Bare Lit 2017


Today I spent the day at Bare Lit festival 2017 with my friend Bex, of Ninja Book Box/London Bookshop Crawl fame, and it was the most incredible day! We decided a while ago that we would only be able to go to one day and I’m so glad we chose the Sunday!


Our first panel was From Real to Unreal and Back, a talk about the use of fantastic storytelling elements to reflect the real world. I was super excited to hear Ali Bader read one of his short stories from the Iraq + 100 anthology, which was incidentally my favourite in the whole collection! Also on the panel were Irfan Master, who read two excerpts from his new novel, and Inua Ellams who chaired and read a new poem.

It was an interesting mix of opinions! With such a diverse set of backgrounds it was great to hear debate rather than bland agreement and I found the incite of Ali Bader, whose prominence as an Iraqi writer gave him a different perspective to authors living in Britain.


The next panel, When Bad Things Happen, was my favourite and I was hooked every second. The five panelists discussed the responsibility involved in writing about trauma, as well as ways to protect yourself as a writer looking to put personal experience on the page and the important of writing about traumatic events without sensationalism. 

Guilaine Kinouani, a therapist and writer for The Independent, was a passionate but measured chair and I found her thoughts to be fascinating. Nasrin Parvaz spoke about her time being tortured in an Iranian prison and how writing her prison memoirs brought emotions back to the surface. Robyn Travis talked passionately about the process of writing his book Prisoner to the Streets and the responsibility he felt to young black readers not to glorify his past violence. Olumide Popoola provided a powerful incite in to writing as a queer author of colour and finally Stephen Thompson talked about writing his book, No More Heroes, and the process of drawing on other people’s experiences.

Honestly one of the most inspiring group of people I have ever had the privilege of listening to.


Next was How to Judge a Book Prize where Sunny Singh, Yvette Edwards and Catherine Johnson discussed the absence of writers of colour on larger prizes’ long lists and the systematic problems faced by authors of colour in the publishing industry. They also talked about judging the Jhalak Prize For Book Of The Year By A Writer Of Colour and some of the challenges (predominantly by one disgrace of an MP) that the prize has faced in its first year.


Finally, Kerry Young gave the keynote speech on the social, political and personal responsibility writers have. The speech was sponsored by The Royal Literary Fund and was the perfect close to the day.

I came away with a modest book haul of four books (pictured at the top) and a very long ‘to buy’ list! It was a surprisingly tiring day and I definitely needed the wind down time on the train home (in which I read a third of the two anthologies I got!).


If anyone if debating going next year then I would say it’s a definite must!

Diversity December Bingo TBR List!


There’s a great event going on, mainly on Twitter, at the moment called the Diversity December Bingo. One of the organisers is a mutual of mine from Twitter so I’ve seen a lot of posts about floating around the past few weeks.


The idea is to pick a line in the grid and read a book that fits each square. I’ve picked the first horizontal line for my TBR list (although I’m looking at other squares to see if I’ll have time to read more this month!)

Non-Western Cultural FantasyWho Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor.

Demisexual Main CharacterRadio Silence by Alice Oseman

Mental Health AwarenessUnder Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

POC On Book CoversWitness the Night by Kishwar Desai

Indigenous Main CharacterReservation Blues by Sherman Alexie.

A couple of these are on my list for my Read the World project too, so I’ll tick those off of the list. If anyone else fancies joining in then check out the #DiversityDecBingo hashtag on Twitter and Instagram!

Read the World Project


I’ve been thinking this week of a long term project to broaden my reading horizons. @NinjaBookBox introduced me to Book Voyage UK, a book subscription service that sends a book from a different country every month. I immediately signed up, of course, but it also got me thinking. Could I read a book from every country in the world? I mean, of course it’s possible, but could I do it within a certain time limit? Say, before I’m thirty?

So, this weekend I made a list of every country, dependent territory and annexed territory I could find online, with a few extra entries for Native people and people without states- my politics degree and a particular political interest in marginalised groups within nation states helped here. I’ve tried to think specifically rather than broadly- for example I’ve broke down the United Kingdom in to its deprecate four countries because otherwise it’s likely that ‘British’ would, by default, become’English’. Likewise, I’ve created a separate entry for Quebec and Catalonia from Canada and Spain for reasons of nationalism; the latter presumably don’t represent the former in culture and fiction. 

So far my list consists of about 250 entries, although I imagine it will grow naturally over time (for example, I’ve just now asked myself ‘should I create a separate entry on my list for Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot?‘). I turn thirty in May 2021, which gives me approximately four and a half years. Achievable? I think so.

I’ll be using the hashtag #readtheworldproject on Instagram and Twitter, should anyone feel inspired to join me, or be interested in simply keeping tabs. I’m going to be reading a variety of books, from fiction and memoirs to short stories and poetry, so if anyone has any recommendations then please get in touch!

Ninja Book Swap!


I got my Ninja Book Swap parcel today (it had been delivered to my neighbour, I don’t just have a really keen postman) and it was so perfect I almost can’t believe it.

I got this adorable mug to drink tea from when I’m reading (which bears more than a passing resemblance to my own elderly bunny, Bambi). 


I also got this cute Cat Lovers colouring book and some pencils and clearly I love cats. And colouring. 


And finally a copy of The Art of Being Normal which has been on my wishlist for ages. I’m very excited to read it!

Ninja Book Box: Blog Tour


I’ve been really excited for this one for ages now. My friend Bex (who also organises the London Bookshop Crawl and the Ninja Book Swap) has started up a UK based book box subscription and it’s so exciting to have a book and gift subscription box that isn’t subject to ridiculous shipping from the US and isn’t exclusively one theme.

Ninja Book Box is a new quarterly box shipping worldwide from the UK and featuring books published by independent publishers. We aim to introduce excellent books (both backlist and new releases) particularly those which our team & the publishers we work with feel haven’t received the recognition they deserve, and help you find favourites in genres you wouldn’t necessarily pick up for yourselves. Supporting primarily UK based small businesses, each box will contain a book (often signed by the author & with additional material) plus at least two gift items and lots of other fun extras and will take its theme from the book. We want to support excellence and promote exploration and discovery in all aspects of the box. Subscribers will also gain access to lots of additional community perks. For more information sign up to our newsletter, or check out our website for details of how to get the first box! 

Now that the Kickstarter has finished there is a mini box available to get the first book so check out the website for more information!

As part of the Ninja Book Box Blog Tour I was asked to get into the spirit of independent publishing and talk about my favourite indie titles. I’ve gone one step further to also talk about my favourite independent bookshops from around the world too!

My Top 5 Indie Titles

Humans by Matt Haig
One of my all time favourites. An alien takes the form of a disgruntled university mathematics professor in Cambridge and eventually writes a love letter to all humanity. It’s a wonderfully uplifting book that makes me glad to be human.
[Canongate Books Ltd, London]

On the Shores of Darkness There is Light by Cordelia Strube
I reviewed this one some time ago but I feel like it’s still worth coming back to. Harriet and her brother Irwin’s story is heartbreaking and raw, reflective of the kind of family that doesn’t make for happy endings but still deserve to have their story told.
[ECW Press, Toronto]

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
A horrifying anti-war novel about a soldier left with no limbs or face after a mine explodes on the last day of WW1, Dalton Trumbo’s raging novel was one of my absolute favourites as a teenager. It’s almost stream of consciousness in parts, a righteous rant on the hypocrisy of war in others.
[Kensington Books, New York]

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
I can’t stop thinking about this one since I read it recently. It’s a stunning imagining of a horrific logical extreme and a very important feminist novel. To me, it’s an instant classic and I want it to be in people’s minds.
[Allen & Unwin, New South Wales]

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Another novel that I loved because it was an uplifting love story about humanity. And not a romantic love story: AJ Fikry’s life is forever changed when a baby girl is left in his bookshop. Overnight he learns to love life again and his book recommendations to see his daughter through life both make and break my heart.
[Algonquin Books, New York]

My Top 5 Independent Bookshops

Baggins Bookshop, Rochester, England
The largest second hand bookshop in England is actually a five minuted walk from my flat. It reminds me of a setting in a Discworld novel in that I’m pretty sure it is bigger on the inside and that the layout changes with the power of books. They have thousands of second hand books ranging from fiction to military history, local music to philosophy. Their catalogue is probably the most extensive I’ve ever seen and they also have search service for out-of-print titles on their website.

BMV Books, Toronto, Canada
Technically a set of I think three or four shops in Toronto, but I’m still counting them as they’re still independent of the big names. I visited BMV Books over summer and loved their mix of second hand books, new titles and more obscure cheap books. I picked up a few in excellent condition for a fraction of the price but the range was unbelievable; I lost track of how many sections they had available. The staff were also very friendly!

The Book People, Austin, Texas
I spent a lot of time here during my brief stint in Texas; partly because my friend worked here, partly because the cafe was excellent, partly because the air conditioning was saving my life but overall because it was just a pleasant place to be. It’s huge, and like Baggins and BMV the sheer range of books is fantastic. Not just the obvious sections, there was also a cubby hole between bookcases of books based on television and film trivia, gifts, beautiful local publications and an extensive and well-thought-out young people’s section. It’s an absolute joy right in the heart of the city.

Persephone Books, London, England
One of our London Bookshop Crawl finds, Persephone books is both a bookshop and a publisher. They specialise in mainly out-of-print, mainly female-written books with their signature grey cover. It’s a beautiful store because every book features an endpaper based on a fabric created the year the book was first published. So the whole place is both quaint, simple and colourful all at once. Again the staff were wonderful but this time, being such a small shop, they treated us a full tour and talk about how they work so it really felt like joining a new book family.

The Bookmark, Rainham, England
This one is a deeply personal one for me because it’s mine and my Grandma’s favourite second hand bookshop. It used to be owned and run by a lovely old man who would play jazz all day and could tell you that he last sold the book you were looking for on a Tuesday (incidentally, Johnny Got His Gun). Sadly, he passed away many years ago but the bookshop and his spirit in it still remain. It doesn’t so much have shelves, more like tower of books and I think I bought probably 80% of my books here as a teenager. I have many, many second hand books dating back to the sixties or forties that have been lovingly passed on to me through The Bookmark.

So, join us in celebrating more things independently published by checking out the rest of the blog tour!

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Blogtober 2016


I’ve always wanted to take part in one of those Instagram challenges where you post a photo from a prompt each day. Unfortunately I don’t have the patience to stick to a theme for any length of time and I’ve always fallen short by a few days.

Nevertheless, there’s something about Blogtober that really appeals to me. Not being constricted by a particular theme set by someone else but just committing to posting every day this month. As it’s October and things are becoming darker, a bit colder and generally more my kind of season, I’ve loosely given myself a theme of old favourites. Books I loved as a teenager that are, like October, a little bit darker.

I’m not talking about horror specifically, I don’t have an awful lot of time for Halloween, but I’m thinking of talking about the kinds of dystopian, sci-fi or horror books I’ve always liked. I’ve made a list of about 30 books under that umbrella that I’ve read and enjoyed over the years, as well as thinking of some horror or otherwise scary books I want to read this month too.

I’m not re-reading them all (reading more than a book a day is extreme even for me) so I can’t promise in-depth reviews of every book I post about this month (some of them I would have last read when I was about thirteen) but they’re all ones that belong to genres I adore. I’ll basically be using my Old Favourites tag a lot.

So, here’s to a busy month!

My Rereadathon To Be Read pile

  
I’ve finally narrowed down my To Be Read pile for next week’s Rereadathon! I had also planned on rereading Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman but I couldn’t find it. I might have a look in the library

This seems like a lot of books for ten days, especially as I’m planning on reading other books too… But I am on Easter holidays as of the 24th and need plenty of books to occupy my time!

Three of these books (Wuthering Heights, The House on Mango Street and Wise Children) are books I read at university and school so I’m looking forward to reading them without that pressure. Wise Children even has my old annotations written in it! Lolita and Timbuktu I probably haven’t read in the best part of eleven years, so this whole week is exciting!

What is everyone else reading this week?