’m not talking about books where it’s pretty clear that they’ll be political- especially non-fiction– because they’re “does what it says on the tin” kind of books. And if you pick up a can of beans and are disappointed when you find that it is in fact a can of beans, then that’s on you. All I can say about that is I went about 6 months subconsciously avoiding any fiction which is overtly political– and now that I know I’m doing it, I’m gonna keep at it deliberately.

Because the truth is- and forgive me for making the political personal- I’m a bit tired of it all. I’m tired of the constant intrusion of politics into art, I’m tired of the fact I can’t go five minutes without being clobbered over the head with someone’s view, I’m tired of feeling like there’s a good chance I’ll have to defend my political views or skirt over it entirely if I do decide to share my thoughts on a book. For goodness sakes- I’m a book reviewer- not an economist, not a social commentator, not a politician.

Yet there seems to be a movement of people- especially in the contemporary world- who are determined to bring messages into books, make every romance political, overpower us all with their propagandistic flair. *Newsflash*: that’s not how it works, nor how it should work (crazy idea, I know, but if you want to be informed you have to read some pretty boring things). I don’t think anyone’s mind was ever changed by a throwaway line in a fluffy romance… just sayin’.

And what I’ve found is that when it comes to reviewing books which have sneak attack politics embedded into their core is that I don’t feel comfortable objectively discussing what I had an issue with– which makes my job as a reviewer nigh on impossible. I can’t lie and I can’t get into the ins and outs without writing an off-topic essay. And I don’t especially want to (see above: not a politician, don’t want to be either). Nor do I fancy being dragged over the coals for my political views. It’s not really relevant.

Of course, everyone has the right to read what they want; everyone has the right to write what they want. All I’ll say, for people planning on shoehorning politics into their books, spare a thought for us poor political junkies who might end up reading it. It’s not necessary all the damn time.

Apologies for the rant, just needed to get all this off my chest. I’ll leave you with this:

What do you feel about politics in books? Yay or nay? Let me know in the comments!