Discussion | Studying vs. Reading Books

Today, we begin with unpacking the very title of this discussion post: I realise that it’s never a simple dichotomy of ‘studying’ a book and ‘reading’ a book simply “for the sake of it”. However, I chose the title for this blog post because I wish to unpack some thoughts I’m having regarding enjoying a book for entertainment’s sake vs. enjoying a book for studying’s sake. There are plenty of books which I didn’t necessarily enjoy on its own merit, as a singular story, but came to enjoy after further study of secondary material or after a lively seminar discussion with people at university. I would probably count Frankenstein, The Moonstone, Dracula, Wuthering Heights, and A Tale of Two Cities among that number.

This topic has come to mind particularly today because I just DNFed Jane Eyre. I have never studied this book (somehow) in all my many years of studying English literature. I picked it up on a whim sometime when I was at secondary school and read it but didn’t love it as I thought I probably should have. I just didn’t get along with Charlotte Bronte’s writing style or pacing even though I enjoyed the concept and overall plot. I decided recently that perhaps I ought to give it a re-read because I am now older and (hopefully) wiser, and with #Victober happening this month, it felt like fate to re-read it now. Reader, I DNFed it.

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Discussion | Finding Your Blogging Voice

Hi all, I bring you a semi-rare post today in the form of a discussion post. This time, I’d like to discuss the struggle of finding your own personal voice and blogging tone, as it has been something that’s been on my mind a lot over the last few months and it definitely affects how much I blog since it’s constantly playing on my mind.

First, let me explain what I mean. I follow some amazing bloggers who have such fun and engaging blogs. And, in an internet full of blogs (especially those about books), what distinguishes one book blog from another? Largely, it’s the tone, it’s the blogger’s personality coming across through the “voice” of their blog. My favourite blogs are the ones full of this voice, the ones where the blogger’s complete personality seems to really shine and engage their readers. I’m not necessarily talking about big personalities; there are more understated blogs and bloggers that just sound so distinct, so very much them, that it’s hard to resist automatically reading their latest post when it pops up in my Reader.

This is what I aspire to. Or not even that, but to have a more distinct voice. Because I feel a disconnect between my different writing styles and I’m not sure if my (attempted) amalgamation of them in this blog quite works to form one ‘voice’. You see, I am well used to adjusting my tone depending on the audience.

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Discussion | Seasonally (In)appropriate Reading

Hi one and all, welcome to another discussion post aka ‘Emma babbles to try to work out her own opinion on the subject at hand and then asks what you think when she can’t make her mind up’.

This subject at hand is something that I am finding unavoidable at this time of year due to the changing of the seasons from Summer to Autumn, or Fall for any of you US folk. With Autumn comes the excuses to dig out that knitwear and those scarves and go crunching through golden leaves. It also brings out all the love for pumpkin spice latte (I have been known to indulge in the past)… which is to say, there’s something of an Autumn ~aesthetic~ on the Internet, and that has even extended into the book community. Much like Summer seemingly heralds the resurgence of fun, contemporary reads on many a reader’s TBR, and Winter sees readers snuggling down with something more slow-paced or a chunky, long fantasy tome, Autumn marks that transitional period which is reflected in a lot of bookworms’ reading choices.

Autumn also brings October which brings Halloween and, for many, they try to sneak in a spooky read or two, in the spirit of All Hallows Eve. As someone who doesn’t much go in for Halloween parties, nor horror as a genre, this has never really affected my TBR choices all that much, though it is fun to watch recommendation videos from Booktubers for fun scary reads. (One year maybe I’ll be brave enough to dip my toes into the murky waters of horror, but 2017 is probably not that year!)

This has led me to a realisation… I don’t really read seasonally.

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Discussion | Marking Up Your Books

Today’s discussion post was brought to you by this tweet which I saw whilst scrolling aimlessly through Twitter. Yes, this is a discussion all about marking your books, specifically by dog-earring the pages. Please do not shrink away in fear or brandish the sign of the cross at me, I assure you I am not evil. The vehemence with which some people on Twitter were categorising readers who does this as HEATHENS really got my back up… until I remembered, I used to be one of those people. However, nowadays, oh boy… *deep breath* my name is Emma and I dog ear the pages of my books. No, please don’t back away, please I’m not a terrible person, I swear!

Don’t get me wrong, I used to be just like those people on that tweet who are jokingly (or not so jokingly) calling people who mark their books as EVIL. I used to think that anyone who would dare to despoil a book in such a cruel and callous way deserved the fieriest of deaths. Alongside those who purposely crack the spine of paperbacks and take some joy in the sound of the binding crying out in pain. And those people at the back? Those readers who not only annotate in the margins in pencil but in pen too – evuuuuul!

Yes, I am being dramatic. And I am being dramatic in order to present my change in thinking.

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Discussion | What Do You Use Audiobooks For?

Hi folks! Today I bring you a somewhat rare post about audiobooks. This isn’t so much a discussion about which audiobooks I chose or when I listen to them; rather, this is more of a word vomit discussion of a tendency I’ve noticed I have regarding audiobooks. You see, I’ve noticed that I predominantly use them to “re-read” books I’ve already read which may seem pointless but let me explain…

handmaidaudiobookRecently I decided that I needed to re-read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood in preparation for watching the TV adaptation which finally started airing in the UK on Sunday nights on Channel 4 recently. I decided this on the preceding Friday morning, when I was already in work, so I didn’t have a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale with me, much less the reading time to get through it by Sunday night. It’s not a particularly long book, but it’s also not that quick of a read, so I was very conscious that I probably didn’t have enough hours to physically read the book at the weekend.

However, a quick search of my library’s Overdrive offerings revealed that they had the audiobook, as read by Joanna David, available to borrow. And I was having a slow day in work, where I needed to input fairly monotonous data onto a spreadsheet and do some research via Google to find out some author details. So, I could listen to something. I had tried listening to a new audiobook and I had tried listening to a podcast (I’m currently making my way through Witch Please, why had I not listened to that sooner?!?), but I just wasn’t feeling it. So I popped on The Handmaid’s Tale audiobook and was very quickly swept up in a re-read of the dystopian classic. Not only that, I listened to the majority of the audiobook in the space of my day at work. There’s something quite satisfying about accomplishing that at the same time as being in work.

ravenboysaudiobookMy go-to, prevailing example to explain my relationship with audiobooks is The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. There is just something about this story that lends itself to a slow-burning drawling audiobook that you can sink into, and the narrator Will Patton’s voice has that in spades. I adore Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle (I still haven’t read the final book because I can’t let go yet) and I’m more than sure that I will continue to re-read this series for many years to come. In an effort to not completely wreck my paperbacks, I purchased the series’ audiobooks via Audible and, in the midst of doing a series re-read late last year, I eagerly started to listen to Blue Lily, Lily Blue. That was the beginning of the end, my friends, I’m now hooked on these audiobooks. There’s just something about its narration style that is strangely comforting and familiar and makes re-reads feel so cosy.

By using audiobooks for re-reading past favourites I also feel like I’m not wasting time reading which might not sound entirely logical but stay with me on this one. If I re-read a book (as I am wont to do) I feel as though I’m not reading something new and therefore wasting time. After all, we only have a finite amount of time to read ALL THE THINGS and so many books so little time. My tendency to want to re-read and re-experience my favourite things (it’s a comfort thing, ultimately) clashes with my TBR ambitions. So re-reading via listening to the audiobook makes me feel less guilty, because the only time I listen to an audiobook is when I physically can’t read a book because I’m travelling or doing laundry. It’s all about maximising your free (otherwise dead) time and squeezing reading in with minimal guilt experienced about what you happen to be “reading”.

So that’s what I primarily use audiobooks for but what do you use audiobooks for? Do you use them to “re-read” books like I do? Or do you prefer to listen to only new books you’ve never read before? Please comment below, I’d love to hear your opinions on all things audiobooks.


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Review | Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

Welcome, friends. Last night I saw the latest of the Pirates of the Caribbean films – Salazar’s Revenge (terrible title tbh) aka Dead Men Tell No Tales (the much superior US (?) title). And I have some thoughts about it. This is less of a measured and academic “review” and more of a “Emma has a lot of feelings so let her word vomit them here including lots of CAPITAL LETTERS OF ENTHUSIASM and reaction gifs”… buckle in, folks, it may be a bumpy ride!

I went into the latest instalment in the running-out-of-steam Pirates of the Caribbean franchise with low hopes, such low hopes that I’m not even sure the word “hope” should be found within 10 feet of my expectations. I’d heard 2 and 1-star reviews across the board. So, suffice it to say, I expected a hot mess. What did I get? Well, not a hot mess, more a lukewarm mess, if anything. To me, Salazar’s Revenge made more sense and had more potential than the fourth film, On Stranger Tides, which means I didn’t find it nearly as disappointing as a lot of reviewers and critics did. “Potential” is, I think, the key word here, since not all that potential was fulfilled enough for my tastes, but more on that later. If you’re going into this expecting a ground-breaking sequel, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment from the off, but if all you want is a bit of light relief and nautical adventure? This fits the bill.

Let’s start with the premise…

“Johnny Depp returns to the big screen as the iconic, swashbuckling anti-hero Jack Sparrow in the all-new “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” The rip-roaring adventure finds down-on-his-luck Captain Jack feeling the winds of ill-fortune blowing strongly his way when deadly ghost sailors, led by the terrifying Captain Salazar, escape from the Devil’s Triangle bent on killing every pirate at sea – notably Jack. Jack’s only hope of survival lies in the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but to find it he must forge an uneasy alliance with Carina Smyth, a brilliant and beautiful astronomer, and Henry, a headstrong young sailor in the Royal Navy. At the helm of the Dying Gull, his pitifully small and shabby ship, Captain Jack seeks not only to reverse his recent spate of ill fortune, but to save his very life from the most formidable and malicious foe he has ever faced.” (Summary from IMDB)

From this point in there will be blood spoilers so please, for the love of all that is good and holy, if you intend to see this film and do not want to be spoiled then DO NOT READ ON, GO AWAY AND LIVE YOUR LIFE IN BLISSFUL IGNORANCE, GO NOW.

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Discussion | Reading Before Watching

Hi folks, I bring you something of a discussion post regarding something that has been on my mind recently – reading before watching. Let me clarify – reading a book before watching the adaptation.

I think I speak for all of us readers when I say that we tend to hold to the sanctity of the source material whenever a television or film adaptation is announced – if it’s a favourite book we probably worry and fret about whether a production team is about to completely ruin something precious to us. Likewise, we might just be excited to see a story we love come to the big or small screen, and look forward to more people experiencing that story, in whatever format that is.

But, readers, I have a dilemma: what do you do when a new series is announced, based on a book, and you haven’t read the book – do you wait for the TV show so that the adaptation is new and fresh for you, or do you read the book beforehand? My instinct obviously tells me to read the book first before watching the adaptation but part of me always wonders if I’m not potentially dampening my enjoyment of the TV show or film. After all – I know what is going to happen then, and nothing is shocking or unexpected (unless they completely diverge from the source material).

nightmanagerI was thinking about this yesterday as I was doing a re-watch of The Night Manager series and had an inclination to re-read the book again. I recalled that, despite having read the book back in February 2016, before the miniseries started airing, I was still overwhelmingly tense and on the edge of my seat whilst watching the adaptation. Now, admittedly, some of that is because I have a slight inclination towards Tom Hiddleston (understatement of the century) so, you know, what you gonna do… but aside from that I also was tense because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. In the effort to modernise the source material and make it more relevant for a 2016 audience, the production team had made the decision to change some key elements of the story. This meant that, though I had read the source material, it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the series by “spoiling” any of the plot’s twists and turns. But not all adaptations are like this.

howardsendLast night I picked up Howards End by E.M. Forster. After having read A Room with a View last week and found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how readable I found Forster’s writing style, I decided to give Forster’s most famous novel a read. Then I remembered that the BBC are producing a miniseries of the book which is due to be released later this year starring Hayley Atwell and Matthew MacFadyen (I am sure there are plenty of others too but, I mean, my priority will always be Hayley Atwell because she’s Hayley Atwell). I had a moment of pause then – surely every little twist and turn of the adaptation would be spoiled if I read the novel first? After all, period dramas based on classics or modern classics do tend to push for faithfulness to the source material, for fear of upsetting the delicate sensibilities of readers and their expectations. So if I read the book, would I be as inclined towards watching the series, when it did air on TV?

Despite this momentary dilemma, I am fully aware that it will not stop me from reading the book – as a reader I will always lean towards the side of the primacy of the book, regardless of how excited I am to see an adaptation on the big or small screen, and the book will probably always win. But that doesn’t mean the adaptation won’t put up a damn good fight…

But beware: on the other side of the coin lurks a trap, a trap that I often fall into. On the occasions when I do see a film or TV show adapted from a book first, even if I end up loving the adaptation, sometimes I never quite get around to reading the book afterwards. I know, I know, I’m a terrible reader! After all, I know what happens in the story, so reading the story suddenly isn’t quite as high priority as all the other books on my TBR. I know how it goes, I know how it ends, I’ve experienced the story, regardless of the format it was in… and there are so many other stories that I haven’t experienced yet that deserve my time and attention. This happened with another le Carré book – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I had embarked on a mission to read the book once upon a time, got super confused, and abandoned it. Then I watched the 2011 film starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley, and, though I thoroughly enjoyed it, the book suddenly didn’t really seem a priority any more. I knew so what was the point any more?

Well, Emma, I’m sure the book is much more nuanced, I hear you say, to which I say: touché. And so the vicious cycle keeps on spinning…

Do you have this dilemma too? Do you have to make sure you read a book before watching its TV or film adaptation – or does it not bother you so much? Do you think the effect of a TV or film adaptation is sometimes “spoiled” because you know what’s going to happen, because you read the book first? Does this cause anyone else as much indecision as it does me? On the more positive note – what TV/film adaptations are you looking forward to in the future? Chat to me in the comments below, I’d love to talk adaptations!


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Discussion | Cataloguing Your Books

Just a (hopefully) short one from me today folks. I recently came across a couple of Booktube videos discussing the ways in which you can catalogue your own personal library or collection of books and the benefits of doing so, specifically Rachel at Kalanadi’s video on ‘Tracking Your Library’. I must admit – this is something I’ve tried (and failed) to do in the past. I used Libib for a while and dutifully scanned my books but then I proceeded to do absolutely nothing at all with that list – I still have the app on my phone and I’m sure I could do something with it if I wanted to but I’ve lost the motivation to do so using that interface.

Enter: Emma watches Rachel’s video and discovers LibraryThing exists.

Again, it’s ostensibly yet another app equipped with a barcode scanner so you can quickly catalogue your book collection in one place under one account name. However, even on first glance, it has much more in-depth features which mean you are definitely cataloguing your books as opposed to just recording them by scanning their ISBNs. This deeply appeals to the nerdy side of me that likes being able to manipulate a data set to filter books of a certain genre or books of a certain page count etc. etc. Plus there’s definitely some satisfaction to be found in getting into a groove scanning barcodes and hearing that pleasing beep as each thing scans successfully.

It’s safe to say that once I return to Liverpool (I’m currently back at my parents’ house for a few days) I will be pulling my books off the shelves in order to catalogue them. Yes, I’m a nerd like that. Also I would really like to have a handily accessible list of my books on my phone somewhere so that I can be 100% sure when I’m browsing a used book shop that that book I’m about to impulsively buy isn’t already in my collection. (Please tell me you’ve also done this?!)

Don’t worry, this post isn’t sponsored by Libib or LibraryThing – it just got me thinking about how (and indeed even if) you readers out there catalogue your book collection in any particular way. Do you have an app for it? Do you use Goodreads’ bookshelves function to its full potential? Do you like to make your own spreadsheet? Do you prefer the ol’ analogue approach of a pen to paper list? Please do let me know in the comments because I’m genuinely quite nerdily interested in hearing about this from my lovely fellow readers!


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Feature | Books That Made Me

As people we are all inevitably shaped by the media and culture we consume. This is especially true of our formative years, especially childhood. I think that’s why any books, films or TV shows that we enjoyed as children hold a strange and special place in our hearts, even as we get older and even if we might notice ‘problematic’ things about them.

This post is inspired by the wonderful Cinzia whose videos I adore and who does a sort of annual favourites video which she titles, for example, Books That Made Me 2015. These aren’t just books that are her favourites of the year; they are the books that contributed a more lasting impact on her life in that given year and whose effect will last many years into the future. This got me thinking about my own favourites, the books that “made me”, and I felt like a wander down nostalgia lane in the form of revisiting some of the books I read as a child that I think contributed into making me the reader, and the person, I am today. I thought it might be an interesting feature post to share with you lovely folks, and perhaps we could start a little discussion about what childhood favourite books made you into the reader you are today?

Even more timely, earlier today I came across Comma Press’ blog from their staff talking about their favourite childhood books in honour of World Book Day today. Today seems like the perfect day to publish my own blog post dedicated to the books that came to me as a child reader and still influence the reader I am to this very day. This is going to be a long one, kids, so buckle up…

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Discussion | Blogging Stats and Validation

This might be a relatively brief ‘discussion’ which, actually, is pretty much summed up by the title of this post.

I’ve never been much of a numbers girl. I’m well and truly a right-brained, artsy, wishy washy, literature girl through and through – to the extent that I sometimes struggle now with remembering how to do long division (I wish I were kidding). And we all know numbers, whether those numbers stand for followers or number of posts or views or likes, they’re all nice enough in terms of analytics but, actually, become meaningless in the grand scheme of things. That follower count? Just a number, a mark on a screen, nothing more.

And, don’t get me wrong, whilst it’s nice to have the validation via those pesky numerals, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of why most bloggers blog. I blog because having to sit down and put words together to express an opinion is actually something that has helped my own sense of self and my confidence enormously over the past few years.

I’ve always been someone who struggles with very deeply ingrained insecurities about whether anything I have to say is worthwhile saying… or worth anyone reading, for that matter. Hence why I sometimes seem to slip into radio silence on this blog. Chances are I’m still reading and thinking about books, but I’ve just had a moment of ‘oh woe is me, I don’t have anything new to say, let’s not bother’. That is a destructive and cyclical mindset and having this blog has actually really helped me try to break out of that vicious cycle.

So, “what is the point of this ‘discussion’?” I hear you ask. Well, I recently reached 200 followers. To me, that’s amazing. The fact that 200 people care about what I (occasionally) write? That’s astounding. I’m definitely not the biggest or most prolific blogger ever (ha, not by a long shot) but the fact that someone else cares (let alone 200 of you) is really quite something. And it does wonders for silencing that ol’ inner critic of mine who does so like to pipe up at every opportunity.

So, sincerely, thank you to each and every person who has ever read, commented, and/or liked anything I’ve written on this little blog of mine.
I appreciate your support more than you could ever know.


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