Tuesday 15 July 2008

Away for two weeks! :D

I'm leaving Ireland today. I'll be "home" for two whole weeks! I will be in Tuscany for a few days to see mum, granny and friends ( and also to see some good gigs, including Verve and Chemical Brothers...)and then off to Sicily for some serious swimming, sunbathing, and lazying and to see my dad.
I don't think I'll be posting here much even though I've so many reviews to do...but we'll see about them when I'm back on duty!
I'll leave you with some piccies of the places I'm going to, so you know why you should be jealous :D hihi...
Livorno - calafuria:

Livorno - Calignaia:

Check out this website for more piccies.

and Levanzo (small island on the west side of Sicily)!

I'm going to spend a lot of time sitting in the bar you can see on the right...so relaxing!

more of Levanzo...how I love this place, you can't imagine...

That's all for now, I'm hoping to take lots of pictures too, so more to come when I'm back! have great summer everybody :D

Monday 7 July 2008

Picture Book Monday (on a Tuesday...): Il Sung Na

This week I'd like to focus on one author, instead of just one title.
Il Sung Na has only published two books up to now, so I thought it'd be best to feature both of them.
His debut, Zzzzz - a book of sleep , is a true piece of art. It won me over immediately, with just one glance. Just take a look at some examples and judge for yourself:

He uses a mix of manual and digital media to create a unique decorative effect which is just stunning. I love the way he draws flowers everywhere, on elephants, whales, birds and fish. It looks like he doodled all over the pages, with spirals and prints and random decorations, but instead of looking messy, the result is really stylish and personal.

Even though I think this is his best work, his second book is great too.
It's called The Thingamabob, a funny tale of an elephant who finds a strange looking object and can't figure out what it is for...until it starts to rain!

This book is packed with elephant-y cuteness. It uses lighter tones of colours and it's less detailed than A book of sleep, but it still has all its charm and originality.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them and have a better look. It's worth it.

I'm so glad there's artist like Il Sun Na around. They definitely raise children's picture book onto a higher level. Children deserve to be exposed to these kind of beautiful works. I believe it helps expand their visual imagination and develop their artistic souls.
Sometimes I hear people saying "ah yes, this is great but would the kids understand it? Isn't it too advanced/complicated/more for adults than for them?". It's like saying when something is good than it's not for children.
And that goes to show how many times people tend to underestimate kids and toddlers.
I'm not saying this for Il Sung Na's books in particular. It's just something that bugs me a lot, since I've been working in bookshops and I've been dying to say it!
So, give children the best books. Expose them to art and beauty. Let them play freely with colours and paint and most importantly scrap all those dreadful narrow-minding colouring books!!!

Friday 4 July 2008

The Accidental - Ali Smith

One summer day in Norfolk, Amber appears at the front door of the Smart family, and changes everything. The book describes the effect that this strange woman has on each of them, through their eyes, so that at every chapter the perspective shifts from one member of the family to the other.
There's 12 year-old Astrid obsessed with videoing everything. Teenager Magnus, who is tormented by a school tragedy he feels responsible for. There's lecturer Michael and his long list of sexual conquests, and then there's writer Eve, who is trying to write another bestseller, but is afflicted by the writer's block.

Ok, I'll be honest. I didn't get this book at all. Maybe I'm too used to reading children's literature now, and I can't appreciate this kind of writing, or maybe it just wasn't my thing. The fact is that I couldn't even finish it.
It started well, I enjoyed the first quarter of it, I found it funny and I was really interested to know what was going to happen. Then nothing happened. I was half way through it when I realised I didn't care about any of the characters. Then when I only had about 20 pages to go, I quit. When you start skipping sentences, then paragraphs, then pages, you know it's time to put an end to it. I'm really sad to say this because I wanted to like it and I thought I loved the style at first. Unofortunately it got weirder and weirder till it lost me completely.
The fact is that it felt more like a psychological study on middle class people than a real story. I appreciated the experimental writing and its boldness, but I got to a point where it was too much for me.

I've read other bloggers' review and it seems to have been received pretty well by other people, so if you haven't read it, don't be put off completely. Read the other reviews and then maybe give it a try. It's not awful. It just wasn't for me.

other blog reviews:
Rhinoa's ramblings
Pink Blue whale
Who's that bookworm?
What I have been reading

Let me know if you've reviewed it too and I'll add your link to the list.

Thursday 3 July 2008

I've been to Bookworms' Heaven!

Yes, there is such a place and it's right here on this planet! It's called Hay-on-Wye and it's tiny little village in the middle of nowhere, in Wales. I spent 3 days there and it was awesome! Everywhere you turn there was a bookshop, of any kind and form. There's less than 2000 people living in Hay but more than 30 bookshops. Mostly second-hand. I've only seen one that actually sells new books. The rest are reminders, collectibles, antiques, second hand...Heaven, I'm telling you!

It wasn't that easy to get there. We had to take a ferry from Dublin, which was nice and quick. Then the train which was less quick and then from Hereford we were meant to take a bus. Only the last bus had just left 20 minutes before we got there, so there was no other solution than to pay 30 pounds for a taxi, since hitch-hiking is for teenagers, and I felt too old for it:P

Hay itself is lovely. It's a typical cosy British village, only with lots and lots and lots of books. So many that you might get tired of them. I didn't, though.
The scenery around the village is gorgeous. You can walk along the river through a path between the trees, and it feels like stepping into a fairytale. It was truly magical.

But obviously what made it so special was the books! I wasn't so much interested in the Festival, for which the town is most famous. I just wanted a quiet and relaxed holiday browsing books till I dropped:P And that's exactly what I did.

The first bookshop I went was the Richard Booth's shop. It's the second largest secondhand bookshop in Europe. I don't know which one is the biggest, but this one was massive. Three floors, in an old looking building.

The basement was also used as shop floor and smelled like a proper basement, damp and dusty. It was pretty cool.

Across the road was the crime fiction bookshop called "Murder and Mayhem". I didn't go in because I'm not a fan of crime books but the window was great:

(click to enlarge!)

Rose's Bookshop is specialised in Children's books. There were all very expensive, for collectors mainly, but I managed to buy one for only 6 sterlings, which I'll show you later. The shop was small but really well kept. The window was wonderful too, but I didn't take a photo with the digital camera so no pic. Here's the inside, showing the Fairy tales' section:

The shop included also a very playful dog, which kept asking for its toy to be thrown:

At the bottom of the town's castle (also made into a bookshop) there's the "Honesty Bookshop", which is basically just open air shelves, where you can buy any book and leave the money into a box hanging on a wall. 50p for hardbacks and 30p for paperbacks. Isn't it the coolest thing?

I wish I could show you all the bookish pictures that I have but this is taking ages and it's already a very long post. So I'll leave you with a picture of all the books that I ended up bringing home. Not that many. I've been surprisingly wise, also because I was a bit broke. I did most of the shopping in the "all for 1 pound" shop, which was brilliant. And this is was a got, from top to bottom:

- The wind in the willos by Kenneth Grahame (very old edition, nice cover9
- The restaurant at the end of the universe by Douglas Adam
- My swordhand is singing by Markus Sedwick
- Wonder Tales of ancient Wales (couldn't leave without something like this)
- Zoli by Column McCann
- Reading the Vampire Slayer- the new unofficial guide to Buffy and Angel (you can never have too many Buffy books)
- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
- The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren (I didn't even know this existed!)
- Coraline by Neil Gaiman
- The Weirdstone of Brisingaman by Alan Garner
- Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
- Boobela and Worm by Joe Friedman and Sam Childs
- Year of the goat by Nigel Suckling and Wayne Anderson (bought in Rose's)

Also included in the picture is the homemade honey and the honeycomb bought from a cute man with a long white beard, the Hay-on-Wye passport, welsh sweets, welsh apple juice and a nice flyer of some circus.

I really hope to go back there one day, with more money, more time and a car!