Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Frustrations of a bookseller - a post about kids books and clueless customers

On my first week working in a bookstore an old lady came to me and said "I heard about that book on the radio you have it?". I asked "what book?", and she just said "well, that book...I don't remember the don't have it, no?".
I was lost for words, but it taught me something, which could be Rule n. 1 of bookselling: "Never be surprised by the level of vagueness or inaccuracy that a customer can achieve when desperately trying to remember the title of THAT book!". It's always on the tip of their tongue. They always wrote it down on a piece of paper and left it at home. Sometimes they're polite enough to apologise for not even being able to provide the subject of the book, let alone a title or author. Sometimes instead they throw fits if proved wrong. Example:

Angry customer:"No, I'm absolutely certain that this is the title, it can't be the one you just said".
Me: "But your title doesn't come up anywhere. It just doesn't exist. Could it be...".
Angry Customer:"Achh, I'll just go somewhere else!". And storms off.

This is not daily routine but it happens often enough to make you realise that customers are a dodgy breed.

But what frustrates me the most these days, what pushed me to write this ranting post in the first place, is the way adults see children's books. Or actually, how they don't see them. I understand that not all of us are kids books experts and therefore need an advice on what to buy. Fair enough. But it's how they ask for it which drives me mad. Their favourite question is "where do you keep books for _ year-olds?" (fill in the blanks with any age up to 16/17).
Now. Why do we bother to have
-a new books section.
- a chart.
-a non fiction section by subject.
- a character section.
- a picture books section.
- a fiction organised by reading level.
...when all they want is books by AGE? I'm usually very nice and ask "what kind of book were you thinking of?" or "do you know the child?" so that I can narrow the request down. But when they go "Could you not just point me in the direction, please?" I don't know what to do. I want to help them, I really do. Because I think of the children who will get a random book based on their age or on the idea that an adult have of children of that age, and feel sorry for them.
Would you go in a bookshop and ask "where are the books for 43 year olds?". No, I didn't think so. Then, why do you think that for children is different? Just give me more information! Are they fluent readers? What genre do they normally like? What are their interests?
I feel like a nosy intruder asking all those questions, and indeed sometimes they look annoyed cause I'm delaying their shopping time or being too particular!
I understand that for whatever reason it can happen that the person doesn't know the kids very well, and has no idea of what to get for them. Fine. But still I don't get why they think kids books should be categorised by age.
Age doesn't define them!
The only fine line I can accept is when it comes to "adult" content, which normally means that a book contains sex/drugs/drinking/swearing or all of the above. For that we have a clearly marked "Young Adult section", which is for teenagers.
For all the other books it really comes down to personal judgment.
Not all 6 year olds can read at the same level. We're not robots which can be programmed. I would have thought it to be a concept easy to grasp, as we've all been there, right? But perhaps, I'm beginning to think, I have an exceptional good memory of my childhood. I remember my first book, I remember what I used to read at 4,5,6,7,8,9,10 etc...I use this parameter when recommending books to avid readers. Now I wonder, why can't people do that? Just think of what kind of level of difficulty you were reading at a certain age, and then take it from there? It's sad to think that people don't remember these things. But it would explain a lot. Certainly it would explain the lost looks they have when they step in the kids section.
Then there's the matter of picture books or books for babies and toddlers. They are completely helpless when coming to choosing those. I am no expert either but I know enough to know that:
- They can't read. So, no, activity books with word searches and puzzles are NOT suitable.
- Small parts can be ingested by babies, yes, but babies should never be left alone. You'll have to be there with the baby to play with her/him. This part usually discourage grannies and aunts, I don't know why. They just want books to keep the children quiet, probably.
- Toddlers tend to tear up pretty much everything they have in sight, so probably a board book is the best option. But passed that stage, normally, they can follow a story and enjoy a good bedtime read. Any picture book. It doesn't matter if it's not perfectly suitable for them. Nothing ever is. No matter what the back of the cover say.
I stand by my position that every child is unique. I haven't studied child development, or child psychology or anything like that, really. It's just my perception.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that adults should try to think of children as individuals. With their own taste and preferences. Regardless of their age.
Age guidance at the back of books just encourages this laziness of thinking. They let the "age groups" decide for them, while they could take their time looking at the book, maybe read a page of two to understand the tone of it, and then decide.
Oh I've so much to rant about when it comes to these issues. I should just stop here or it will never end.
And don't get me started on the whole gender thing. The "tractors are for boys and flowers are for girls" crap. That's definitely a subject for the next ranting post.

For now, just take this lolcat's word.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

My Secret Santa!

My Secret Santa delivered her present last week!
I got a big box which didn't fit into the chimney so Santa left a note saying that my present had to be collected at the post office...and I couldn't even wait to get home to open it. I'm so bad. But what's the point of getting packages if you don't open them as soon as you get your hands on them??
So inside were not one, not two, but THREE books. All from my wishlist. Two of them hardbacks!
The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw.
Remember my pretty covers post? That one was on top of that list:)

What they always tell us by Martin Wilson.
The fact that I coveted this book is a tangible proof of the influence that the Nerds heart YA Tournament has had on me (and I'm sure on so many others). I had never heard of it before. It's not published this side of the Atlantic (yet?) so it would have remained in the dark as far as I am concerned, if it hadn't been for that wonderful thing Renay put together. PLEASE Renay let's do it agaaaaain.
Read Jodie's review for the 1st round.

and last but not least is....

The Amazing Maurice and his educated rodents by Terry Pratchett!
How fitting that I just wrote a post about how much I loved his two kids books I read and then ZAC!, I get another one.
Santa's magic, I'm telling you :)

Now I wish I could have a time-extending machine, or a timeless hole where I could hide for as long as I like, only to reemerge after I'm finished reading everything I want. Alas, such things don't exist. Hope someone invents them soon.

Secret Santa didn't just send me books. I also got a badge "Spell check yourself before you wreck yourself" (good advice!), a pretty necklace, and a beautiful bookmark by Suzanne Woolcott. I wasn't familiar with this artist but the more I look at her stuff, the more I like it!
Look how cute this bookmark is!:

For all her awesomeness, my Secret Santa has decided to stay secret.
But I'd LOVE to know your name, Secret Santa, so that I can thank you personally. So if you don't mind, let me know. I promise it won't spoil the magic :)

ETA: I completely and shamefully forgot to thank the amazing people who made this Santa Exchange possible. It's my third year taking part in it, and I wouldn't want to miss it for the world! It's just so much fun. This is Holiday Swap central and this is the crew who made it possible: Amanda, Amy, Ana, Chris, Debi, Eva, Jen, Jenn, Jill, Kelly, Lena, Lenore, and Nicole.

Friday, 11 December 2009

"The Wee Free Men" and "A Hat Full of Sky" by Terry Pratchett

Picking up The Wee Free Men defied all the rules I had made up about my reading arrangements. But since I was still recovering from a reading slump, I felt - no, I required to be completely free to choose whatever I wanted to read, no matter whether I owned the book or not already.
I'm still in this kind of mood, and since it feels so good and liberating I might even adopt it in the long term. I don't care how many books I have at home!! If I feel like reading something else, I will. This doesn't mean I will buy books like there's no tomorrow, because contrary to logic, this will automatically discourage me from reading the newly bought books. It's as if as soon as they are mine, they are not appealing anymore. Go figure. So here comes the library. Or the "read it now, buy it later" attitude that I've started to adopt in the shop (but this only applies if you're working in a bookshop like me!).

But back to the books...They were awesome! I loved them just as much as I expected I would. And they had a certain soothing effect, which meant that whatever crappy mood I was in, they calmed me and cheered me up a bit. Totally recommended for when you're in need of some comfort reading. Guaranteed to do the business.

The Wee Free Men is a novel set in the Discworld universe, but you don't need to have read any other book in the series to enjoy this one. In fact, this was my first ever Discworld novel!
The main character is Tiffany Aching, a 9 year-old wannabe witch, living in the Chalk country. One day her toddler brother gets stolen by the Fairy Queen and Tiffany needs to go to her world to save him. But she's not alone in her quest. The Nac Mac Feegles, aka the Wee Free Men have made her their new Kelda, and that means that they would follow her to hell if necessary!
Even though the basics for this story aren't new - a fairy queen who steals babies, the hero who faces one test after the other so that she can continue her quest, the wee free men that reminded me of the little people in Truckers - the story felt fresh and original, thanks to its wonderful characters.
Tiffany first of all. She's only 9 but she kicks ass! She's smart, inquisitive, brave. She has Third Thought and First Sight, which according to Miss Tick are essential to be a good witch. She fights monsters with a frying a pan, and gets angry at them for taking what is rightfully hers! You gotta love her for that. She's also a creature of the Chalk, just like Granny Aching. The hills are in her bones. The smell of sheep, jolly sailor tobacco and turpentine is what she grew up with. That, and the cheese, which she makes better than anyone at the farm.
I love Tiffany unconditionally, even though sometimes you wonder how such a small child could be so smart. It makes me feel ashamed of my younger self!
But who I love most, who made me giggle all the time, and who I wanted to meet again at the end of the book, were definitely the wee free men. All of them! I can't pick a favourite. I loooooooooooove them. Seriously. They rock. How can you not love a bunch of little blue men, with a Scottish accent, a disruptive temper, an allergy to every authorities, but with a soft spot for the "wee hag"? I can't get enough of them.

I said the basics for this story are not new, but the way they are developed definitely is. Especially the scenes in Fairyland which were wildly imaginative. And the way the quest is resolved is beautiful and deep. Something I wouldn't have expected in a children's books, although I should have known better, being an advocate for the relevance of children's books in literature.
So it shouldn't be a surprise that I ran to get the second book straight after finishing this one, which is:

A Hat Full of Sky.
"Wise, witty and wonderful", reads the blurb on the back of my copy. And I couldn't choose a better way to describe it myself.
I wanted more wee free men, and I got them. I wanted more of Tiffany's wisdom, and I did. But what I loved about this second story is that it showed the weak side of Tiffany, too. The one that's growing up, and trying to fit in the witches' world. The one that makes mistakes.
Tiffany is sent away from her hills, to learn the art of witchcraft, at Miss Level's house. There's something odd about Miss Level, but I won't say what it is or else I'll spoil the revelation it for you. She doesn't do tricks or hard spells, instead she chooses to help the people in the village who needs to be looked after. A healing potion here, a stitch on an injury there...No spells or potions. Tiffany is skeptical at first and feels she's not learning enough. Then a meeting with fellow apprentice witches makes her feel uncomfortable about herself for the first time, and fuels her annoyance for Mr Level's humble ways of practicing the art.
Meanwhile, an ancient and terrifying creature, a Hiver, starts stalking Tiffany, waiting for its moment to take advantage of her inexperience...

There's so many things I liked about this second book. It's funny and wise, just like The Wee Free Men. But also it added more depth to Tiffany's character, which I liked.
The ending was beautiful and touching, and completely fitting to the philosophy of the book.
I'd recommend it to anyone.
I'm sure I'm going to go back to these books soon, and I won't let too much time pass between them and the third in the series, Wintersmith. It's already on my shelf!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

I survived Nano!

and I won!
I never thought it would be so exhausting. Since I'm such a slow writer (I found out), the most I wrote in one day was 4500 words. And that meant hours sitting down at the desk trying to type something legible. My back wanted to kill me for putting it under so much strain. And let's not talk about the quality or the coherency (is that a word?)...
But I made it, and I'm sort of proud of it. I was probably too sure of myself at the beginning, and crumbled a bit toward the middle and the end, but I made it to the finish line JUST one hour before the deadline! OK, I cheated just a tiny bit by adding the whole lyrics for a song (calling it extra features) but it was an important song, very meaningful (not really...)
I guess I should start editing and rewriting pretty soon, but I'm taking a week off to recover. Right now even thinking of going back to The Novel makes me feel queasy.
I was writing in Italian, and as I struggled to think up words in my own language (how many times I had to look an English word up to translate it into Italian, you'd be amazed!) I realised I need to start reading in Italian again asap, so I can expand my vocabulary - again. This is a bit embarrassing considering I'm not even THAT fluent in English. I'm already forgetting my native tongue. In other words, I should go back to school. Me not happy.

Other non-Nano-related news...I turned 30.
Holy Moly.
It's scary even to type it.
But anyway, let's not dwell on that unspeakable round number. The fun bit is that I got to go to London to see my long lost brother (I hadn't seen him in I don't know how long, 3 years maybe?), see The Gossip gig (loved it!) and meet two of my best friends. It was lovely even if very short. It was literally a 24-hour visit. I felt a bit overwhelmed by London and all those people running about...Dublin is so provincial in comparison. Or maybe it was just the short stay that made everything feel very rushed, even the emotions.

On the books front, I haven't got my bookworm mojo back, yet. I'm still working on it. But I finished the new Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked, which was nice. I enjoyed it, it took me ages to finish it, but I did enjoy it. There was a kind of low-key cynical mood to it, which was pleasant at times, and a bit boring at others. I loved the dialogues though. They were never ever boring. And the metaphors. I wish I could come up with those myself.
Awww will I ever be able to read a book again without thinking "Hmm this turn of phrase is brilliant, why did I never think of that?"
I'm reading Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, now, and I'm doing the same thing. It's good though. It means I'm learning something...right?
I'll stop blabbing now. I just wanted to apologise for not answering to all your comments lately and for neglecting the book blogging community. I promise I'll go back to being a better blogger soon!
In the mean time, thanks for your supporting comments, I really appreciate them:)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Green Books Campaign: Sustainable Sushi - a Guide to Saving the Oceans One Bite at a Time

This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

The book I have chosen to review for the campaign is Sustainable Sushi, a guide to saving the oceans one bite at a time by Casson Trenor.
I have mentioned a couple of times here how I am a sushi lover. If fact, I could eat sushi every day and live happily ever after. Except the oceans wouldn't be as happy as my tummy. The truth is that the way many of our favourite sushi staples such as the bluefin tuna and the eel have been heavily overfished to supply for their ever-growing demand have affected the ecosystems and are in danger of threatening their survival.
This is something anyone could have guessed. After all we are used to being told that the our world is being squeezed out to its limits and it's running out of resources. But did you know that it's not just wild fishing to blame and that fish farms (or at least some types) are just as dangerous? Do you know the difference between trolling, purse seine and long line fishing? Have you ever wondered where your delicious maguro sashimi come from and how it has been caught?
Personally I knew little about these issues before reading this book. I had a sort of idealistic idea in my head that eating fish is better than eating meat, because it's less polluted, or because it doesn't involve industrial farming. Clearly I was wrong. Very wrong.

This little but informative - and surprisingly entertaining - guide does a wonderful job in debunking these myths and in providing an unforgiving view on the state of our oceans. Thankfully, at the same time, it provides us with a choice. It doesn't tell us "Stop eating sushi now". Instead it offers valid alternatives which promise to be just as good. It also invites us to be more inquisitive at the sushi bar counter. If you want to know whether your salmon is wild or farmed, the only way to find out is by asking!
Ultimately, it encourages us to be more aware. To think with our minds and not just with our gluttony.

The format of the book is an A to Z to the most popular shushi choices. For each it gives a concise but well-researched profile which includes informations on how and where they are caught, whether or not they're an endangered species, and whether or not they are at high mercury risk. It also has great colourful illustrations for each fish.
At the end there's a short section on sushi packaging and its recycling. Again, I found myself realising how little I know about this topic.
But my favourite part was, possibly, the very last one. A small section called "Taking it further", where the author suggests some vegan and vegetarian options for our handmade sushi rolls. Some ideas include sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and even strawberries. I can't wait to try them all out.

Even though I agree with the author when he says that changing the eating habits of few individuals isn't the magic solution for every problem, I also agree about what he says after: The point of this book is to help you start thinking about sustainability in all aspects of life.
I think it has worked on me so far. I feel like there's a big dark hole in my knowledge that needs to be filled. I want to be more aware of how our world works and what I can do to make it work better. I hope it will push lots more people to do the same.

My only complain is that this book is very much US-oriented. It has been written by a North-American guy for a North-American audience. And although I am interested in knowing how fish farms work in the US, it doesn't always help in making a responsible choice here, at my local sushi bar. It's still a valuable introduction on the topic and I will treasure it for this, but I will have to make my own research locally, to know more details.

A bit of information on the author:
From saving the whales of the Antarctic to studying the salmon of Alaska, Casson Trenor has worked to support stewardship of our marine resources in all five oceans and countless seas. Trenor has extensive experience and expertise: he has stalked the fetid warehouses of Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, spent two months journeying by ship along the Antarctic coast, berthed on leaking wrecks off Central Pacific islands, and gone octopus fishing with holy men on the Island of Yap. In thousands of conversations with fishermen around the world, he has heard one statement repeated: “The fish are gone.” Born in Seattle and living in San Francisco, Trenor speaks five languages, has traveled to over forty countries, and holds an MA in International Environmental Policy from the prestigious Monterey Institute of International Studies. He is a top consultant for the first fully sustainable sushi restaurant in the United States: Tataki Sake and Sushi Bar in San Francisco. Sustainable Sushi is a culmination of Trenor’s life work.

If interested, you can purchase Sustainable Sushi at this link

And now head to the other 99 reviews that will be posted today for the campaign! That's a lot of reviews:)

Sunday, 1 November 2009

NaNoWriMo - Day 1!

It's started! I've joined the National Novel Writing Month for the first time and I'm really excited about it!
I couldn't wait to start writing, I've been itching to see where my story will bring me for the past two weeks, and now the wait is over! Needless to say the reading and the blogging this month will be down to almost nothing (which is not a big change from what I've being doing to be honest! lol).
I know Chris and Amanda have joined. Has anybody else? Let's be buddies:)

Thursday, 29 October 2009

More mini reviews

I was first drawn to this book after it won the National Book Award in the US. Then the cover and the post-war "noir" setting did the rest.
But as much as I enjoyed reading it, it didn't stay with me for long. I suspect that this is one of those ones that I'd have loved more at 13 or 14. It definitely reminds me of the YA books I used to read at that age anyway.
It wasn't so much a mystery as a coming of age story ( and aren't they all?) of a girl, Evie, who discovers first love, first heartbreak, and first painful clash with reality.
The writing was excellent, and so was the characterizations. I probably wasn't crazy about the story, as I was always waiting for something more exciting to happen, which it never did. Maybe that's why I was a little disappointed. Nevertheless, a good read.

How can you not love Paddington? He's a cuddly fuzzy little bear from Peru! And he loves jam sandwiches. And he's messy and curious and tries hard to be a good bear but he's always in trouble. I want to keep him! Enough said.

In the Hand of the goddess is the second book in the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce. Last year I read the first one, and although I wasn't crazy about the writing I enjoyed reading about a strong young woman who disguise herself as a boy to become a knight. I have a soft spot for fighting women (see Buffy to name one!) so I couldn't skip it.
A lot happens in this second book. Alanna takes part in her first war, faces the chamber of the ordeal, survives countless attacks from Duke Roger, both Prince Jonathan and the thief lord George fall for her, and she even tries on her first dress willingly!
There's so much happening that everything feels a bit rushed and sketchy. Times flies and before you know it Alanna is eighteen and almost ready to leave the school. Also, the fact that Duke Roger is behind everything bad that happens at court and beyond is so obvious that it's puzzling how anybody can't see it, even Alanna at times. But if you don't ask for anything deeper than a bit of "sword & sorcery" fun, then Alanna's adventures aren't the worst.

Done! Next time I'll try to post a proper, articulate and insightful review. Until then, goodnight:)

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Lots of catching up to do

I'm still here! Gawwd I don't even know where to start! I've been reading great books lately and I can't wait to share my thoughts about them, but first I'll try to do a very speedy weedy catching up cause I can't bare to not say something about some of my favourite reads of the year. I wont' even pretend to post proper reviews, just residual impressions on stuff I've read up to 3 months ago...

I'll start with The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
It's just every bit as good as everyone is saying. I started reading it on the plane to Sicily, and those two and a half hours passed completely unnoticed! This rarely happens. I'm nervous at every shake, and can't wait to get down. This time though, it went so smooth, I kinda wanted it to last a bit more so I could keep reading! It wasn't just about the story. The writing was just as captivating. So clever. And so heartbreaking. The movie didn't completely do justice to it, but it could have been much worse!

Next is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Another book that, if you haven't read, you probably are tired of hearing about. Gripping it was. Exciting, fast and moving, too. The only thing it wasn't was being unpredictable. You can pretty much guess the ending, although this won't stop you from frantically keep turning those pages. Catching Fire was just as exciting. I probably enjoyed it a bit more because I knew the characters and cared for them. And I honestly didn't know where it was going. I'm definitely looking forward to the third one, because the ending left it veeeery open to anything!

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I'm so not ready to talk about this book now. All I can say is that it was beautifully written and I didn't expect that. Also I don't think I understood it completely, especially the final part. It was bleak, melancholic, suffocating, but lyrical too. I think I should read it again one day, when I'm ready to take everything in.

This summer I've started reading a (kind of ) new author to me, Sandra Scoppettone. I read a couple of her young adult books when I was younger, but nothing more. She's more well known for her series centred around the lesbian detective Lauren Laurano and that's what I've been reading. Unfortunately the Italian publisher hasn't released them in the proper chronological order, so I didn't follow the time line, but even then, I completely enjoyed them. There's something about the summer+beach+crime fiction combination that I can't explain, but that just works so well for me. These books were especially easy to enjoy in the sun, although they deal with tough subject such as rape, aids and violence against women. They are always socially conscious, but also ironic and funny. The writing style wasn't very polished, but it didn't matter much. I loved reading about Lauren and her love of her life Kit. In the first book I read, Everything You Have Is Mine, they had been together for 11 years and still rocking it. It's not usual to find such attraction and intimacy in a long-term relationship, not even in fiction. I loved their relationship so much that the mystery didn't even matter that much in the end. In the second book I read, Let's face the music and die, the mystery was an utter disappointment because I guessed it from the start. But Lauren's personal story made it worth reading. There was so much tension, what with her dealing with the man who raped her years before, and at the same time dealing with her growing attraction toward a much younger woman, while Kip is away. I think Sandra Scoppettone put so much into these story-lines that forgot to put some mystery into the mystery itself!

In the first story, I loved seeing Lauren trying to come to terms with computers and technology. The book has been written during the early days of internet, and I have to say the word "bulletin board" didn't mean anything to me, but it has a central role in the story so I had to look it up. Seriously prehistoric internet stuff! She becomes an internet junkie later on, and with that I can relate:P

I recommend these books as a light read with some edge and some good gay romance. Unfortunately they're not easy to find in the shops, but maybe libraries still stock them?

OK, I'll finish here, cause I'm tired. I hope I'll manage to finish the catching up part soon, so that I can talk extensively about the latest amazing reads!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Slowly but surely...

I've finished a book! After starting I don't know how many books and never finishing them, I'm very proud of myself. It was the second volume in the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce, In the hand of the Goddess. It was alright, nothing earth-shattering, but it was such an easy read that I finally made through the last page. So for the next book I've decided to scrap the rules, and forget about Mt. "To be Read". I've picked The Knife of Never letting Go and so far it's going good. I still don't feel great, I'm going through some pretty hard times, but knowing that I can read again makes me feel a tiny bit better!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

The Electric Picnic 2009

After few days away from the blogosphere, it's scary to come back and try to fit in again. So much it's been going on and I haven't been part of it. Not that I'm much of a blogger socialite, but looking at my 1000+ unread posts on my Reader, I feel overwhelmed and intimidated. I'll take a step at a time and just post some photos of the festival I was telling you about. It was so much more than I expected. It's not just about the music, even though the thing that will stay with me forever and which is standing out from the whole experience, was seeing Florence and the Machine live. I tried to get tickets to see them again in Dublin but it was physically impossible. They sold out in minutes. So here's few photos I took personally:

I also really enjoyed Julie Feeney. She's so unique, and such a great performer, even though ever so shy when it comes to the talking bits.

Another gig I loved was the Flaming Lips. Such a show!
But if I have to be perfectly honest, the reason that made me decide to go was the presence of my beloved drag queens. They had their own tent, called Poptopia, and they were amazing.

Photo taken from Facebook, can't remember from who!

Especially Veda Beaux Reves. She should be a huge rock star, she looked stunning on that stage and the reviewer on The Irish Times loved her too!

I was saying there was so much more than music. It's not called Music and Arts Festival for nothing.The whole festival was so artistic. It looked to me like a big fun fair for adults. Everywhere you turned there was something to photograph, especially in the Body and Soul Area. It was so pretty!
This is a part of the stage there.
This is me inside the sculpture of an elk!

This is Natasha's food stall. She makes everything completely raw, with no dairy, no wheat, no gluten, no sugar. And it's delicious. The chocolate cake was the best chocolate cake I've ever had. No kidding.
The rest of the food stalls were also really good, if not cheap. The tofu burgers at the Vegan and Vegetarian place were a favourite. So were the "bloody mary" crumpets at the Strumpets with Crumpets stall. I wish I took a picture of those. But my camera battery barely lasted to take pictures of Florence on the last day.
LinkMore pretty things on the stalls.

A new thing I tried there was the silent disco. SO MUCH FUN!

I bought myself a wholly hat because it was freezing at night. Here it is, where is sort of makes me look like a hobbit.
So many parents were carrying their kids around in these carts, and so many kids were dressed up as fairies. So cute:)
The ground was very very very very veeeeery muddy, sometimes resembling quick sands. It was great fun. You would have been very brave (or very foolish) not to wear a pair of wellies. I don't think I've ever seen that many people wearing wellies all in one place. The variety was incredible, I was jealous of basically every other girl who passed by me. I had nice pink flowery ones, but they leaked so I in the end I had to buy sensible green farmer-style ones, which weren't fashionable, but they kept me dry and warm!

I only have good memories about this festival. Even though the last day our tents got flooded, and we were covered in mud from head to toe and had to leave the tents there. Even though at night I barely got any sleep because the wankers beside us stayed up 24/7, drinking and being really annoying (I wondered if they saw anything else in the festival beside their gazebo). Even though I was freezing at night, and I didn't take any shower for 3 days, and my hair looked horrible all the time cause there was no power to use straighteners and if you wanted to use 10 minutes of hairdryer you had to pay 10 euro!
So despite all this, I can't complain one bit. It was awesome. I'd do it all again tomorrow. (although I'd bring warmer pjs, stronger tents and would find a quieter spot to camp!)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Blogging Break

I haven't written anything in a while. I haven't read much either. I start a book and then I put it down, and start another another one. I'm definitely not in the mood for reading, let alone talking about books. I hope this feeling goes away quickly because it doesn't feel like me. I want things to go back to normal, but I'm in such a state of internal turmoil these days, that I don't know when it will happen.
On the other hand music is easier, it makes me forget about things, and it heals.
I have been to a wonderful festival of music and arts called Electric Picnic last weekend, which happens in Ireland, in a big country field, like Glastonbury. It was my first time and it was amazing. I was walking in mud with wellies most of the time. We were camping out and barely got any sleep for three days. And it was all worth it!
I fell in love with Florence and the Machine. Such a powerful voice. I listen to her music on repeat now.
If you don't know her yet, check her out, but keep in mind that she sounds a million time better live. Mind-blowing!

Drumming Song

Rabbit Heart

Cosmic Love

Gotta go now, I'll be back to post some photos of the festival. And when things get calm again, I'll be a bookworm

Saturday, 22 August 2009

A trip to the National Gallery: Harry Clarke's Illustrations

I went to the National Gallery the other day, with a new friend of mine. It's not something you do normally, when you're living in a place. It's what tourists do. Besides, I had been to the gallery two times already. But it turned out a completely new experience this time. I watched the paintings more carefully. We admired them, laughed at them, we were moved by them.
But what sticked with me most of all was a little temporary exhibition of an artist called Harry Clarke. In 1916 he illustrated Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales, and now 10 of these illustrations are exhibited in our Nation Gallery until 20 September.
If you are anywhere near Dublin, I urge you to go see them, cause they are amazing!

These are in colour:

These in black and white:

They were so rich and detailed, so imaginative and wild. I wished I could have bought the reproduced booklet, but it was too late and the shop was closed. I'll definitely go back and buy it so I can look at them whenever I want and be amazed by them again and again.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Catching Up Part I

I think it's time I face my fears and start blogging again!:P
I have stayed away, kinda overwhelmed by the amount of reviews I have to write. So what I'm gonna do is skip the detailed ramblings and cut to the essential. I want to say something about everything I read lately, but it's gonna be short! Hopefully.
During holidays I was on fire! I read non-stop, it was brilliant.
But before getting to the holiday read I have to catch up on some even older reads:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
It was good, but not great. Didn't like the writing much, maybe it has to do with the Italian translation. It felt a bit redundant, melodramatic, and old fashion. I liked the story, just not the way it was told. Also the fact the twists were told instead of shown took away from the wow factor. I foresaw one of the main ones, it wasn't too hard. It was entertaining, though, and I get why many people loved it. The premises were good, the pages were easy to turn. It just probably didn't feel very close to the narrator. It also rambled about secondary plots that weren't useful for the main one and were a bit confusing. There was definitely a lack of good female characters, which is usually a big factor for me for liking or not liking a book.
For the good bits: Fermin. I loved him! I liked the ending. I liked how the two lives of Daniel and Julian paralleled. I liked the role of books. And the faith of Hugo's pen...
But, what's with the angels? So many of them. Obviously he likes angels very much.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery was a pleasant, amusing mix of domestic storytelling and philosophy. I'm not a big fan of philosophy, but I am of good writing.
I loved Renee, the concierge of an exclusive Paris apartment building and Palome, the 12 year-old girl who lives in it. They were very similar as they both hid from the world, pretending to be someone they're not. They're both exceptional in their own way.
The essence of the book could be about the importance of little things, of the little miracles, the "small always in the never". Like the blossom that falls off its plant; the feeling of the rain on your shoulders; the music that stops everything in a bubble of eternity.
Some of the philosophical stuff was useless talk to me (is a table really a table or the idea of a table?). It bored the hell of out me, but if you don't linger too much on those parts, it's definitely worth a read.

Missing Angel Juan by Francesca Lia Block.
My honeymoon with FLB's writing is still on. More of Witch Baby, all by herself in the huge New York. Who could ask for more? Still magical, still ethereal, still urban fairytale. I want to write like her!

Tapping the Dream Tree by Charles de Lint.
I finished it!!! Wow!
I shouldn't even be talking about it cause I've raved enough about it, but the thing is that the last story was actually a short novel and it was BRILLIANT!
It's called Seven Wild Sisters and if you can find it anywhere on its own BUY IT! Here's the cover for it.
Reading it put a happy feeling in me. It really made me feel good about being alive and being able to read stories like this one. It wasn't extraordinary. It was simple, in a comforting way. Like eating fresh bread with butter and honey, or any of your favourite food, on a summer day, lying on the grass. There are fairies, there is danger too. But you know there will be a happy ending.
So so so recommended.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
OK, how do I do this? It's Neil Gaiman, so it's hard, but I have to be honest. I didn't fall in love with this one. I enjoyed the characters (Door!). I loved the idea, the humour, the wild imagination. But I didn't connect with the story that much. I was a bit like Richard, never knowing what the hell was going on and why people were doing what they were doing. It all came together in the end, and I wish there were more books set in London Below, but for the most part I was like "so...why are they doing this now?" It's still Neil Gaiman so it was pretty good, just not super good.

And that's the end of my efforts to catch up! More to come, soon (maybe).