Friday, 30 September 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award!

I'm back, everyone! It's only been 10 days, but it feels like it's been so much longer! Really happy to be able to get back to blogging. Bear with me while I get things fully up and running again over the weekend - I haven't had any time to finish a book since my hiatus, so that's something I definitely need to do first.

But for now, it seems that while I was away I recieved The Versatile Blogger award! There are a few things to do after accepting this award, and here they are:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated me.
2. Share seven random facts about myself.
3. Pass the award on to five blogger friends.
4. Contact and Congratulate the nominated blogs.

Of course I will first thank the awesome Barbara at March House Books for the award! It was a wonderful surprise to recieve this, and I'm so grateful! :-)

As for the seven random facts about me? Okay, so there isn't much that about me that's not random, so I can't say I'm spoiled for choice! Haha. But here are a few:

- I love to keep a regular journal.
- My mum is Filipino and my dad is Welsh. I'm English.
- In 2007 I was a volunteer at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo.
- My favourite m&m colour is blue.
- I constantly wish that there really was an actual DeLorean time machine so I could travel back to 1985.
- I'm a huge Peyton Manning fan.
- I love to sing but I'm not to great at staying in tune!

Now for the five blogs that I'd love to pass this award on to:
- Niina at For The Love of Reading
- Sam at Tiny Library
- Kate at Kate Evangelista
- Evangeline at Sugarpeach
- Leah at Leah's Literature and Coffee

There you have it! See you soon, everyone.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Brief hiatus

My current university module is wrapping up and things are getting super-duper busy, so I'm going to be taking a short break from the blogging scene until around the middle or end of next week. Fear not, because it won't be all that long! And hopefully I'll be back with at least one review that isn't a manga book, haha. ;-)

Until then, take care everyone!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Review: One Piece (volume 1) by Eiichiro Oda [Manga]

A new shonen sensation in Japan, this series features Monkey D. Luffy, whose main ambition is to become a pirate. Eating the Gum-Gum Fruit gives him strange powers but also invokes the fruit's curse: anybody who consumes it can never learn to swim. Nevertheless, Monkey and his crewmate Roronoa Zoro, master of the three-sword fighting style, sail the Seven Seas of swashbuckling adventure in search of the elusive treasure "One Piece." (via Goodreads)

This is only the second manga I've read but I can already say that I am in love with the stuff now! I'm kicking myself for not reading any of it sooner! What were you thinking, self?! It's going to become an expensive extension to my book buying habits, that's for sure! Haha.

As for One Piece volume 1, well, I completely adored the story! I bought it in Waterstones after reading the first few pages, and decided that with the combination of pirates and good ol' Japanese manga humour, it would be perfect for me. But I never expected it to be this fun! The main character is called Luffy and he is this crazy, care-free, adventurous type who meets a pirate called Shanks when he is a boy, and decides from then on that he wants to become 'the king of the pirates'. Ten years later, he finally leaves his village and sets out to find himself a crew; meeting some completely loony characters in some delightfully dangerous situations along the way.

I seriously can't emphasise enough how fun One Piece volume 1 is! The storyline is off-beat and interesting, plus all the characters are as mad-as-hatters. If you love some out-there humour, then this is definitely for you. My personality can be a little (ahem) crazy, so this fit me like a glove! Plus, I loved that at the end of each chapter, there is a fun and charming extra such as how to draw your own Jolly Roger, pirate trivia, and so on. There's also a profile on the author, plus details of how the story and artwork were developed.

I can't wait to read the rest of the series!

Rating: 5 / 5

Friday, 16 September 2011

Follow Friday – #11

This week's featured blogs are
Alaskan Book Café
Librarian Mouse

Phew! I nearly didn't make it this week, but here I am!

Here's this week's question:

Q. It's that pesky magic book fairy again! She has another wish: What imaginary book world would you like to make a reality?

There are loads! But the world of Middle Earth definitely stands out the most! How amazing would it be if Hobbits, wizards and elves were real? Could do without the orcs though, heh.

What imaginery world would you make real?

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Interview with Barbara of March House Books

It's Book Blogger Appreciation Week, everyone! I was deliberating about what I could do to celebrate, and thus decided on interviewing a fellow blog blogger. So I'd like you to meet Barbara – the author of one of my very favourite blogs, March House Books Blog. She also runs her own online book shop where she sells beautiful rare, used and out-of-print children's books.

So, without further ado, here we go!

Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed Barbara! I absolutely love your blogit’s so charming and unique! What inspired you to start collecting and selling vintage children’s books, and to start writing about them on your blog? 
Thank you, Sophie. I appreciate being a part of your lovely blog.

My love of books and book shops began when I was a little girl. My dad collected back issues of the National Geographic Magazine and most Saturday mornings would find the two of us in the local second-hand book shop. Most of my ‘pocket money’ was spent in that shop and by the time I was a teenager I had a large and varied collection of books. As I got older most of them were lent to other people, given away or sold at car boot sales.

Years later an article in a magazine reminded me how much I enjoyed those Saturday mornings. The article was discussing bookselling and book collecting and several of the books mentioned were ones I had owned as a child. It was at that point I resolved to ‘find’ all the books I had loved as a child. I started by visiting second-hand book shops, charity shops and book markets but it was a very slow process so I plucked up the courage to go to a book auction. That was the beginning.

The blog is something I’ve been thinking about for a while but only got around to starting in May of this year. I wanted to share more of the illustrations from the books and although I was writing ‘articles’ for my website and including a few scans I didn’t really have the room for everything. I’m not sure what direction the blog will take but I hope to develop it further as time goes on. 

Some of the titles you post about and sell are pretty hard to come by. How do you track them down?
I still buy a lot of stock from auctions and book fairs but much more comes in from people who contact me and ask me to buy their books. A lot of the books I’m offered are fairly standard but every now and then something wonderful turns up. 

Do you have any funny stories you’d like to share about the people you’ve met along the way?
One that makes me chuckle concerns a conversation with a local auctioneer. I visited his auction rooms to bid on a collection of books by a relatively unknown (at that time) author. The auction estimate was £60 to £80 but I ended up paying a little over £950 to secure the lot. The auctioneer was astounded and sought me out after the sale to ask why on earth I had paid that kind of money for ‘worthless’ books. I ended up thinking I had made a terrible mistake but was happy to report back a few weeks later with the news that I had sold the books to a collector for a great deal more than the auction price. The look of astonishment on the auctioneer's face was worth a few sleepless nights! 

How many books do you have in stock right now? Is your own personal library just as big?
I have around 2500 books listed on my website, with approximately 2000 waiting to be catalogued. Listing is a slow process because I include a condition report and description of each book. I always intend to list more books than I do but then I find myself reading instead of listing. Yesterday I was cataloguing One Man And His Dogs by Ian Niall, a story about a Cairn Terrier called Susy. Our little Cairn Terrier, Rosie, died 2 years ago so this book really appealed to me – I ended up reading it and crying over the inevitable ending! My own collection is around the same size, with more than 300 books illustrated by Rene Cloke, about the same number of titles by Enid Blyton, plus lots of annuals and other vintage children’s books. I also have a large collection of modern 1st editions. 

What were your own favourite titles when you were a child? Do you still have them with you now?
Anything by Enid Blyton. I don’t have any of the actual copies from my childhood but have managed to replace nearly all of them. My dream is to find a book or books with my name in – after all I find lots of inscribed books so why not one of mine? 

It must be so tempting to keep some of the beautiful books you find for yourself! Are there any that you’ve found it particularly hard to part with?
It is incredibly difficult to part with any of the books but I feel lucky to be able to ‘own’ them for a short time. If it’s something I really love I will keep it for six months or so before offering for sale. I do buy books for my own collection and the very fact that I am able to sell some enables me to keep others. My husband is very good at reminding me that I am running a business as well as being a collector! 

Have you written any books of your own? If so, can we find them anywhere?
It’s very kind of you to think I might be capable of writing a book! My writing skills are poor to say the least, so although I sometimes think it would be wonderful I don’t think it will ever happen.

Apart from these gorgeous children’s books, what other genres and authors do you enjoy reading?
Everything and anything! I love the Twilight saga, Harry Potter, Jane Austen, Zoë Heller, C.S. Lewis, Grahame Oakley, Anthony Browne, Dan Brown, Daphne du Maurier, Penelope Lively, Robert Westall, Marion St John Webb, Alison Uttley, Sophie Kinsella, Natasha Solomons, Kazuo Ishiguro, Anita Brookner – the list is endless and always changing. This week's ‘bedtime reading’ is Pride and Prejudice (again), and next on my bedside table is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. 

And lastly, in honour of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, are there any other book blogs you enjoy reading and would like to give a shout-out or two to?
There are so many!
CarryUsOff Books
Bibliophile’s Corner
The Children’s War
Rich Lakin’s Blog
Deborah Lawrenson
Playing By The Book 

Thank you again for taking some time out to share with us, Barbara!
Thanks again for including me, I appreciate it very much.

Be sure to check out Barbara's blog at and her online children's book shop at

Monday, 12 September 2011

Review: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

After enduring two seasons in London, Daphne Bridgerton is no longer naive enough to believe she will be able to marry for love. But is it really too much to hope for a husband for whom she at least has some affection?

Her brother's old school friend Simon Bassett - the new Duke of Hastings - has no intention of ever marrying. However, newly returned to England, he finds himself the target of the many marriage-minded society mothers who remain convinced that reformed rakes make the best husbands.

To deflect their attention, the handsome hell-raiser proposes to Daphne that they pretend an attachment. In return, his interest in Daphne will ensure she becomes the belle of London society with suitors beating a path to her door...

There's just one problem, Daphne is now in danger of falling for a man who has no intention of making their charade a reality... (via Goodreads)

I've been eyeing Julia Quinn's books at the bookshop for quite a while now, though unable to bring myself to pay for a copy for one reason or another. So when my mum returned from the local library with three of her novels in tow, imagine my excitement! But did she live up to my expectations? Sadly, no.

This will sound a bit prejudice of me, but I was disappointed when I found out that Julia is an American writing about late 18th/early 19th century Britain. No offence to the Americans out there, but being English, this did raise alarm bells for me. However, once I saw that she graduated from Harvard I thought... well, she must have found a way to do this pretty well. Maybe she read a load of Jane Austen novels beforehand, and visited our country to get a proper gist of what 'classical' life here was really like.

But I got none of this from The Duke and I. To me, it's just a book that could rival Mills and Boon. Nothing about it appears overly intelligent or even remotely historically accurate. The historical accuracy probably wouldn't have bothered me about two years ago when I ranked Becoming Jane near the top of my 'favourite films' list, but now I'm a real stickler for detail. Anything that's far-fetched, I don't like. What's more is that the author has tried to make the prose sound regal, dignified and witty, but I just found it all boring, clichéd and repetitive.

I know I'm probably missing the point, but apparently this isn't my type of book. I'll be sure to avoid romance novels set in historical times from now on. Such a shame because I really wanted to like Julia Quinn...

But, alas!

Rating: 2 / 5

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Remembering September 11th 2001

I can't believe it's been a decade since 2,977 brave, innocent lives were taken. At the time, I was 15 years old and had just started year 11 (or 10th grade to my American friends). I remember getting on the mini bus after school and hearing the bus driver tell the chatty ones in front what had happened in America. Two of the girls on the bus were Americans and they lived on a United States Air Force base in a village near my town, so their parents were in the service and stationed over here for one reason or another. Though they seemed unconcerned with what the others relayed to them, assuming it was only a small accident, I had a feeling it could be something much worse.

The bus dropped me off around 30 minutes later and I went straight to the living room. My dad was sitting on the sofa with his feet up, watching a news channel broadcasting videos of the World Trade Center towers in New York burning black smoke. I couldn't believe what we were seeing - it was only a year before, in 2000, that me and my parents had visited New York City and stayed in the Millennium Hilton Hotel right across the street from the World Trade Center. We'd explored the underground shopping mall (where I fell in love with Sbarro pizza!) and I specifically remember pointing out a Harry Potter book to my dad when we were in Borders, thinking that it looked pretty interesting. Never then could I have imagined what would ensue the following year.

I don't remember much about the rest of the evening, except that I managed to calculate that I was finishing lunch and heading to P.E. at around the time the first attack happened (needless to say I have no idea what my other classes were that day). In school the following morning the American girls were predictably absent, and our small campus was called to a special assembly to pray together for all the victims. On September 13th, the bus pulled up to the front of the air force base to collect the Americans. Usually we would drive around the base and pick up the girls directly in front of their houses. But now they came to meet us at the gate, which was lavishly decorated with flowers of condolence from the local people.

The next few months, it was everywhere. I watched the news everyday for about a month or two, and the radio station we listened to on the bus each morning would only talk about the attacks. I put an American flag in the window of my room, and my family donated a small sum of money to the Red Cross disaster relief fund. People were kinder to each other at school, too. It was an all-girls school so you can imagine the bitchiness that went on! But for a while, it seemed to stop... or at least slow down.
Our view of the NYC skyline in Feb. 2000, from the Staten Island Ferry

So here we all are now, a decade after thousands of innocent lives were snatched from the world by the most unthinkable, pointless, twisted kind of evil. Even seeing the pictures today, I stare in sheer disbelief. It doesn't look real; it looks like something you would see in a movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Will Smith, with special effects by Weta Digital. But it did happen, and 10 years later we're still fighting a danger which has no end. I don't mean to sound overly morbid by saying that, but it's the truth. Terrorism will not stop until these disgusting people wake up from their brain-washed fantasies and cease believing that the rest of the world, including their own people, is against them and the only way to deal with this is to hate and to kill.

But, we can hope. And as is evident by the outpouring of love, unity and support that emerged right after the attacks, good is much more powerful and way easier to find in such terrible times. Today, it's important that we all stop to remember, and not try to disregard. We all need to reflect and remember those amazingly brave men and women who risked their lives to help others, and be grateful for the air that we breathe and the beauty that we see even in darkness. God rest the souls of the victims, and bless those who lost their loved ones that September day.

I won't forget.


Last week, I reviewed Artie Van Why's eyewitness 9/11 memoir, That Day In September. His story has also been featured on the BBC website, and you can check that out here.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Follow Friday – #10

This week's featured blogs are
Pedantic Phooka Book Reviews
Drying Ink

Woah, ten weeks of Follow Friday goodness!

Here's this week's question:

Have you ever wanted a villain to win at the end of a story? If so, which one?

Err, well... it wasn't a book, but can I count the fact that I wanted the Indianapolis Colts to win over the New Orleans Saints in the 2009 NFL season Super Bowl?! I'm only saying because I am a massive Colts fan, and they were kind of considered the villians there, right? I mean, everyone wanted the Saints to win. But I digress!

Anyway, in terms of books, I can't think of any. I pretty much always root for the good guys. :-)

How about you? Any villians you've wanted to see succeed?

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Review: Mars (volume 1) by Fuyumi Soryo [Manga]

Popular Rei and shy Kira are worlds apart, until one fateful day brings them together. Rei stumbles upon Kira in the harassing hands of her sleazy art teacher and saves the quiet girl from his clutches. And when the jock plants a kiss on a statue of Mars in the studio, Kira finds herself drawn in and even summons up the nerve to ask him to model for her but problems already lurk on the horizon. Vicious upperclassman Harumi has had her sights set on Rei for a long time, and is not about to let go now. One of the most popular teen girl manga series in Japan, Mars is a drama that will meet the demand of the growing female comic-reading market. (via Goodreads)

I'd never read any manga, so when I found Mars in my village library, I thought why not give it a try? I had my apprehensions about it at first – the boy in the cover looked completely unappealing, and I wasn't sure about the story. But, it was free, and so home it came!

After a very reluctant start, I couldn't help but get drawn in. Sure, it is definitely the most angsty, exaggerated teenage drama I ever remember reading, but something about it really appealed to me. Yup, the boy in the cover looks like he's going to be some kind of clean-cut boyband type, but in actual fact Rei's the 'rebel' of his school – he smokes cigarettes, races motorcycles after school, dates older girls, and lives alone in a rented apartment. Kira, on the other hand, is incredibly introverted and only ever speaks when completely necessary, choosing to focus her energy on her artwork. Eventually they grow increasingly intrigued and attracted to each other, much to the chagrin of their judgemental classmates. And as you can expect, jealously follows them causing drama of soap-opera proportions to ensue!

So although completely over-the-top, I really liked it. The illustrations are great, and I loved the whole inevitable Japanese cultural feel. I sure hope the library can get volume 2 for me, because I'd love to see what happens next! I'll definitely be reading more manga now.

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Review: That Day In September by Artie Van Why

We all have our stories to tell of where we were the morning of September 11, 2001. This is one of them. In "That Day In September" Artie Van Why gives an eyewitness account of that fateful morning. From the moment he heard "a loud boom" in his office across from the World Trade Center, to stepping out onto the street, Artie vividly transports the reader back to the day that changed our lives and our country forever. "That Day In September" takes you beyond the events of that morning. By sharing his thoughts, fears, and hopes, Artie expresses what it was like to be in New York City in the weeks and months following. The reader comes away from "That Day In September" with not only a more intimate understanding of the events of that day, but also with a personal glimpse of how one person's life was dramatically changed forever. (via Goodreads)

When first asked to review That Day In September by the author, I wasn't sure what to expect from it. Of course, I knew all about 9/11, and I knew that Artie had been in New York City on the day, but until reading the book I had little idea as to what degree he had experienced it.

As it turns out, his offices were right across the street from the World Trade Center. He was there, literally in front of the buildings, out on the streets after the first blast, watching it all happen right in front of him. And until reading about the events in this short memoir, I had no idea how dangerous it was down on the street for the people below even before the towers came crumbling down.

However, That Day In September goes further than describing those terrifying events. We learn a bit about Artie and his life before arriving in New York, what brought him to the city, and how he enjoyed the World Trade Center before 9/11. And what's most important, he writes from his heart, making the book full of emotion. I loved the way he talks of the the aftermath – describing shock, incredible courage and unity, a city in mourning, and the collective respect and love.

Overall, That Day In September is an insightful, evocative, well-rounded and beautifully written memoir. If you want to read a first-hand account of the September 11th attacks, then I highly recommend this one.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

To purchase a copy of That Day In September, visit or

Sunday, 4 September 2011

I'm sorry Gatsby, but I have no desire to meet you right now.

What do you do when you start reading a book, get a couple of dozen pages or so in, but find yourself completely uninterested and disconnected? If you're anything like me, you'll put the book to one side and quickly pick up something else.

I am probably the most impatient person that I know. Countless times have I stopped reading books because of my constant need to be entertained quickly; no patience to see them through, to see if they get better later on.

So this is the reason why I'm giving up on The Great Gatsby only 30 pages into the story. I know this is supposed to be 'one of the greatest American novels of all time', but as of now I can't see that. It's not even a long book; it's 144 pages long and I've only been reading it 2 days, but I'm just. so. bored! Sure, the writing is poetic, the 1920s era in which it is written is interesting, but for me there is nothing beyond that. There are going to be many who disagree with my opinion and will say, 'how can you come to such a conclusion when you're not even half way through'? Well, for a book that's 144 pages long, I'm finding that it's slow, it's tedious, and I just plain as day don't get it. So for now, I'm putting it back on the shelf for another time when my patience has grown.

Perhaps we'll meet another time, Gatsby.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Follow Friday – #9

This week's featured blogs are
Lisa Loves Literature
Once Upon A Prologue

Welcome to Follow Friday number nine! Woohoo!

Here's this week's question:

Q. If you could change the ending of any book (or series), which book would you choose? Why and to what?

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer! I really liked the book until all those other vampires turn up to testify for Renesmee, and then the Volturi come to execute the Cullens for 'creating' her, but realise they've been misinformed and go away without anything very remarkable happening. Up until that part, I enjoyed all the Twilight books... but that kind of ending just completely dissapointed me. Plus – a vampire and a human having a child? Really? Reeeeeaaaaally?? I'm just saying!

What do you guys think? Which book would you change?

Review: Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Girl With a Pearl Earring tells the story of Griet, a 16-year-old Dutch girl who becomes a maid in the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer. Her calm and perceptive manner not only helps her in her household duties, but also attracts the painter's attention. Though different in upbringing, education and social standing, they have a similar way of looking at things. Vermeer slowly draws her into the world of his paintings - the still, luminous images of solitary women in domestic settings. (via

I've wanted to read this book for years – ever since watching the film with Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth (who, by the way, should have long hair all the time... Rawr!) No idea why it took me so long to pick it up, but I couldn't hold it off any longer!

 I found Griet, our narrator, at times a little monotone; speaking in a way that striked me as overly passive and disconnected. However, where Griet's words come to life are the moments where she portrays everyday observations in a uniquely artistic manner. For example, this is how she illustrates Catharina Vermeer during their first meeting:
The woman's face was like an oval serving plate, flashing at times, dull at others. Her eyes were two light brown buttons, a colour I had rarely seen coupled with blond hair.
Such words comparable to this pop up all over the novel, and provide a truly enlightening connection to the prose, the painting and the character's personality. I guess this was Chevalier's intention  – she wanted to put across that Griet would seem to us and to others dull and expressionless, unless lucky enough to delve into her artistically intuitive mind.

With this considered, I did really enjoy the story. I couldn't remember every detail from the film as it has been a couple of years since I've watched it, so there were a few parts that surprised me. I'd recommend you read Girl With A Pearl Earring if you have an interest in art, historical settings and evocative, sensual fiction.

Rating: 4 / 5