Meet the Bookworm – Ian McMillan

The next bookworm you’re about to meet is also the first male bookworm who has appeared in my “Meet the Bookworm” feature. There are books and authors on here that I’ve never heard of, which is great for me and you lovely people reading as it means more to add to your list. Please welcome Ian McMillan of Coatbridge, Scotland to More Books than Shoes.

Ian McMillanWhat age did you get into reading? I was fairly young when I got into reading. I can’t remember what age I was but I’m pretty sure it was before I started at school; so maybe about 4.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why?  As a youngster, I loved Roald Dahl, so it was probably The Witches. It was just such a dark, bittersweet and sometimes bizarre story that doesn’t skimp on the “gory” details. Dahl’s books were always quite subversive, and even at a young age I had a strange twisted sense of humour. It definitely helped shaped my future tastes. 

Do you have a favourite genre? I read many different genres so picking a favourite is difficult. It’s more about story and themes rather than genre for me. Looking at my books on the bookcase, I have lots of biographies, classics, etc, but there seems to be mostly JG Ballard, Hubert Selby Jr, Chuck Palahniuk, Camus, Kafka, Philip K Dick, Hunter S Thompson, et al, so I seem to lean more towards transgressive fiction. 

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to? I seem to be drawn to characters that are struggling to make sense of the world around them, or that feel completely out of place even within themselves. Palahniuk’s protagonists I can relate to: that feeling of looking at the people around you and thinking “I don’t understand any of these folk”.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? The Bank Robber Diaries by Danny King. Really badly written and full of truly detestable characters that the author obviously thinks are cool and hilarious. I used to always pride myself that I would always finish a book, no matter if it was good or bad. This book changed that. 

What’s your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? I think I’d have to say The Princess Bride. I may be influenced by nostalgia with this answer as it’s been a favourite of mine since I was a child but it is such a joyful film that totally reflects the book in every way (probably because William Goldman wrote both). Fight Club is also up there as it actually improves on the book. 

What was the last book you read? Lost Highways: An Illustrated History of Road Movies by Jack Sargeant and Stephanie Watson. The road movie is one of my favourite subgenres in film – the notion of the road as a metaphor for a personal as well as physical journey – and this book covers all the different types of road movie in relation to nationality, historical setting, political backdrop, etc.

What are you currently reading? Peckinpah: A Portrait In Montage by Garner Simmons. I love a biography and Sam Peckinpah is one of my favourite directors. As you may have noticed, I read a lot of film-related stuff.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. A dark, surreal tragedy about a family who run a circus freak show and who resort to desperate measures to keep the business going when popularity starts to wane, told from the point of view of the daughter who is a hunch-backed albino dwarf. It is both a very funny and very sad read.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? No idea. Probably “Winging It”. That’s all we really seem to do in life, isn’t it? Haha.

Thanks to Ian, and all the other lovely people who have taken part so far. If you’d like to be part of the “Meet the Bookworm” feature, please comment below.

Happy reading.

G.
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Meet the Bookworm – Brittiny Charee

The third wonderful contributor to my “Meet the Bookworm” feature is Brittiny Charee from Florida, USA. For as long as I’ve known Brittiny she has always been an avid reader and is also a blogger and a writer in her spare time. In fact, we have written some fan fiction together in the past and it was a great honour.  You can check out Brittiny’s blog here. There are some books on here, I’ll be sure to check out, and hopefully you will too.

Brittiny Charee

What age did you get into reading? I’d say 5 or 6.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why? But No Elephants by Jerry Smath. I think because it was a favourite to read with my grandmother.

Do you have a favourite genre? Not really.

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to? I tend to find one in almost every book I read.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? I can’t recall any off the top of my head. Likely because it was bad I voided it from my memory.

What’s your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? Jaws. They kept a good chunk of the book, and while there was a major character changed, it didn’t take anything from the story. I felt it was really well done.

What was the last book you read? The last book I actually finished was H.I.V.E. (The Higher Institute of Villainous Education)

What are you currently reading? Big Girl, As Old as Time, Girl in Pieces and Ninth Street Women.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? Wicked. It can touch on so many different issues, and I think we can all relate to Elphaba now and then.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? Roller-coaster of Life.

If you would like be a contributor for the “Meet the Bookworm” feature then please get in touch.

Thanks for reading.
G.

Meet the Bookworm – Hannah Simpson

Welcome to a new feature I’m hoping to make a regular thing on my blog, how regular is yet to be seen as it depends on the response of willing contributors and reactions. I’ll be asking fellow bookworms 10 questions about books etc. and including a photo of them. This will hopefully, show the diversity and reach of literature and also give you some book recommendations you may have otherwise ignored.

My first wonderful contributor is Hannah Simpson, from Manchester, UK. She is an avid reader and blogger/writer (you can check out her blog here) What I love about Hannah’s answers is the sheer passion and excitement that comes through. You can really tell how much she loves getting lost in the pages of a book, so without further ado please welcome Hannah Simpson.

Hannah Simpson.jpgWhat age did you get into reading? I’m really privileged that reading has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Both my parents are avid readers and my mum is a school librarian, so I grew up surrounded by books and constantly encouraged to read.  Some of my happiest childhood memories are of being read to by my parents, or exploring our little local library.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why? My first instinct for this question was either Little Women (which we will come back to!) or Harry Potter, but since the question is the first book, we’re going back even further and I’m going to pick something totally different.  We have a stash of Christmas-specific books that we would break out every year and one that I remember being full-on obsessed with is called ‘A Letter to Father Christmas’ by Rose Impey – it’s a really sweet picture book about a girl called Charlotte who accidentally sends her mum’s shopping list to Father Christmas rather than her own wish list.  I have no idea why this book got me like it did, but it just makes me so happy when I look back on it now.

Do you have a favourite genre? I tend to read contemporary fiction and am mostly drawn towards stuff which is best classified as ‘first world white girl problems’.  Basically anything that’s a bit like Jacqueline Wilson or Judy Blume (the queens!), but for twenty-something women.

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to? Jo March from Little Women was my first feminist icon and a big part of the reason I have always aspired to write for a living.  More recently, Johanna Morrigan from Caitlin Moran’s ‘How To Build A Girl’ and ‘How To Be Famous’ really spoke to me.  She is a character not often represented in (particularly YA) literature – bolshy and outspoken in contrast to the quieter, more reserved female characters who often narrate coming of age stories.  Johanna is a protagonist for the loud girls, the girls who have spent their lives being told to calm down and sit down and stop being quite so ‘much’.

 What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? This is a really hard question because I’ve got quite good at picking books that I’m fairly certain I’ll enjoy – my Goodreads account is just a load of four and five star reviews, because I don’t tend to read things that I don’t like.  One book I was really disappointed by was ‘The Virgin Suicides’ by Jeffrey Eugenides, because everyone loves it and so many women hold it up as this incredible piece of work so my expectations were high.  I just didn’t enjoy it that much – I didn’t really care about any of the characters.  Maybe if I read it again now, I’d get more from it?  I probably won’t bother.

What’s your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? I’m bending the rules and doing a top 5 for this (in no particular order) because I absolutely couldn’t narrow it down to just one.  ‘Prisoner of Azkhaban’ is my favourite HP book and the film is absolutely brilliant; the 1994 ‘Little Women’ has an insanely good cast and fills me with so much joy; ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ is one of the only book-to-screen adaptations where I think the film is actually better; the recent Netflix adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s ‘Tales of the City’ series is fantastic, with loads of diversity and LGBT representation within the cast; and the BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ remains some of the best TV I’ve ever seen and I loved all the nods to the books.

 What was the last book you read? The last book I finished was ‘Convenience Store Woman’ by Sayaka Murata, which is a punchy little Japanese novel about a women who has worked in the same convenience store for eighteen years.  It’s a really compelling exploration of the way society tries to force us to conform and what happens to those who don’t.  Very funny, well worth a read.

What are you currently reading? I’ve ended up with two books on the go at the moment, which I don’t normally do.  I started ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ (really fascinating and not something I would typically pick up) and then had a load of books I’d reserved from the library come through, so that’s on hold for now.  ‘Daisy Jones and The Six’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid is the one that stole me away and I can’t put it down – it’s an oral history of a fictional 70s rock band, and I’m absolutely devouring it.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? Either ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas or ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman.  Such powerful book.  Just read them.  Please.  They should both be on the national curriculum.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? I mean, ‘First World White Girl Problems’ pretty much sums it up.

If you would be happy taking part, please comment below or alternatively you can tweet me here or send me a message on Instagram here.

Happy reading!

G.
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The Importance of Reading

I’ve always been a bookworm. For as long as I can remember I have taken solace in the pages of a book to help me through breakups, heartbreak, loss, grief and stress. I also read just for enjoyment and find it really relaxing. But I know many people find it hard, some because they struggle with concentration, some because they suffer from dyslexia and feel intimidated and some people associate it with being forced to read the set curriculum at school. However reading is important and it’s something everyone should do and here’s why.

Reading has been found to enhance the connectivity in the brain and keeping the brain active can slow the progress of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It also requires you to use your memory muscle which can decrease the decline of your memory. Not to mention reading expands your knowledge and vocabulary, but is also improves concentration and increases empathy. In the current climate we’re living in, I think empathy is lacking and the fact that people can gain more empathy from a book and gain more understanding of people and situations that they are likely never to find themselves in, is important. We could all benefit from being a bit more understanding to our fellow man.

Reading is also important as a form of entertainment and relaxation. Where possible, I always try to read the book version of a Film/TV series before I watch it’s translation to film. There have been times where the adaptation has been done pretty decently, but often the image I build up in my head is much more complex and multifaceted than it is on the screen. It’s also incredibly personal; it’s my mind’s interpretation of what I’m reading. Which is one reason I love hearing other people’s opinions of books I’ve read, to hear how they imagined it.

My boyfriend is one of those modest people who believes he’s not very smart, but actually he is. He thinks he doesn’t read a lot, but he’s always reading. Which brings me to my next point. Just because you don’t read books on the regular, it doesn’t mean you’re not a reader. You could be reading articles or forums, but you’re still reading! So don’t let someone shame you for not reading a conventional book. You’re still keeping your brain engaged and learning more so block out the haters.

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Likewise when you are reading books don’t let someone shame you for the subject matter or genre.  I’ll admit “chick lit” (I hate that term) is not for me but I wouldn’t shame someone for reading it, I really hate this modern mentality of shaming someone’s enjoyment of something. Just because it’s not your cup of tea, doesn’t give you the right to guilt someone else for enjoying it, so enjoy that book about the history of the Regency Revolution, or that tie-in Star Trek book and ignore what anyone else says. Just do you!

But above all my favourite thing about reading is the way it can bring people together, it opens the floor to discussion, it allows you to learn other perspectives and see the world through the eyes of someone else. It is the best way to escape without going anywhere. I don’t think I will ever stop reading and I’m proud to be a bookworm.

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In fact I would like to hear from you! I am looking for 5 people who would allow me to feature them on my blog, discussing your favourite book(s) and the impact they had on you. If you’re interested and happy to be involved, then please comment below. Until then, happy reading.

G.
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Time to Book Ahead

With each New Year comes new ideas, this year already looks promising for the publishing world and various websites and newspapers are already speculating about what they think the next big thing in the Literary world is going to be. As you know, I don’t always review the latest releases, however here are some novels (some of which I’ve already purchased and are waiting on my bookshelf) which I’m looking forward to reading this year.

The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell.

The Disaster Artist
This is a book all about the cult film ‘The Room’ starring the strange, and weirdly captivating, Tommy Wiseau. If you haven’t seen the film then you really should, it’s unintentionally funny and there are some great moments where time seems to get lost and goes from being a day to an evening to the same day again. This book is all about Greg (who starred in the film) and the process of the filming being made. I only read a short exert online and it made me laugh, so I’m really looking forward to reading it at some point this year.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

Go Set a Watchman
I know this came out last year, and I was excited by it. I mean To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the books in my Top 5, so I was excited to hear that the familiar nostalgic characters were back. But then slowly but surely there was something of an outcry with people saying that it wasn’t a great book, and that previously open minded characters had become racist, so I kept putting it off. I guess I was apprehensive of losing the respect and love I had for the Finch family, but I need to read it. Who knows I may just like it, and if I don’t at least I’ll find out what happened to them.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
I made a promise to myself that this year I would try to read more varied genres. I picked this up in a book shop yesterday for the sheer fact that on the label it said ‘If you like Star Trek or Firefly then this book is for you’ I was instantly sold. But when I read the blurb on the back there was something that appealed to that aspect of me that still wants to be an astronaut exploring space. The idea of exploring vast galaxies with a mishmash crew of different species just struck a chord with my younger self. I haven’t read a lot of Sci-fi in the past so hopefully this will be the start of a long and beautiful relationship with the sci-fi genre.

Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh.

Things We Have in Common
Something about this pulled me in, perhaps it was the praise that said it was similar to Gone Girl (a book which I enjoyed until the ending ruined it) I guess what piqued my interest more was the blurb on the back, it was captivating, just as the novel is supposed to be. Dealing with themes of teenage obsession and isolation, I have a feeling this is going to make for a compelling read.

Your Heart is a Muscle The Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa.

Your heart is a muscle
I love books that really seem to observe humanity and this one seems to capture it perfectly. Set during Seattle’s 1999 WTO Protest, the book follows the course of one afternoon and how the lives of seven people are changed forever. In the mix are an estranged father and son, two protestors who don’t believe in violence and the financial minister from Sri Lanka. Needless to say this should make for a raw and conflicting read.

Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta.

innocents-and-others
I think the main thing that’s intrigued me about this book is the fact it’s about two female filmmakers. Working in the media industry can be quite eye-opening and there’s always so much to be thinking about, so I was intrigued by these two filmmakers (best friends) who have very differing views on sex, morality and movie-making. It just sounds appealing and I can’t wait to grab a copy.

Zero K by Don De Lillo.

Zero K
I haven’t read much by Don De Lillo, in fact I’ve only read one of his other books ‘Americana’ and I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of a long, hot, dusty summer and not really knowing what to do with my life. The subject matter of Zero K really intrigued me; a billionaire tries to cure his ailing wife by the use of body preservation until medical research can find an answer to eternal life. I think mortality is a very deep subject matter, and we all have thoughts on life and death but when money is introduced it’s even more fascinating. I’ve often thought that wealthy people seem to think they can live forever and I feel this will make for an incredibly thought provoking read.

Other titles I’m keen to read at some point this year;

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig – What can I say I loved Star Wars so much..JJ did such a great job and it’s reignited the love of the originals in my soul.

The Tria by Matt King – Matt’s a promising writer and my review and interview with him last year was one of the most viewed posts I had, so I’m really looking forward to giving this a read.

Americosis Vol.2 by Haydn Wilks – Volume 1 was crazy and intriguing enough that I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins – I’ve NEVER read them OR seen the films, but I’ve heard great things. I think it’s high time I give them a shot!

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

Zodiac by Robert Graysmith – I think like the majority of the world I’m working my way through ‘Making a Murderer’ on Netflix and it’s really kicked off my intrigue in true crime. I love the film, so it makes sense to give this book a read.

I’d love to hear what you lovely lot are looking forward to reading this year, so please comment below.

Happy reading, Georgina.

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2015 – My Year in Books

Now back to books. 2015 was a very varied year for me, I was reading and reviewing books for ‘Belle About Town’ but also reading a book a month with my book club. I have to say having not one, not two but three outlets to discuss the books I read is really rewarding and I know I have said it in a previous post but thank you so much to all the people who have read, commented and liked my blog. It really means a lot, and this year I want to try and make sure I’m writing a least a blog post a week. I thought it would be fun for me to share some stats with you about my reading habits in 2015, and I’d love to know yours too, so please do comment below.

The first book I read in 2015 was ‘Foxcatcher: A True Story of Murder, Madness and The Quest for Olympic Gold’ by Mark Schultz and the last book I read in 2015 was ‘Forever’ by Judy Blume.

The book that made me cry the most in 2015 was ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce. I’m talking full on crying with snot and everything, I’m just glad I was at home when I finished reading it as I think my fellow commuters would have been fearful had it been on the train.

The book that made me laugh the most was ‘Bossypants’ by Tina Fey. I genuinely laughed out loud and even snorted like a pig at one point, unfortunately this did happen on a rather crowded train during peak time and the person who was sat next to me moved seats at the next stop…How subtle.

The most powerful book I read was ‘Asking for It’ by Louise O’Neill. I read and reviewed this for ‘Belle About Town’ it was without doubt one of the most raw and infuriating books I have read. An incredibly important YA novel that all teenagers and adults alike should read.

Favourite literary magazine had to be ‘The Happy Reader’ by Penguin Classics. A seasonal magazine that interviews a well-known celebrity about their reading habits and then dissects a chosen book. Perfect for book recommendations/inspiration.

My favourite book of the year has to be ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir. It had me hooked from the opening sentence and kept me that way until the very end. Weir seemed to perfectly balance, science, tension and humour and it was the top of my list of book recommendations whenever people asked me what they should be reading. Also the film adaptation was pretty accurate and perfectly executed which is a rarity.

I only re-read TWO books this year and they were ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl and ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. This is a miracle for me as I tend to re-read books out of some form of need for comfort and nostalgia so this is like a breakthrough for me.

I have plenty of books on my ‘TBR’ pile and there’s plenty of new titles coming out this year that I am looking forward to reading, so I have a feeling 2016 is going to be just as good as last year. Please comment below with your favourite read of 2015 and anything else you want to share.

Happy reading my lovelies.

Georgina.

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Little Women – A Review.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Little Women

This was the latest book selected by my Bookish Broads Book Club, and I have to say I was pretty excited about reading it. It’s probably one of the few classic books that seemed to slip me by as a young girl and my cousin absolutely loves it. I’ve heard so much about the March sisters, especially Jo, and couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

But actually I wasn’t very impressed. There’s no disputing that Alcott could write but I just found a lot of it quite preachy and twee. I know that during its original publishing year this probably would have been considered the norm, but I just felt that the author was trying to teach too many virtues to its authors instead of trusting them to make their own decisions.

There’s not really a lot that happens in my opinion and what does happen is all terribly cliché and predictable. Boy moves in next door, they befriend him, he begins to fall in love with Jo, the old man turns out to be warm hearted and oh look it’s Christmas and what fun we have!

I just found it all quite droll and I really struggled to read it, I didn’t like Amy at all and found her to be very vain and materialistic which was odd considering that her ‘marmee’ and father had tried to bring her up to value people and not things. I found the first part of the book incredibly convoluted. During the second half the book, where Meg marries Brooke, I found it much more interesting. Because it actually felt like something was happening.

The characters began to change and you could define them from one another whereas in the beginning, although there were a few character traits that made them obviously different, they felt like the same person. Although Beth was always rather sickly I couldn’t help but feel that her death came out of nowhere and actually found her character quite dark and maudlin.

The only redeeming aspect of this book was the character of Jo and I actually felt that Alcott developed the relationship between Jo and the Professor quite nicely, even I found him quite charming. However it wasn’t enough to make exclaim at the end ‘What an incredible novel this is, how have I not read it sooner?!’

Star Rating out of 5: 2

‘But I have nothing to give you. My hands are empty’

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Perhaps if I had read it as a young girl I may have loved it and feel differently. But I just felt it was too twee and too preachy, and I also found it hard to stomach the way women were meant to be perfect little wives when they got married and live for their husbands, which is probably another reason why I feel I connected more to Jo and the Professor’s relationship because it felt more equal. I’m keen to know other opinions on this ‘classic’ so feel free to comment below.

Happy reading.

Georgina

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