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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Everything I Know About Love – A Review

I’ve had this book sat on my shelf for a good few months; it came onto my radar when I overheard some female colleagues discussing it. I was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. Dolly Alderton talks us through her teenage years and her first realisation of boys/men. Instantly I found the content relatable when she discussed MSN Messenger and the way you’d sign out and then back in again to get your crushes attention. I was guilty of this, I was also guilty of having the courage of being hidden behind a computer screen to say to a guy “You’re so cute, I really fancy you!” and then having the instant panic a second after hitting send of being rejected or laughed at so covering my back with a “Omg sorry, my cousin wrote that!” which when I think about it, was the worst excuse ever.

As the book goes on we learn about Dolly’s adult life, her early 20’s, nights out where she drank until the early hours of the morning (and still went to work) and the whirlwind relationships with men. There are moments of the book that are laugh out loud funny and some that really struck a chord with me. Especially when talking about her anxiety and relationship with drink. She looks at the power of female friendship and dissects how, as women; a lot of us tend to put what we think a man wants ahead of what we actually want. It’s these moments that I found myself nodding my head in agreement and feeling so happy to see someone being so open and candid about these things.

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It’s not a book that men should avoid either, Dolly hasn’t written this as some feminist manifesto or celebration of sisterhood, but actually takes ownership that there are no bad men or bad women, just some bad timings, decisions and ways of dealing with things. As she says later on in the book, and I’m paraphrasing here, no break up happens because you did nothing wrong, on some level you were responsible for the relationship breaking down, no matter how small. So don’t lay the blame on the man. You have to take responsibility and courage to look at what you did wrong too.  She also talks about dating in your 30’s (something I had some experience with) and once again I found her words to be incredibly true. Everyone has a history, especially if they’re single in their 30’s! One line particularly jumped out at me.

“If you lose respect for someone, you won’t be able to fall back in love with them.”

This made me think of my ex and our marriage breaking down, but it also made me think of myself. For many years I had no respect for myself and consequently found it hard to love myself and see anything worthy in me. It’s taken time for me to get where I am, and I still have days where I long to be that 17 year old girl with no worries or loss or heartbreak and that unshakable confidence I had at such a young age, but I’m getting there. I’m learning to know who I am, faults and all, and respect who I am, even love who I am. This book is more about friendship and the power of the “mundane” aspects of love that often get overlooked for not being particularly awe inspiring. But they’re actually the moments that mean the most (and the ones you should cherish) they’re the moments I know I long to share with my mum since her passing. The moments that seemed insignificant at the time but actually they were perfect moments between me and her. Dolly puts it more beautifully than I ever could.

“…it also happens when you’re lying on blow-up air beds in a childhood bedroom, sitting in A&E or in the queue for a passport or in a traffic jam. Love is a quiet, reassuring, relaxing, pottering, pedantic, harmonious hum of a thing; something you can easily forget is there, even though its palms are outstretched beneath you in case you fall.”

It’s hard not to read and finish this book without taking stock of your life, thanking the world silently for all the good it gives you and enjoying the sun on your skin. It’s more than a book; it’s a hug and an awakening.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

Have you read it? What were your thoughts? Comment below, happy reading beauts.

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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Breaking the Silence

As you can imagine, I’ve been adjusting to life and trying to find my feet again. I’m hoping to get back into writing again soon, as well as carrying on with the book reviews. Now I have my book bug back, I think I’ll be reading a lot more than I have been or was.

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I’m attending a book event on Thursday evening in Manchester, with the author Joseph Knox. I read his first book Sirens and tore through it. I think the fact his books are based in Manchester (my city) make it easier for me to imagine the surroundings more, I also liked the way he named the chapters of Sirens after Joy Division songs (one of my favourite bands) His style of writing is great and he makes it easy for you to fall into the story without trying too hard. I’m currently reading his second book in the series (The Smiling Man) and I’m finding it hard to put it down and figure out who the culprit is. He’s brilliant at weaving storylines within one another, often linking one with the other through the most subtle of means.

I’m really looking forward to hearing him read an excerpt from his new book ‘The Sleepwalker’ and what he has to say about his methodology when writing, his favourite character(s) and of course whether there will be any other Detective Aidan Waits books.

I’m hoping I can use reading/writing as a cathartic process and hope that at some point I may even be able to write more poetry and eventually start writing short stories again.

G.

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2015 Reading Challenge – Are You In?

For those of you who are book lovers, like me, you will know how much fun it is when people recommend new novels to you. It’s quite a personal thing, taking something that had such an impact on you and sharing those feelings with someone else, or at least that’s what we hope to achieve, it’s really quite special.

But as well as receiving recommendations, and giving them, I also enjoy a good reading challenge. Anyone who is a member of Goodreads is aware that you can set yourself a target of how many books you’d like to try to read in a year. Now of course I will be doing this again for 2015, but I wanted something that would really get me thinking and also open my eyes to new authors and worlds. I’m something of a believer in signs and a few times now I have been sent the same ‘2015 Reading Challenge’ by friends and relatives, so I’m going to do it. And I was wondering how many of the beautiful readers of my blog out there are going to play along? It’s quite an extensive list but it fills me with excitement of the journey I will go on and makes me wonder how many new loves (of the literary kind) I will ignite in the New Year.

So without further ado here is a full list of the ‘2015 Reading Challenge’ I will be taking on in just a couple of days;

A book with more than 500 pages

A classic romance

A book that became a movie

A book published this year

A book with a number in the title

A book written by someone under 30

A book with nonhuman characters

A funny book

A book by a female author

A mystery or thriller

A book with a one-word title

A book of short stories

A book set in a different country

A nonfiction book

A popular author’s first book

A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet

A book a friend recommended

A Pulitzer Prize-winning book

A book based on a true story

A book at the bottom of your to-read list

A book your mom loves

A book that scares you

A book more than 100 years old

A book based entirely on its cover

A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t

A memoir

A book you can finish in a day

A book with antonyms in the title

A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit

A book that came out the year you were born

A book with bad reviews

A trilogy

A book from your childhood

A book with a love triangle

A book set in the future

A book set in high school

A book with a colour in the title

A book that made you cry

A book with magic

A graphic novel

A book by an author you’ve never read before

A book you own but have never read

A book that takes place in your hometown

A book that was originally written in a different language

A book set during Christmas

A book written by an author with your same initials

A play

A banned book

A book based on or turned into a TV show

A book you started but never finished

So as you can it’s a pretty long list, some of them may be trickier than others, such as a banned book or by an author with the same initials. It’s going to be challenging but it’s going to be immensely fun and of course, I’m going to share the entire journey with all of my followers. With that in mind, if any of you can recommend any books that will help tick something off the list, then please do get in touch by commenting below, or alternatively you can head over to Twitter @GinaAlanaLane and tweet me with your suggestions.

Happy reading fellow bookworms, and a Happy New Year to you all.

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Quick Commute Read – Book Review – The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

I’m currently working through a couple of books at the moment, but one is easier to read on my laptop and another is a bulky hardcover which is not ideal to lug around on the commute to work. So I’ve been relying heavily on short stories to entertain me on my way to work.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

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This was the latest offering for a short read and I have to say, I found it so warming. Perhaps the wind and the rain pelting the side of the train as I travelled home contributed to the cosiness of the book, but there was something so simple and magic about the story.

After initially being discarded into the toy cupboard for a short time, the Rabbit is reunited with the Boy and soon is a constant companion in all his adventures. But when the boy grows sick with Scarlet Fever, the little Rabbit is discarded and it’s easy to imagine that this is where the story ends, however we see more magic and a happy ending.

I don’t want to divulge too much in case you choose to read it, but it’s a delight and is a warm tale with plenty of lessons for both children and adults. I’d recommend this if you have children, or are looking to ignite the feeling of childlike innocence and imagination within yourself.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

‘Once you are real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.’

 

Until next time fellow bookworms.

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Book Review – Americana by Don DeLillo

I’m not familiar with Don DeLillo but upon uploading a photo of my latest selected book, quite a few people were quick to say how good ‘Americana’ was and how much they enjoyed it.

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I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed. It follows David Bell who seems to be the All American boy, living the American dream. He works as a television executive, lives in a swanky apartment and has an ex wife with benefits, if you catch my not so subtle drift. But David seems displeased with his comfortable life and is desperate to expose the real America, or unseen America. The book is broken up into Four Parts, which show David at different stages.

In the first part David is an almost Patrick Bateman style character, and although there’s a lot of humour in the first part of the book, it’s also incredibly pretentious and hard to feel any kind of sympathy for the people he tries to screw over or spreads rumours against via Binky his secretary.

Four months earlier, at a party aboard a tugboat repeatedly circling the Statue of Liberty, she had gone around telling everyone she had dropped one of her pubic hairs into Mastoff Panofsky’s scotch and soda. Everybody was afraid of her’ – Like I said, you can’t help but feel that David is right to be growing tired of surroundings with such callousness and fakery, despite being one himself.

He sets out on the road to make a documentary on the Navahos but never quite makes it, instead taking time to make his own film. Don DeLillo has written the book so beautifully descriptive and poetic, that it’s easy to see how David sees life as one long motion picture made up of different moments. He uses people he meets in his journey to appear in his film, and it is in the second part of the book that we learn about David’s childhood and growing up. During this section of the book, I took that David was struggling to overcome the death of his mother and her illness and also grasp a better understanding of some of the moments he witnessed as child. There’s page upon page of imagery-laden dialogue, which at times could be hard to follow, as it seemed nonsensical, but I think that’s what DeLillo wanted. To make us feel as confused and ‘falling in’ on ourselves as David felt.

‘We plan the destruction of everything which does not serve the cause of efficiency.’

In the final parts of the book David seems to have emptied his conscience and soul of the doubt and need he had been carrying round, he continues his journey and meets numerous people on his travels, which offer him more insight and perspective to the real America and it’s people. A great book, which deals with everything from sex and death, to finding your calling in life and whether happiness can be achieved. I’d recommend this to people who love vivid descriptions of imagery and want something a little different than your typical ‘finding yourself’ novel.

‘All of these sounds in the warm house, of running water and steam, of shrill chalk and the rustling of paper, of voices known and of time moving down the Grandfather clock, all these, inflections of the house itself, all-comforting and essential, told me that I was safe.’

 

Star Rating out of 5: 5

 

Happy reading bookworms.

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