Fanquilting: From Book to Quilt

Well, it was my birthday last week, and I wanted to share with you my number one present. For who knows how many hours, my mum has been secretly sewing away to make this amazing quilt inspired by Hidden Dawn.

I’ve long held the belief that my mum can pretty much do anything with a sewing machine. We had a huge trunk full of costumes when I was a kid, and I mean proper costumes, full-blown Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters, all made by her. There is no challenge – no Halloween school disco, no instrument cover, no awning, no yardage of bunting – that she won’t accept. And I’m still trying to process how completely amazing this quilt is.

It is, apparently, in the ‘flying geese’ design, with a teal background on the front and a sky-blue back (my favourite colours). Then she has gone material-scouting to find a range of patterns and colours that reminded her of my book. Around the border is a murky forest floor colour with silhouettes of antlers just visible through the gloom. The geese themselves are then patterns of trees, leaves, flowers and ferns, with water and wind geese, vast blue skies and the fiery oranges of all those sunrises that are endemic in Hidden Dawn. It all combines to bring a patch of Canadian wilderness into my den, and a bit of fiction magic.

I know fans can do extraordinary things to celebrate their favourite books – artwork, fanfiction, craftwork, cosplay – and I love the fact that one act of creativity can spawn a cascade of other acts of creativity. It’s a truly allelomimetic behaviour. The imagination is a contagious thing. But I’m left in no doubt as to who my number one fan is. Thanks, Mum!

Hidden Dawn Gets a Copyedit

Well, it’s taken me an age and a half, but I have finally managed to copyedit my book Hidden Dawn. Funnily enough, I have been unable to do it because I’ve been copyediting other people’s books (my day job)!

Of course, I “proofread” my book before I first published it, but clearly did a rubbish job because there were some very obvious and embarrassing errors in there. My excuse is that I was exhausted from writing it back then and just wanted to get it published and over with, but it’s been a year and a half now, so I’m well refreshed! Also, and I really stress this, YOU SHOULD NEVER EVER COPYEDIT OR PROOFREAD YOUR OWN BOOK. NO MATTER HOW BRILLIANT YOU ARE, YOU WILL NOT SEE EVERYTHING. Even if you get a friend who likes reading to read through your book for typos, this is ten times more effective than doing it yourself. As the creator, you are far FAR too close to the writing. You know what’s happening and what’s coming up, so your brain will do the brilliant thing that human brains do, and make the reading process as efficient as possible by drawing on memories and stored knowledge, and thereby allowing itself to skip over the detail in each sentence. The brain, demonstrating another of its brilliant skills, will do this without making you consciously aware of it, so no matter how hard you concentrate, you will always miss something, and probably several things. Just like I did, and I’m a professional copyeditor!

Do as I say and not as I do, of course, but I am an impoverished freelancer who cannot afford someone to copyedit such a long book. If you are in the same position, like I say, at least get a close friend who is good at English to read it, because they will see things your brain simply will not allow you to see. I do this for a living, however, so I know what I’m looking for and I have learnt to be objective when I need to be. I also have an extremely astute eye for detail. I’m the kind of person who can walk into a room and know exactly what object is out of place from my previous visit. So what I’m trying to say is, my book should be totally error-free now.

The latest version of Hidden Dawn is on Amazon, so it should automatically update on your ereader, but if you want to make sure, just delete it from your library and re-download it from Amazon. Easy peasy.

And please do accept my apologies for those clangers you had to sit through in the old version. I promise I have done a far better job this time around!

Birthday Haul 2018

I’m not one for big birthday celebrations, but there is something about my birthday I do get excited about – books and games galore! I’m very lucky to have some very generous donors to my collection, so I thought I’d share my haul with you.

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I’m a huge fan of the TimeRiders series by Alex Scarrow. In fact, it’s probably my favourite YA time-travelling series, as there’s a lot of detail in the actual mechanics of the time-travelling. A lot of books just skip over the technicalities and the inherent difficulties and paradoxes, but Scarrow faces up to them, which makes the suspension of disbelief a total breeze. They are also quite gritty and have some challenging issues in them. Here you can see books 6, 7, 8 and 9 to complete my collection.

I came to Andrzej Sapkowski through the game The Witcher 3, which is definitely fighting for top spot on my list of all-time favourite games. Alas, The Witcher 3 picks up on Geralt’s story part way through, with two preceding games. However, I’m massively put off going backwards in a series of games because of crappier graphics and gameplay. I think the only game series I’ve done that for without too much regret is Assassin’s Creed, after starting on Black Flag. So I thought I’d catch up with Geralt’s story by reading the books that the game was based on. No regrets in doing that at all! They’re actually really brilliant books told in a lovely narrative style, so I’ve now completed my collection with these five.

I also got Ready Player One, which I want to read before I watch the film (most important!) and A Court of Frost and Starlight. I’m a big fan of Sarah J. Maas (although recently I’ve not been so wowed by here stories as I was with the earlier titles), but I’ve heard some quite bad reviews of this relatively short instalment. Apparently, it just follows the characters going shopping and eating dinner, but I shall reserve judgement until I’ve read it myself.

I also bagged a couple of gaming presents. I’ve been excited for God of War for a long time now, even though I haven’t played any previous titles in the franchise (again, I don’t look back in gaming). But I absolutely LOVE Norse mythology, and Kratos sounds a lot like me – permanently grumpy! I’m going to read the Neil Gaiman Norse Mythology book first so that I’ve had a refresher course and can understand as many references as possible. My other gaming present is a face mask as modelled by Aiden Pearce in the game Watch Dogs, another big favourite of mine. I know what I’m sporting this winter!

I’m very happy that my mum dug deep into my Amazon wishlist and found this little beauty that I’d added as a “would be nice but probably can never justify buying” item. It’s a beautiful illustrated edition of a complete collection of Winnie-the-Pooh. And it’s flipping gorgeous! I have very distinct memories of being read Winnie-the-Pooh when I was a child, so this has great sentimental value for me too. I shall enjoy this little jaunt down Memory Lane!

Twenty Questions Book Tag

Well, this is exciting. This is officially my first book tag, which I have half-inched off the lovely Lauren at Books are Only the Beginning. Prepare yourself for an insight into my soul …

How many books is too many books in a series?

This is probably the question I’ve pondered over the longest. I think it really depends. Some series I’m happy to finish after three books, some I’m happy to keep reading through twelve or fifteen or fifty books. Erin Hunter’s Warrior series, for example, just goes on and on and on (I currently have about thirty books), and I’m very happy to keep consuming every volume. But then, something like The Hunger Games is perfect as a trilogy. I guess it’s the same as films vs. TV series. Some stories/worlds lend themselves to lengthy serialisation, while others do best as fewer feature-length instalments. So, in effect, I can’t give you a good answer to this question. One answer does not fit all!

How do you feel about cliffhangers?

I bloody hate them! Unless, of course, I can move straight on to the next book. I’m like that with TV series too. I can’t watch them “live” on TV, one episode a week. I have to wait until the entire run has finished, buy the box set and binge my way through the lot. If a book is part of a series, I tend to start in after a few of the books have come out, but I rarely read straight through as series, one book consecutively after another, because I’m desperate to resolve cliffhangers in other series!

Hardback or paperback?

Oh, how I’d love to afford to buy all my books in hardback, but alas. Most of my books are paperback, but if I read a paperback series and really like it, I might also buy the hardbacks. For example, I have His Dark Materials in both the original paperbacks I read back in the day and the beautiful twentieth anniversary hardback editions. What really peeves me, however, is when a series starts out just paperback, then the publisher realises they can make more money by releasing a hardback first for the rest of the series, but because I have all the previous books in paperback, I can’t just switch to hardback and have half paperback, half hardback. That would upset my shelves. So I end up having to wait six months to a year to get the paperback version. Very tedious.

Favourite book?

I haven’t found it yet.

Least favourite book?

Yikes. I don’t think I have one. I didn’t get on with Watership Down, not because of the dying rabbits, but I actually found it really dull. It probably has its merits. But I don’t think I’ve actually hated a book so much as to declare it my least favourite. It’s more a case of books being forgettable, so if I do have a least favourite, I’ve probably forgotten it.

Love triangles, yes or no?

NOOOOOOO! I’m not a fan of romance anyway. I’m more of an action and mystery girl, with more interest is worlds and parameters than relationships, particularly romantic ones. I want to change the world for everyone, not just two people (or three in a triangle). Plus, I think it’s really quite dangerous to portray unrealistic romantic scenarios to young women and girls. It encourages them to reach for the unreachable and place excessive importance on romantic involvement when there is a lot more to life and their potential in other areas of it. And don’t forget, somebody in that triangle is going to get hurt, and should we really be encouraging girls to aspire to damage others?

The most recent book you just couldn’t finish?

Snow Like Ashes. I did actually finish this one book, but it is part of a series, and there’s no way I’m reading any more. I still devote time to wondering how this utterly unoriginal and dully written twaddle got a publishing deal (and such a nice cover!). You can read my review of Snow Like Ashes here. I don’t think I have ever not finished a book … If I have, I don’t remember them. I like to give everything a fair go, and I like to read to the end to give a book a fair trial, but I will abandon a series if the first book doesn’t do it for me.

A book you’re currently reading?

I’m currently reading Echoes by Laura Tisdall. Turns out she grew up just down the road from where I live! I’m about a third of the way through, and so far I’m hooked. I’m really relating to the main character, who has problems with over-sensitivity, like me, and the story is about the hackersphere and mysteriously vanishing hackers. It’s wonderfully refreshing!

Last book you recommended to someone?

Hmmm. Well, the last book I reviewed was Rebel of the Sands, and I would recommend reading that. Alas, I don’t have many (or any) friends who also read the same kind of books I do, so I don’t do much recommending out loud.

Oldest book you’ve read?

Well, I was made to read Beowulf when I was about eleven in school. Didn’t follow it at all, totally confused the whole way through. This is the problem with introducing “the classics” to children too young. If it’s inaccessible and they don’t relate, you risk turning them off the classics forever. I think that’s what happened to me.

Newest book you’ve read?

Probably La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman actually. There are very few books that I would actually rush out and buy on release day, but I had that one pre-ordered. I’ve just realised I haven’t done a review of it. Oops!

Favourite author?

I haven’t found him/her yet. There are some authors I like better than others, but I haven’t found myself to be devoted enough to anyone to call them my favourite. But that’s the problem with me, I’m always looking, probably for the impossible. I feel like my theme song is “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2. I am never satisfied, which I know is a bad thing, but that’s the way I’m built.

Buying books or borrowing books?

Oh, buying. Definitely, buying. I am extremely particular about the condition of my books. It makes me physically sick to see broken spines, bent covers and dog ears, and it can often feel like no one else seems to share this reverence and respect for books. It is also for this reason that I NEVER lend my books to anyone. I’ve done it in the past, and I was badly bitten and had to replace my copies. I wouldn’t even let anyone touch my books, to be honest.

A book you dislike that everyone seems to love?

Pretty much any neo-gothic romance type book with unrealistic love interests and swooning, weak females that need to be physically held up by unrealistic males. Or any literary type book, you know, the kind that manages to waffle on for hundreds of pages without actually having any plot. I just don’t get it.

Bookmarks or dog-ears?

I cannot even begin to express how much pain the defacement of books causes me. Bookmarks. Bookmarks. Bookmarks. There is no other alternative. And I love bookmarks in their own right. I have a small collection, and if I go anywhere and find an interesting bookmark, I have to have it. Chances are I’ll like it too much to actually use it, but that doesn’t matter. I have a small stock of “usable” bookmarks that I do use as actual bookmarks.

A book you can always re-read?

Anything Jane Austen. I know it’s a cliche, but aside from brilliantly woven plots and Austen’s trademark tongue-in-cheek, archetype-ribbing, I re-read an Austen novel whenever I feel like my language is getting a bit plain and unoriginal. It instantly upgrades by vocabulary and the way I construct sentences, so it does actually serve a purpose.

Can you read while hearing music?

Unfortunately not. I would love to be able to multitask my hobbies, but my brain seems to be attuned to rhythms and melodies, and it becomes completely absorbed by them. I certainly can’t listen to music that I know the words to. It seems singing has a greater priority in my brain than reading! The best I can do is listen to background noises, like forest sounds or river sounds or thunderstorm sounds.

One POV or multiple POVs?

Definitely one. How I struggled through Game of Thrones! Fortunately, I listened to GoT rather than read it. I probably would have given up if I’d read it. I just hate having to sit through POVs that I don’t particularly like in order to get back to the POVs that I do like. It makes me start to resent books. Plus, I really like to get to know a character right down into their deepest depths, that’s where I can start caring about them, and I don’t think you can really do that if you’re skipping about over multiple POVs. I’m like that in real life too. I’d far rather have a handful of very close friends who I know very well than a large group of acquaintances.

Do you read a book in one sitting or over multiple days?

Oh, how I’d love to be a quick reader! What I wouldn’t give! Unfortunately, I’m a plodder. I like to read “aloud” in my head as if I was being read to by a narrator, to really absorb every tiny detail. It may have something to do with my line of work in proofreading and copyediting, but I’m a details person. Plus, I just don’t have the time to sit and read for a day.

A book you’ve read because of the cover?

Again, Snow Like Ashes, and, boy, did I regret it! I also got Rebel of the Sands because of the cover, probably one of the nicest covers I’ve seen, but that wasn’t such a disappointment. I have to say, I’m quite susceptible to a nice cover, so wrap your turds in pretty wrappings and I’ll read it. I would like to say, however, that I’ve read plenty of great books with crappy covers that I absolutely hate displaying on my shelves, so it balances out.

~

Phew! Thank you if you managed to get through all that! It was actually lots of fun, so I’ll do more of these in the future. If you want to do this book tag yourself, here are all twenty questions without my wafflings in between:

How many books is too many books in a series?
How do you feel about cliffhangers?
Hardback or paperback?
Favourite book?
Least favourite book?
Love triangles, yes or no?
The most recent book you just couldn’t finish?
A book you’re currently reading?
Last book you recommended to someone?
Oldest book you’ve read?
Newest book you’ve read?
Favourite author?
Buying books or borrowing books?
A book you dislike that everyone seem to love?
Bookmarks or dog-ears?
A book you can always re-read?
Can you read while hearing music?
One POV or multiple POVs?
Do you read a book in one sitting or over multiple days?
A book you’ve read because of the cover?

Five Books That Changed My Life

No, don’t worry. There’s nothing particularly worthy on this list. This post is not designed to shame you, but rather to give you a bit of insight into the books that had a great impact on me, perhaps great enough that they shaped the course of my life in some way.

1. Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd

See, I told you it wasn’t worthy! Whenever I think back to the books of my early childhood, Hairy Maclary and his band of wonderfully rhymingly named friends really stick out to me. I’ve always been a fan of dogs and all animals with two or four legs, but there is something I particularly like about books written from the point of view of animals. Humans are complicated creatures that I still haven’t worked out yet, but authors who write about animals have a gift for observing the world in its simplest terms. They can just cut to the core of existence and get rid of all the baggage we humans like to carry. If something we do is weird or destructive, they’ll say so.

I don’t want to get too philosophical here, after all these are just fun picture books, but it is safe to say that I have some very fond memories of my mum reading me these books. I particularly remember her impression of Scarface Claw, the toughest tom in town. We would make loud hissing and spitting sounds together that entertained me endlessly. And I think that’s the point really. If you introduce your child to the delight and wonder of reading at an early age, it will stick with them for ever. And what a wonderful gift that is to give someone. Thanks, Mum!

2. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

When I was about 9 or 10 years old, I started to go off reading. At my school, we had shelves of books in each classroom that we were dutifully supposed to borrow from, but I guess nothing there really inspired me. I remember struggling through my SATs tests because one of the tests was to write a coherent story, but my creativity levels were at an all-time low. My teacher probably didn’t help, because she was extremely disparaging about the books I did try to read, about animal rescues and the like. She wanted me to read much more worthy titles, and anyone who has been forced to read literary “classics” as part of the school curriculum may know just how much that discourages you from reading at all.

So, my dislike of reading continued until one day my mum brought me home an adult high-fantasy book called Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. I completely devoured it and read straight through the next two books in the series, too. I’d never got attached to a character in a book as much as I was attached to Fitz, so this book not only rekindled my interest in reading, it also introduced me to the idea that characters were there to actually become emotionally involved with. It was like my empathy for fictitious characters suddenly kicked in, and I was away, completely sold on the idea of reading again. To this day, being emotionally involved with the POV character is absolutely essential to my enjoyment of a book. And, crucially, this was the book that inspired me to actually write my own story, my first full-length story when I was about 13 or 14. So, once again, thanks, Mum!

3. Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce

Not long after Robin Hobb came Tamora Pierce. I have very distinct memories of reading her books with my best friend at school when we were about 13 or 14. She and I were very similar in that we both wanted to be adventurers. We both loved Lara Croft and films like The Fifth Element that have very strong female leads. This was very early in the 21st century, so us girls were still very much subject to gender stereotypes. At the school I went to, girls were expected to do English Lit, Art and Theatre Studies at A-level. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these subjects, but there is absolutely something wrong with the expectation that girls should just study the arts and leave the sciences to the boys. We were also under the reign of the “popular” girls, who were all very girly girls and thought of little else other than how they looked and which boy they were going out with.

So, when my friend and I found Tamora Pierce, it was like the sky had split open and the world was turned upside down. Here was a girl, Alanna of Trebond, who dared to have the ambitions of a boy, to dress up as a boy, to do as well as a boy and to go on daring adventures. It was utterly inspiring, and more importantly, it was aspiring. Tamora showed us girls trapped in a world of stereotypes that we didn’t have to stay trapped if we didn’t want to. I say this list isn’t worthy, but what more important lesson could a girl learn these days? You are equal, you are valuable, you matter, you can choose to do whatever you want, and you don’t have to accept the limits that other people place upon you. Song of the Lioness is a defining piece of literature in my life.

4. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Yes, yes, I know. It’s a bit of an obvious and unoriginal choice, but this might not be for the obvious and unoriginal reasons you are expecting. Harry Potter is not only important to me, it is important to everyone. It has become deeply embedded in our culture, and if you haven’t read the books, or at least watched the films, I really don’t know how you survive the average conversation without becoming totally confused.

However, for me, there’s another layer of significance here that deeply impacted my life. Harry Potter introduced me to fandoms and the idea of being a fan of something, really, being more than just a casual fan. The definition of a geek is “a knowledgeable and obsessive enthusiast” of something, and all of a sudden, it became acceptable to be a geek. The rise of the fandoms in the age of the internet and subsequent social media is a direct cause for the rise of the modern geek, something that is now considered cool to call oneself. This is a liberating turn in our culture. We’ve all been able to come out of our geek closets and admit that we actually really like something, and we like to collect objects and information that pertain to that something. No more do we have to hide our collections in the garden shed or temper our public displays of affection and enthusiasm. Harry Potter was the start of a chain of events that mean it is now cool to engage with and know a lot about something. Harry Potter is the reason I have a snorlax plush on my desk. Harry Potter is the reason I meet with my friends in restaurants to discuss the latest computer games. Harry Potter is the reason I go to Comic Con and cosplay as my favourite fictional characters. Harry Potter is the reason I display every other fun, unworthy book I own in my house with pride. Harry Potter is the reason I don’t have to feel ashamed to be me and love the things that I love any more. That is why these books are so important to me.

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Okay, so here is my one slightly worthy contribution to this list, but I’m not going to go into the traditional lit crit essay you can find in any study guide. There is a very specific reason why Jane Austen is on my list, and it has nothing to do with Mr Darcy. Pride and Prejudice is on my list because it’s the first JA book that I actually read, rather than just watching the TV and film adaptations, and it taught me a very important lesson in my writing. It taught me to upgrade my vocabulary. Whenever I feel myself getting a bit beige with my language or a bit inarticulate, I read a bit of Jane Austen, because every time I do, my language and powers of articulation suddenly increase tenfold.

I think it’s very easy to slip into bland words and common expressions because these days the most common use of language is to convey information in the shortest and most transparent way possible. Text messages, for instance, emails, news bulletins, tweets. Nobody has time any more to really take time to explore and use the more obscure words and phrases in our language. The English language has around 170,000 words in it, but the average adult English speaker has a vocabulary of about 20,000, and much of this is passive vocabulary that they understand but don’t actually use.

I’m not trying to tell you all that you’re not trying hard enough or that you are stupid or lazy, or for that matter that I am wonderfully articulate and learned. What I’m saying is that by reading the language used by Jane Austen, I’ve become more confident to increase the complexity of my own language, because people can still understand me. That’s what I’m saying: that readers are more intelligent than they are often given credit for in fiction.

What I like about Jane Austen is that it stretches my linguistic muscles. The words and sentences and expressions themselves are part of the enjoyment of the book, not just the clever plots and dashing heroes. She pushes and challenges me to think more about my language, be more conscious about the things I write and the way I express myself. She has taught me to love my language and find words interesting and write them down so that I can use them somewhere in conversation or in writing. And for that reason, Pride and Pred had to be on my list.

Happy Winter Solstice

Happy winter solstice one and all!

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As a nyctophile and a chionophile, this is a good time of year for me. We don’t celebrate Christmas in my household, but because almost all Christmas traditions are descended from pagan mid-winter festivals, you’d never tell! We have a tree with decorations, and fairy lights around the house, and we have a big feast on the solstice. The only thing I don’t allow is cake with fruit in it. Because that’s just wrong.

So why do we celebrate solstice?

Well, for a start we are atheists. Of course, I don’t think it’s wrong to celebrate Christmas if you aren’t a christian, but Christmas has become extremely commercialised in recent years. Really, this is what put me off Christmas. Endless adverts programming you to buy, buy, buy or risk disappointing all the people that matter to you. I will not be dictated to by retailers and fat cats. I retain the right to control my own purse strings. It’s for this reason that I don’t engage in other commercial holidays like Black Friday. My computer and TV get turned off on those days. I will spend my cash on what I want, when I want.

So, by celebrating a commercially unrecognised holiday, I don’t have to deal with this retailer rubbish. I’m taking those sentiments that were once associated with mid-winter festivals, and are now associated with Christmas, and removing the negativity and the pressure and the Chinese container ships full of tat. It’s a much more enjoyable time then. It’s about family, friends, feasting and, of course, celebrating the turning of the year and the cycle of the seasons.

Whatever festivals you celebrate through winter, I hope you have a wonderful time. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year.

FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT MY BOOKSHELVES: #5

5. I do have multiple copies of the same book

As an appendix to my previous point, I would like to add that I do legitimately and quite happily possess multiple copies of the same book. Why? Because these books are my bestest friends of all.

You know those feelings of nostalgia and strong attachment I was talking about in point 3? They are particularly intense for these books. Usually, this takes the form of the original books that I read, most likely in a mass market paperback format that I can’t bear to part with because of the emotional attachment I have to that first reading, plus beautifully produced hardback/anniversary/celebratory reprint editions that I ooo and ahh over and have been known to stroke and reverently leaf through.

his-dark-materials

My original turn of the century paperback editions of His Dark Material alongside the delicious 20th anniversary hardback editions. I love them both dearly.

One series has gotten a bit out of hand, mind you, and that’s Harry Potter. I have no less than eight versions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone in the US). They are:

  1. the original hardback
  2. the Clare Melinsky cover art hardback edition published in Nov 2011
  3. the Jim Kay illustrated edition
  4. the 20th anniversary Ravenclaw hardback edition
  5. the Spanish edition
  6. the Italian edition
  7. the Chinese edition
  8. the Latin edition

harry-potter-collection

And yes, I can read it in all those versions. I also have the audiobook read by Stephen Fry, which is like melted chocolate in my ears. The long and short is, I will literally pay Bloomsbury (UK publisher) over and over and over again for the same content in a different format. And I don’t care! Frankly, I can’t get enough of Harry Potter, so I don’t believe for a second that those eight will be the limit of my collection. But like any collector, a collection gives me such joy inside, and my HP books have definitely gone beyond my usual originals plus aesthetically pleasing editions and now reside under the heading of a collection.

So there you have it. Five confessions of a proud bookaholic. My shelves bring me joy and nostalgia and thrilling possibilities, and I wouldn’t change them for the world.

I’d love to hear your bookshelf rules and secrets, so please comment! X

Five Things You Should Know about My Bookshelves: #4

Now, slight gripage here.

4. One series, one cover style

To all those publishers who decide to change the cover style of books in a series partway through the publication of a series, I both despise and admire you.

I despise you because I can’t stand having books on my shelves that are in a single series but have multiple cover styles. Puffin, you are particularly guilty of this, but the rest of you are not exempt from the circumference of my bile. What’s the matter? Too much marketing budget? Too much boredom amongst the design department? Whatever your excuse is, I’m sure it’s both lame and unnecessary. It is vexing. You are VEXING me. The sight of a line-up of coherently designed titles is internally satisfying to me and promotes healthy and generous emotions towards publishers. The sight of a mishmash of different styles and, horror, different sizes forces me to think incredibly ungenerous things in your direction. Stop it. Stop it NOW.

eon

I love this duo, Eon and Eona. But why, oh, WHY are the two spines totally inconsistent?

power-of-five

I haven’t even been able to bring myself to buy the fifth book in Anthony Horowitz’s The Power of Five series. A massive hiatus between books four and five naturally meant a total cover overhaul for book five.

dan-brown

Just no. Cover overhaul and a size difference. This makes my eyes hurt.

Amongst all this vexation, I do also have to admire your dark schemes. Because as soon as you change your cover designs partway through a series, people like me who are disturbed at the sight of inconsistency will rush out and purchase all the preceding titles again. Ka-ching! We are the cows you can keep on milking. I should point out that I admire you in the same way as I admire the devious machinations of a dastardly villain, but it is admiration nonetheless.

So, still, stop it. Stop it NOW.

Five Things You Should Know about My Bookshelves: #3

Alright, tissues at the ready for this one. I was properly raining by the time I’d finished writing.

3. My books are my friends

Congratulations if your book has earned a permanent spot on my bookshelves. That means that I like you. Or, at least, I like your book.

One cannot be impractical about these things. There’s only so much space in my house, there are only so many bookshelves in my house. The space is limited. But there will always be room for those books that have had a profound impact on me. Usually because the characters and the stories and the worlds really resonated with me, but also because they remind me of when I first read them.

They give me a warm sense of nostalgia, like endless summer holidays or post-Christmas comfort, or books that got me back into reading after a dry spell or books that got me through tough times and illnesses, or books I devoured with my best friend at school and we couldn’t get enough of them and we couldn’t be enough like the heroes and that’s what we were going to be when we were adults.

artemis-fowl

My step mum brought me my first Artemis Fowl book (the gold one fourth from the right) when I was in hospital feeling miserable. I treasure it to this day and got it signed by Eoin Colfer.


tamora-pierce

My best friend and I were obsessed with Tamora Pierce books. We wanted to be just like Alanna.

Of course, we never did turn out like those heroes, but I remember it all, and it’s all part of my life and part of the environment that shaped me. I couldn’t possibly throw out any of these books; it would be like throwing out my friends from my heart. And that’s what these books are to me: they are my friends. They’ve stood by me through all the years of my life, through good times and bad, through times so tough I could barely make it through. I always had my books. I always had those places I could retreat to, even for just ten minutes before bedtime or for entire days if I needed it. They never let me down; they never abandoned me; they never gave up on me.

These special books, I will never throw them out. Even when I’m three hundred years old and my consciousness exists in a virtual reality, I will still faithfully dust them every week and remember just how much they mean to me.

Five Things You Should Know about My Bookshelves: #2

This is the mark of a true reading aficionado, I feel.

2. I will always have more books than I can read

For me, a bookshelf is not a finite entity. It is constantly moving and changing. I buy books because I like reading. But I also buy books because I like the promise of reading. A book is a container filled with limitless possibilities. I look around my room, and I don’t see reams of ink and paper. I see galaxies – worlds I have adventured through, realities I have dared to glimpse into. And universes I have yet to explore. The excitement is real – the promise of characters I haven’t met yet, parameters I have not yet considered and journeys my dreams have not yet touched. Fiction is, to me, exercise for the imagination, and in that respect, I am a fitness junky.

unfinished-series

Here are three series I’m only partway through: Andrzej Sapkowski’s marvellous eastern European fantasy saga (upon which The Witcher games are based), Alex Scarrow’s TimeRiders and Michael Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. I’ve not read the last Alex Scarrow or Michael Scott book sitting on my shelf, and I cannot tell you how thrilling it is that I haven’t read them yet. I genuinely buzz when I think about the fact that there’s more to come. Anticipation is just as satisfying as reading the last page of an excellent book. In fact, it is probably more so because there’s no disappointment or sense of ending in anticipation.

I will never EVER finish reading all the books on my shelves, and knowing that is utterly thrilling.