“Let us read, and let us dance;
these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Mother to Son - Langston Hughes

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Mother to Son

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now—
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair. 
Langston Hughes

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 A Poetry Moment - Table of Contents 

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Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Wighill Book Exchange!

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A friend of mine emailed me a little while ago about a little book swap shop with a difference that he located in Wighill. 

"We went for a cycle ride this morning 
and visited Wighill on the way, where 
- inside an old phone box - 
they have a swap shop for books!"

Credit to Michael

Credit to Michael
What a wonderful way to share books!

Have you spotted any weird and wonderful book distribution ideas near you?

Do take a picture and share it with us!

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Visit Michael's Blog HERE

Read more reviews here!
Book 03 - Rich Girl, Poor Girl
Book 02 - Legends of Shannara
Book 01 - Dark Tower 01 - The Wind Through the Keyhole

Wighill Book Swap Shop

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Guest Stars - Table of Contents
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Full - Table of Contents
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*Obviously with full credits and so on!

Man Booker Shortlist Book 01 - The Garden of Evening Mists - GUEST

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Man Booker


I'm reading through all six of the Booker Prize shortlisted novels  - attempting to finish before the winner is announced, although given the size of the books that is looking unlikely at the moment! Here's the first of my reviews, for Tan Twan Eng's The Garden of Evening Mists.

It's Malaya, 1949. After studying law at Cambridge and time spent helping to prosecute Japanese war criminals, Teoh Yun Ling - herself the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp - seeks solace among the jungle fringed plantations of Northern Malaya where she grew up as a child.  
There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the Emperor of Japan. Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in Kuala Lumpur, in memory of her sister who died in the camp.  
Aritomo refuses, but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice 'until the monsoon comes'. Then she can design a garden for herself.  As the months pass, Yun Ling finds herself intimately drawn to her sensei and his art while, outside the garden, the threat of murder and kidnapping from the guerrillas of the jungle hinterland increases with each passing day.  
But who is Nakamura Aritomo and how did he come to be exiled from his homeland?  
And is Yun Ling's survival of the Japanese camp somehow connected to Aritomo and the Garden of Evening Mists?
This probably isn't a book I'd have picked up if it wasn't on the Booker shortlist. Although I do enjoy historical fiction, particularly if it's about a period or region I know little about, I have to say the blurb for this didn't really grab me. I also found it really difficult to get into: it's very slow paced, and it's a good few chapters before the story really starts.

Once I got into it though, I did really enjoy it. I knew very little about Japan's role in the second world war, and almost nothing about how people in (at the time) British colonies like Malaya (now Malaysia) were affected. I had never even heard of the Malayan Emergency (yes, I had to Google it!) that forms the backdrop to most of the book. So, I finished reading this feeling like I'd learned something - which isn't the primary purpose of fiction, to my mind, but it is a welcome bonus!

The book is incredibly slow-paced, but intricately-plotted. So, although the pace never really picks up, I got more absorbed in it the further I read, as more details came to light and the mystery at the heart of the story was gradually revealed. This might not appeal to people who like their fiction a bit more immediate, but I was impressed by the writer's attention to detail. This is a book that rewards careful reading: incidental details from early on are all eventually worked in and only appear important quite late in the text.

The Garden of Evening Mists is narrated in the first person by Teoh Yun Ling, who begins the book as a retired judge, looking back at her earlier years. We learn that she has been diagnosed with a form of aphasia, and will soon lose the ability to read, write or even understand speech. Knowing that she has limited time in which to record her memories, she begins writing down what she recalls of her time as Aritomo's apprentice. The narrative switches between her written recollections, and the present day in which she is managing Aritomo's estate, all of which was left to her on his death and working with a Japanese academic, Professor Yoshikawa Tatsuji, who wants to publish a book of the gardener's woodblock prints. The two narratives weave together to gradually reveal the truth of Yun Ling and Aritomo's combined pasts.

Memory and its reliability - or otherwise - is a strong theme of the book. It opens with a quote about the goddess Mnemosyne - goddess of memory - and her twin sister - the goddess of forgetting; who's name itself has been forgotten - these figures form a repeating motif throughout. The competing themes of memory and forgetting are strongly embodied in the character of Yun Ling: battling to record her memories while she is still capable of doing so; she has to force herself to remember things she has spent years trying to forget. Some things have faded with time while others seem to have become clearer; and the things she learns from Tatsuji, the Japanese researcher, cause her to question her own memories. 

The one area that this book fell a bit flat for me was in the character of Yun Ling. Although it is narrated from her point of view, I never really felt like we got a good sense of who she actually was. Her voice is oddly personality-free: to the point where some of her actions seemed really jarring, particularly with regards to her relationships with other characters, as I just couldn't tell from her narration how she actually felt about some of the other characters. It's possible this is deliberate: Yun Ling is presented as being severely traumatised from her time in the Japanese internment camp, so this guardedness could be a manifestation of her PTSD. Whether deliberate or not, the flatness of her character made her very difficult to empathise with.

Overall I enjoyed this, although if I hadn't been reading it for the Booker challenge I'd probably have given up halfway through. It's very slow, and takes a long time to get going, but ultimately I thought it was worth sticking with. Could it win? Maybe - it's hard to say without having read any of the others yet - but I have to say, I'll be disappointed if this is the strongest book on the shortlist.


The @WoodsieGirl Challenge 2013

Shortlist 06 - The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton
Shortlist 05 - The Lowland - Jhumpa Lahiri
Shortlist 04 - We need new names - NoViolet Bulawayo
Shortlist 03 - A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki
Shortlist 02 - Harvest - Jim Crace
Shortlist 01 - The Testament of Mary - Colm Toibin

The @WoodsieGirl Challenge 2012

Shortlist 06 - Umbrella - Will Self
Shortlist 05 - Bring up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel
Shortlist 04 - The Lighthouse - Alison Moore
Shortlist 03 - Swimming Home - Deborah Levy
Shortlist 02 - Narcopolis - Jeet Thayil
Shortlist 01 - The Garden of Evening Mists - Tan Twan Eng

Visit her blog HERE
Visit her other blog HERE

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Guest Stars - Table of Contents
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Full - Table of Contents
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Monday, 24 September 2012

The LainiBop Challenge - Book 19 - Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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The LainiBop Challenge


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* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
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Sigh, Virginia, Virginia, Virginia! This book was on my TBR shelf, but I also picked it this month as part of my mini challenge to attempt to read at least one book from 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die every month. The reason this was on my shelf in the first place was because it was part of one of my courses for English Lit in college. I couldn't finish it then, and I really struggled to finish it now.

It is set during the course of one day in London, the day of Clarissa Dalloway's party. It follows numerous characters throughout the day; Clarissa and her husband Richard; Clarissa's ex-fiancee Peter Walsh; also Septimus Warren Smith and his wife Rezia among others.

At this point I would normally give a brief synopsis of the beginning of the book, but with this I just can't. I don't feel that anything much happened and I get the feeling that that's half the point of the novel, which just makes my head hurt. It is written in a sort of “Stream of Consciousness” style which I personally find very hard to read. It also flicks from one person to another so quickly that I found myself losing track of whose brain I was in at any given moment.

I won't insult anyone who loves this book by trying to give a synopsis, and instead I'll just give my opinion. I can see how people would think this is a wonderful book, I really can. When put in perspective of Virginia Woolf's state of mind and her struggle with depression, you can see how this is reflected brilliantly in the character of Septimus Warren Smith - a war veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress. Virginia Woolf herself suffered from severe depression, and treatments such as rest and good food were prescribed to her, much like Mr Smith in the novel. Judging by the way she writes about his depression and his doctors, Virginia Woolf was painfully aware of how ridiculous these cures were and how the illness she suffered from was not being taken seriously by anyone at the time. In fact it was mostly thought to be imaginary, something that the person would grow out of with rest.

To me, the story of Septimus and his wife was the only bit of the novel that I felt in anyway meaningful. It's the only bit that I enjoyed, maybe because I felt that his mental condition was really what she intended to write about. All the other characters are much more 2 dimensional, and I just didn't care about them. It also took me about 2 and a half weeks to read this, and considering it was only about 200 pages long, that shows how much of a struggle it was. Will be avoiding Virginia Woolf like the plague from now on I think, just not for me.


SCORE       3/10

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Say Hello to @Lainibop

Her To Be Read Challenge - The Countdown Begins!

Book 30 - ?
Book 29 - ?
Book 28 - Sexing the Cherries by Jeanette Winterson
Book 27 - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Book 26 - Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
Book 25 - Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Book 24 - From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne
Book 23 - Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Book 22 - Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffery Archer

Find more reviews HERE

If we've used any videos, you'll find them on the LeedsBookClub YouTube Channel - 

Visit LainiBop's playlist HERE 
Visit Fizzy Elephants HERE
The 10 Things I Hate About You playlist is HERE!
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Table of Contents - Guest Stars

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Table of Contents - Laini's Book Shelf

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Thursday, 20 September 2012

Sock Puppetry and Paid-for Reviews

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On no, they didn't. 
oh YES, they did.

There's been something fishy
about reviews lately...
In the last few months, the practice of sock puppetry has been given another very public airing.

According to Merriam-Webster, a sock puppet is defined as:

: a hand puppet made with a sock
: a false online identity used for deceptive purposes

Just to be really clear here, during this post I'm referring to the second! While puppets made out of socks are indeed evil and terrifying I'm going to leave those to the relevant authorities. 

In the literary sphere 'Sock Puppetry' refers to an author who uses false handles to post positive reviews of their own work. In some cases (see a related Guardian post HERE) these accounts are also used to flame other authors; attacking them, their books and by posting low scores on Amazon/book review sites discouraging potential readers from making a purchase.

While many of us were aware that these sorts of shenanigans go on in the writing/reading world (along many many others!); the scale, scope and 'quality' of those who were revealed to be participating has been pretty shocking. Established and [previously?] respected authors* are using these underhand tricks. What hope for an emerging author looking to create their own buzz?

To my mind, an equally distasteful practice has also been denounced - paid-for positive reviews. 
Authors pay reviewers or blogger for an articulate and intelligent review of their works to a guaranteed large audience distributed on blogs, facebook,twitter and other social networking sites.
While it's rarely stipulated in plain language; these reviews will all be glowing ones, designed to convince a browser to make a purchase. All of this before the author has even submitted anything for review!      

Here on LeedsBookClub; every single post is an accurate reflection of the reviewer's thoughts about the story. 
Our ethos is that anything less would be dishonest. 

While we have been sent the odd review copy (and I think we usually state that somewhere in the piece); we've none of us ever been paid for our contributions.

Don't get me wrong -  I'd LOVE to be a paid reviewer or blogger.
That'd be awesome. 
Tip top. 

However, I'd still have to be me! My posts represent my thoughts to the world. As a loud and proud reader; I believe that to offer anything less would detract from the integrity of me personally and this blog as a whole. 

Reading has many social aspects, however, at it's heart the process remains a deeply personal one. 

Where your words are likely to influence - even if it is 'only' about a book - those words should be trusted. A gushing and inaccurate review certainly wouldn't inspire me to revisit that site again. It's one thing to have different tastes, quite another to mislead.

On occasion, I've been accused of being a bit of a lovey. While I've tried out the ranty voice, my style is better suited to putting a more positive spin on a book. However, I'm always totally upfront about my overall impressions, especially where we score.  

Read about author Michelle Gorman's encounter with a review-for-sale websitw HERE and her fantastic follow up piece 'BOGUS REVIEWS BETRAY READERS' on the Scottish Book Trust.

*I've deliberately refrained from naming and shaming throughout this post. I dare say many of those who have confessed to sock puppetry are decent people who made a bad decision which they have to live with. 

The Hobbit Trailer

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Words can't do justice to how excited I am about seeing this film!

Though a huge fan of the Lord Of The Rings books; I wasn't upset by the liabilities taken during the making of that epic trilogy.

This trailer looks great; the music transports me back to middle earth and it's great to see Gandalf back to grey as it were.

Still not entirely convinced that the Hobbit is a natural contender for its only trilogy. After all, it's a far shorter, more compact and linear tale than its three part sequel.

Next up the Silmarillion please!!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


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This is my personal opinion-not that of LeedsBookClub. Sometimes you just need to get a rant off your chest!

In a world where a one in five adults cannot find a plumber in a phone book, teaching the elite to remember is not the way to raise standards.

The proposed reforms to the Key Stage 4 qualification are yet another example of this government selling a generation short. By divided people (not only children take GCSEs, despite what the majority of sub editors seem to think) into those who can sit for three hours and perform at their best on one day in one year and the rest of us, Gove is turning students into show ponies.

We don’t need a generation where 9 out of 10 are made to feel failures; we need a nation confident in using recognisable tools to live their lives; research, the ability to compare and contrast and in depth analysis of problems. Exams don’t always do this.

Again, this is an example of where the knowledge of what librarians can bring to education would be useful. Librarians can offer students a chance to learn real life skills needed to succeed in more than just one exam. We can teach them to find, evaluate, and use information in a way that is suitable to them. Yet again, the role of librarians in education is side-lined in favour of headline grabbing reforms that ignore our worth and belittle our experiences.

The Baccalaureate might be the buzz word on the continent, but right now we have people coming into education again, often after years, to be told that their aspirations and achievements are useless. This is not only a backwards step, it is also a dangerous one.

Monday, 17 September 2012

The LainiBop Challenge - Book 18 - The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry

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The LainiBop Challenge


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* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
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This was my book club choice for August. I had only ever read Stephen Fry's autobiography “Moab is my Washpot” but love him to bits. I have found him hilarious ever since I first watched Jeeves and Wooster and still watch anything I can find with him in it now. So this was a book I had bought ages before and thought I'd introduce the rest of the bookclub to him. This is a very strange book, but I ultimately really enjoyed it. I'm not sure if the same can be said about the rest of them!

The hippopotamus is the narrator himself, Edward/Ted/Tedward Lennox Wallace. Ted at the opening of the novel has just been fired from his newspaper where he worked as a critic for basically standing up in the middle of a show and shouting abuse at the actors. This will give you a little insight into how obnoxious Ted can be. During his evening of drowning his sorrows, he meets up with his God-daughter Jane, who he hasn't seen since her christening because of a disagreement with her parents. She is delighted to meet him again and invites him back to her apartment where she tells him she has Leukemia and has only been given a number of weeks to live. Ted of course is shocked by this revelation but she assures him that it's ok, because she believes the doctors are wrong and in fact that she has been cured. She then gives him a mission to fulfill for her. She wants him to go to visit the family of his other god-child David Logan under the pretense of writing Lord Michael Logan's memoirs. Jane asserts that there is mysterious going's on in the house and she wants to see what Ted will make of it all.

Ted - having nothing better to do - decides to write to David and ask to visit. While there, the house becomes over run with people who decide to visit; there is Oliver, who is an ex=priest and very very camp, he routinely discusses things like Daisy Diary and refers to himself as Mother Mills; Jane's mother also makes an appearance as does her best friend and a businessman and his wife and daughter. It becomes clear early on that there is a mystery, in fact David himself is believed to have special healing powers and each of the guests (apart from Ted who is unaware) are there to be cured of some ailment.

The opening of the novel is very very slow, the first chapter is mostly describing Ted, and he doesn't come across as a very nice person at all. The book doesn't really start to grab attention until he visits the Logan's estate. I found it very funny, but at times disturbing. But it reads like a cross between a murder mystery and a PG Wodehouse novel with an unusual collection of people gathering in a large house with hilarious consequences.

There was a part about halfway through where I read it and thought “Oh Lord, what have I done, what are the book club going to think about this?” But I read on and finished it and have to say was delighted that I did. If you like Stephen Fry's sense of humour, or have enjoyed PG Wodehouse's works either books, or tv, then give this a go.

SCORE       8/10

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Say Hello to @Lainibop

Her To Be Read Challenge - The Countdown Begins!

Book 30 - ?
Book 29 - ?
Book 28 - Sexing the Cherries by Jeanette Winterson
Book 27 - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Book 26 - Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
Book 25 - Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Book 24 - From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne
Book 23 - Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Book 22 - Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffery Archer

Find more reviews HERE

If we've used any videos, you'll find them on the LeedsBookClub YouTube Channel - 

Visit LainiBop's playlist HERE 
Visit Fizzy Elephants HERE
The 10 Things I Hate About You playlist is HERE!
* * * * *
Table of Contents - Guest Stars

* * * * *
Table of Contents - Laini's Book Shelf

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Sunday, 16 September 2012


I made this: Unknown at 8:12 pm 0 comments


Venue:   Twitter

Date:    20th of September 2012 

Time:    8pm

Book for September:


Joss Whedon’s importance in contemporary pop culture can hardly be overstated, but there has never been a book providing a comprehensive survey of his career as a whole – until now. The Complete Companion covers every aspect of the Whedonverse through insightful essays and interviews, including fascinating conversations with key collaborators Jane Espenson and Tim Minear.
Over 40 contributors have been brought together by PopMatters, the acclaimed international magazine of cultural criticism, to provide an irresistible mix of analysis, interpretation and sheer celebration. Whether you’re a student looking for critical approaches to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or a Browncoat who follows Nathan Fillion on Twitter (or, let’s face it, both) there is plenty here to enjoy.
Covers all the TV series, movies, and comic books, including:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Fray, Astonishing X-Men, The Avengers… and more!” 
From Titan Books 



Find fellow members on twitter by searching for #WTFBC.

Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com

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Book Club - Table of Contents
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