This week I’m Reading…

A Darker Shade of Magic

 

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I’m a third of the way through this so far and thoroughly enjoying it. After the heavy going nature of Game of Thrones, A Darker Shade of Magic is a lovely easy read. V.E.Schwab tells the story of four separate Londons that live in the same location but on different planes. There’s the Grey London that we are all familar with, the magical utopia of Red London, the war-torn White London, and the destroyed Black London. Kell is a Red London magician that has the ability to travel between the planes. As a battle for power and magic builds, Kell gets very dangerously caught up right in the middle of it all.

I’ve still got a way to go with this book but, based on what I’ve read so far, I can recommend A Darker Shade of Magic to all magic and fantasy lovers.

Keep reading. x

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This week I’m reading…

A Game of Thrones!

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I’ve just finished the first book of Games of Thrones. I had tried watching the series but was never able to get into it, despite it involving dragons and adventure! I was getting fed up of everyone telling me I had to enjoy A Games of Thrones and that I simply wasn’t giving it enough of a chance, and so I decided to give the book a go.

It took a while to actually get into the story but once it finally got started I found it surprisingly enjoyable. I enjoyed the way it flitted backwards and forwards between characters and plots that were all pulled closer together as the book progressed. I was also pleasantly surprised by the style. A Game of Thrones is essentially a geek-book, and so I was expecting all plot and a rather basic use of language. However, I found George R.R. Martin’s use of language really rather beautiful.

I was thoroughly enjoying the book until about two thirds of the way through.

As much as the characters are interesting and well-developed, and the plot engaging, I just found that the whole thing moved too slowly. Martin really does love to get bogged down in the detail and at times it is exhausting and all I wanted was for the book to bloody end!

All that said, when the book finally did bloody end, I found I wanted to know what happened next!

The plot really is gripping and I became very invested in many of the characters. If it wasn’t for the sheer length of the books I’d read them all continuously, and it may be that I come back to finish them off at a later date. But for now, I’m glad the epic is over and that I have the time to read some of the other books that are backing up on my shelves!

Winter is coming. x

A History of Magic.

Calling all Harry Potter fans… as if you haven’t heard already!

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The British Library is hosting an exhibition on J.K.Rowling. This is the first exhibition The British Library has ever done on a living author and it looks to be a good one. It will showcase the magic behind the Harry Potter books: exploring historical accounts of magic and some of the ‘real’ potions and spells that inspired Rowling. Tickets are now on sale but are going fast, with weekends and evenings already all booked up, so get in there quick if you are interested! I booked for 19th December as a Christmassy treat and so look out for a full blog about it at the end of the year.

Keep reading! x

Children of the Revolution

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It sounds rather curious at first, but I recently went to a very insightful talk on children’s literature during the Russian Revolution. Now, my knowledge of all things Russian is really somewhat lacking and so this isn’t the usual type of event that I find myself at. However, a friend of mine, (who has a true fascination with all things Russian and revolution based), suggested it to me and so I thought I’d give it a go. Oh, and there was one other lure that I really should mention: it was being hosted by the truly spectacular Michael Rosen.

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The truly spectacular.

While already familiar with some of Rosen’s work and having very quickly declared myself a fan, I hadn’t actually read that much of his, and knew very little about the author at all except that I liked the cut of his jib. What I had based much of this admiration on, was Michael Rosen’s Sad Book. I came across this book during my English Literature degree in which I specialised in children’s literature, and can honestly and wholeheartedly state that I believe it is one of the most important books ever written.

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The most important book ever written.

For those of you that may be unfamiliar with it, Michael Rosen’s Sad Book is a children’s picture book, (illustrated by Quentin Blake), which tackles the difficult issue of depression. Depression is something that unfortunately affects many of my dearest loved ones and so I often find myself trying to search for ways to help alleviate the pain it causes. One of the most central things that I believe will help, is to eliminate the stigma attached to depression and to enhance people’s understanding of what it actually is and how it affects us. Rather than shying away from the subject in order to ‘protect’ children from mental illness, Rosen writes a book that speaks to children about it directly and candidly. If more people, (both children and adults), read Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, there would be a much greater understanding of depression which, I believe, would be key to helping those that suffer with it.

So, this is the main reason that I decided to go to the talk!

However, I mustn’t forget the main focus of the event: a child’s eye view of the Russian Revolution. Michael Rosen, along with Kimberly Reynolds and Jane Rosen, have been putting together a book about the magazines and books written during the Russian Revolution, some directed at children, and others passed down to them indirectly via their parents and carers. I was already familiar with Kimberly Reynolds through her book, Radical Children’s Literature, which provided me with a wealth of insight and information during my dissertation research, and so I was interested to hear her speak. She talked through a range of examples of Russian revolutionary articles, advertisements and books, discussing how these would have affected children and their relationship to reading at the time. I found the lecture interesting, opening me up to a side of children’s literature that I had never considered before.

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An interesting read for all children’s literature enthusiasts.

Following the lecture by Reynolds, Rosen talked about his own childhood and experiences growing up with Communist parents. Rosen is perhaps one of the most engaging and fascinating characters I have ever had the fortune to come across and, I have to say, I sat enthralled and grinning like a Cheshire cat for the entire time that he was on stage. Both children and adults alike were totally captivated by the man, who seamlessly flitted from the serious subjects of Communism and revolution to hilarious accounts of some of his childhood experiences, (both of which are detailed in his new autobiography, So They Call You Pisher! which I will be reading and blogging about in the near future).

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Blog coming soon.

To cap of the event, Rosen read a few of his poems and I leave you now with one that really caught my attention, (particularly as someone who works within the education system):

Guide to Education

You get education in schools.

To find out how much education you get,

the government gives you tests.

Before you do the tests

the government likes it if you are put on

different tables that show how well or badly

you are going to do in the tests.

The tests test whether they

have put you on the right table.

The tests test whether you know what you’re

supposed to know.

But

don’t try to get to know any old stuff like

‘What is earwax?’ or ‘how to make soup’

The way to know things you’re supposed to know

is to do pretend tests.

When you do the pretend tests

you learn how to think in the way that tests

want you to think.

The more practice you do,

the more likely it is that you won’t make the mistake

of thinking in any other way other than in

the special test way of thinking.

Here’s an example:

The apples are growing on the tree.

What is growing on the tree?

If you say, ‘leaves’, you are wrong.

It’s no use you thinking that when apples are on a tree

there are usually leaves on the tree too.

There is only one answer. And that is ‘apples’.

All other answers are wrong.

If you are the kind of person that thinks ‘leaves’ is a

good answer, doing lots and lots and lots of practice tests

will get you to stop thinking that ‘leaves’ is a good answer.

Doing many, many practice tests will also make it

very likely that there won’t be time for you to go out

and have a look at an apple tree to see what else

grows on apple trees. Like ants. Or mistletoe.

Education is getting much better these days

because there is much more testing.

Remember, it’s ‘apples’ not ‘leaves’.

 

 

Keep fighting! x

 

This week I’m reading…

This week I’ve been reading Raquel Palacio’s Wonder.

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It’s not the usual type of book that I’d go for but I came across a copy and thought, seeing as it received such sensational reviews, that I should at least give it a go.

I have to say that it took me a while to get into it at the beginning: I found the American-teen style of language rather irritating and difficult to see past. I know that is it written from the point of view of American children and teenagers but I felt that a little more sophistication in the style wouldn’t have gone amiss. Also, the novel is written from the point of view of several different characters but there is very little difference in the style of language of each one. I found this rather frustrating as it is unrealistic for everyone to speak with the same style and tone. However, I’m just an old stickler for beautiful language and obviously not the writer’s intended audience.

Once I managed to move past my issues with the language and get into the story, I found it rather gripping. With very short chapters, many less than a page long, and lots of Dickens style cliff-hangers, the book is easy to read and difficult to put down.

I found the story and subject matter somewhat moving and will admit that I even shed the odd tear throughout. Palacio tackles some very difficult subjects in a delicate and empathetic way and creates a motivational, inspirational story without making it too saccharin.

I appreciate that this is a book that deals with issues not usually broached in children’s novels and I commend Palacio for taking the challenge on and with such a sensitive and captivating story.

I feel that if all children would read a book like this, the adults of the future would be far more compassionate and understanding than we are today.

This week I’m reading…

This week I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s

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I’m a big fan of Gaiman and was excited to finally get my hands on a copy of this, his latest book release. I knew nothing about the book before I got a copy, only that it was bound to be just my cup of tea if his other books are anything to go by.

I was quite surprised when I got stuck into it.

It’s not a novel as I expected but rather a collection of Norse myths retold by Gaiman. They are short and easy to read and so I was slightly disappointed not to have a book that I could really lose myself in and get carried away with. That said, the book is a very interesting read, especially if you have read any of Gaiman’s other works as it gives a great insight into him as a writer. Neil Gaiman’s fiction writing has very obviously been strongly influenced by Norse mythology and so this books provides a lot of the background to those pieces. In particular, Norse Mythology links in strongly with his novel American Gods which includes many Norse characters woven into the fabric of Gaiman’s epic work.

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Whether you are a fan or Gaiman’s, interested in Norse mythology and the history of story-telling, or if you are simply looking for something different than what’s normally on the book shelves these days, I strongly recommended giving Norse Mythology a go, and if you enjoy it do also read American Gods as the two books tie in so nicely together.

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American Gods Amazon series coming next week.

In other news, Gaiman’s American Gods has been made into an Amazon series which begins on 1st May this year. I’ve seen a trailer and it looks fantastic so do check it out if you can but be sure to read the book before hand – you have the bank holiday weekend to get as much read as you can!

Enjoy! x