You know the saying – ‘A child who reads is an adult who thinks”. A person usually comes to love reading in their childhood, so we can all understand the importance of books in early stages.
But children are an exceptionally tough crowd. Which has inevitably made children’s books more imaginative. There are so many to choose from nowadays. So which one will your children appreciate? Here are five books we think your children will love – and so will you! Continue reading “5 books your children will love this year!”
I could start by telling you how important books are, but you already know that. Instead, let us talk about some of those special, rare findings that make us feel sad, but which we get to love nonetheless: the books that break our heart. Have you ever come across a book that was very hard for you to read, but in the same time felt like home? If so, then you know what I’m talking about. Continue reading “Stories that break our hearts, and why they are worth it”
While mystery has always been a popular genre for readers, historical fiction has also started to trend lately. Ancient Rome and Greece are now the preferred settings for readers. And they are not wrong. Most of us learn so much about these ancient worlds since we have been children, that they are absolutely intriguing to us!
I missed no chance in reading The Year of The Snake when I came into it. Here’s a book that combines some of my favourite things: mystery, cunning and a very well researched historical setting. But let me tell you more about the plot first, and there’s also an interview with the authors afterwards; trust me, you will love what they have to say about it. Continue reading “The Year of the Snake : Plots, Murder and Rome at its peak”
On the last few weeks I have bumped more than once on advertisements about speed reading. Posted everywhere on social media, I imagine they’re targeted to people who read a lot. So, some of you have also come across such ads.
Promising that “you can, too, read one book every day!” or “how to read all the Great Classics in a month!”, they tend to actually make a lot of people feel bad. Should I be reading like a madman? Should I be reading 300 books a year? Do I need to feel bad that I don’t?
Of course not. And the reasons are very simple.
Not everyone reads at the same pace.
Some people are inherently better than others at reading faster. And, yes, many of them have the ability to retain all that information. Others read at a slower pace, sometimes finding it helpful to revisit some sentences (or even paragraphs. And both reading styles are absolutely fine.
Let’s talk about time.
Ahhh…time. The thing we always chase, the thing we seldom find. It’s very hard to find adequate time for yourself. It’s understandable .Whether it’s school, work, family or any of the above combined, there’s not much free time in your life.
But, for the sake of the argument, let’s say you actually find a couple of hours a day in which you can unwind or do personal chores. Even when you find some little precious time for yourself, you have to be relaxed enough to be able to concentrate on your book. You couldn’t possible read War and Peace after 10 hours of work, an hour on commute and three hours of doing chores, could you? ( If you can, I beg you to show me how you do it). So why on earth would you be so hard on yourself for not reading a book a day?
Reading is meant to bring joy, not stress.
I sometimes feel that us readers forget the most important thing about books: they are there t make us happy. It can be one book a month, or a book a day. Does it matter?
If reading 300 books a year brings you joy, then that is absolutely great. It’s marvelous. To be honest, I’m both happy and jealous for you. But if something like that sounds even remotely stressful, then relax and remember: reading is supposed to bring you joy. It exists to make your life better, not to make you worry about not reading enough books, or not reading fast enough.
What is important is that you do, indeed, read.
No matter the pace, you’re doing it. You’re making time for your book, and that is enough. You have nothing to prove to others, no challenge to complete, no reason to feel anxious about it. After all, it doesn’t matter how slowly you’re going, as long as you don’t stop, right?
So, enjoy yourself at your own, comfortable pace. Books are and always will be royal friends. They will still be there, waiting for you, until you make time for them!
…this doesn’t look like a very promising start for a post about reading, does it? Bear with me, it gets better.
I know most of you have little precious time to devote on your reading habits. Working 9-5 (at the best of situations) leaves most people tired and drained, and we all know that a tired mind can’t fully enjoy free time, let alone a book. Then there’s the grocery shopping, the studying, the household chores. The social life (for those brave enough to have one on weekdays). What’s left of your precious time for that book that has been waiting for you on the nightstand for the past couple of months?
We need more time, but where can we find it?
Night time is my favorite part of the day to read. I’ve had time to do the chores and relax a bit, and then I snuggle with a book and read for an hour or two before bed. (Occasionally, as I’m sure a lot of you have done, I’ll pull an all nighter when a story is particularly catchy).
But there is more than just bed time
Have you ever wondered how much time we spend every day aimlessly scrolling on our phones? How many times do we put our phone down just to pick it up in a matter of minutes, if not seconds? There’s all kind of amazing apps in there, I get it. And then there is, of course, the social media.
Don’t get me wrong, I use them as well. A lot. So much so that I decided to make a rough estimate on how much time I spend on social media in a day. Now, social media on moderation can be amazing. I connect with many friends that live far away. And, of course, as a book blogger, I use them amply for promoting my work.
But what happens when we overdo it?
Five minutes here, ten minutes there, and you end up consuming three to five hours daily on social media. Mind you, they are not even active hours. In the biggest part of that time, we just scroll around.
And it’s not just social media
It’s not just about social media. It’s not even just about our phone. There’s aimlessly watching TV shows you don’t even like that much, or spending time on any activity that, deep inside, you find time consuming and aimless.
Spending time on what you truly love
So, starting January, I tried being more mindful of the free time I spend on various things. Where do I spend my time? Do I like what I do with it? Could I use it on something I like better?
And, just like that, I cut off on my social media “aimless scrolling time”, gaining about 2 more hours of reading every day. I caught up on my tbr list, and I loved it. It doesn’t mean I don’t pick up my phone to have a look from time to time, but it does mean I don’t do it aimlessly that often.
Bottom line, whatever it is that consumes your time a bit too much (and it certainly is something different for everyone), try doing it consciously. You’ll find you can cut down the time of it while still enjoying its fun side, and soon enough, you’ll be spending more time with those friends that patiently wait for you on your bookshelf.
The time of optimism and setting goals. Sometimes those goals are a little bit unrealistic, but we all deserve to hope, right?
My humble goals for the New Year revolve (unsurprisingly) around books. So I vouched I would read more diversely. Fiction will always be the (bookish) love of my life, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try out other styles.
So here I am. It’s February 2nd , and January’s reads have given me an insight into topics I didn’t expect I would get to study into any degree of details.
Vikings and Fairies
The Sea Wolves by Lars Brownworth gave me a glimpse into a people that strove to live in inhospitable environments, trades, explored and conquered. Irish Fairy and Folk Tales by W.B.Yeats taught me a thing or two about faeries. I learned what a Banshee is (not a pleasant being, but interesting none the less). I also realised that Irish Gaelic is incredibly difficult to pronounce – but what a gorgeous language it is!
A first dive into Dystopias
January was also the month of my initiation in Dystopias. To this day, I have to admit I never got round to reading the Hunger Games. This month, I read Scythe By Neil Shusterman. I will be honest with you. Was it good? Better than what I had expected, and a good introduction to the genre. Still not my cup of tea, though.
Getting acquainted with the works of Rupi Kaur
Poetry is a word many people are afraid of, and I used to belong in that category. Reluctantly at first, I started Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, the result being that I also read her The Sun and Her Flowers poetic anthology in the same day. I found her writing beautiful and empowering. There, all fear of Poetry is now gone. That’s a definite win.
Thrillers? Yes, please!
Final Girls by Riley Sager was quite the thriller! With lots of twists and turns, it was one of those books that you read through a single night. Have you ever found yourself muttering “one more chapter”, never actually putting it down? Well, that’s what happened with me and the Final Girls.
Getting better sleep
The Sleep Solution by W.Chris Winter was, bottom line, a self help book about sleeping better. Although I don’t usually encounter problems with my sleep, there were some interesting facts in there. You can learn a lot about the way your brain functions during sleep, what kind of problems can arise, and what you can do to have a better night’s sleep. I’m still not a big fan of self help books, though.
Reading outside your comfort zone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read some of your favorite genres as well. This month I got to read the Evil Librarian (see full review here), a hilarious,smart fiction book. I also read The Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (which was long overdue). In between trying new things, always go back to some of your loved ones as well. Reading, after all, shouldn’t be a chore.
In total, I managed to read fourteen books this past month. I don’t expect every month to be as prolific, but that’s not the point. This January, I read some books that I knew I’d probably like, but I also tried new genres. In the best of situations, I discovered new kinds of literature I liked, and learned various things. In the worst of situations, I confirmed my not liking some types of styles and plots, which I also count as a good thing.
So here’s to a different, more diverse bookish year. I hope you have made some bookish resolutions, too. But even if you haven’t, there’s always time. You might discover some interesting things about yourself. And they say there’s no better time than the present, right?
I’m not particularly set on being normal. In fact, I believe it is just an overestimated adjective. And I know for a fact that a lot of other bookworms (sorry, I meant book dragons!) agree with me.
But why am I telling you this?
You know how some people go travelling and buy little souvenirs? Probably some postcards, fridge magnets, things like that? Some others buy more expensive things, like jewellery, clothing, paintings. Well, I so happen to buy different kinds of souvenirs. I think you have already guessed where I’m going with this. Yes. Books!
The Great Literary Hunt
My friends think I’m weird. (Now that I think about it, I should probably have that printed on a t-shirt). “What kind of person goes on a trip and buys books?”, they ask. The answer, of course, is the Great Book Dragons (yes, you are one too, and you know it!).
I don’t mean that I just go buy a book that I could have found back home, though. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense, would it? I do buy, however, a book that I might not normally find in a Greek bookstore, one that I’d probably have to order online.
In 2016, on a trip to Stockholm, my husband and I bumped into a secondhand store. I discovered some very cheap books (oooh!shiny!) , five in total. Come on, be honest: you wouldn’t have left them behind! And neither did I.
Other interesting types of books can be found in museum gift shops. Oh, the heaven of a well organised book section in a museum gift shop! I found the best so far in Florence, in Galleria Uffizi. That’s where my copy of The Medici Curse comes from (there’s a full review of that book in the blog).
It’s not always a common book, though. Sometimes you’ll find a rarer gem, and then the real excitement begins!Your heart just started beating a little faster, didn’t it?
Sighisoara, Romania, July 2017
Our last summer trip was in Transylvania. It had been our third day there, visiting a very beautiful, small town with a medieval center, mostly known as the birthplace of Vlad III ( the inspiration for Stoker’s Dracula). It was noon, and incredibly hot. We decided to get into a small, local cafe and cool ourselves with some ice coffee.
And that’s where I spotted it.
My little gem. My small treasure. Upon a bookshelf, lay a book published in Romanian, German and English: The Treasure Book of Sighisoara.
The treasure Book of Sighisoara
Funded by the town of Sighisoara, the book is a tribute to the town. It was written by local historians and experts, and shows the history of the town through the ages. From prehistoric settlements to the 21st century, all parts recorded in history are there. It is also articulately and beautifully illustrated. Well written, it is an absolute piece of art. A book that is not easily found online either, let alone in any other country’s bookshop.
So, there you have it. Finding new books is always a joy. However, stumbling upon rare gems of the literary world is even better. Experiencing that while travelling is an absolutely astounding experience. Never mind what the “normal” people buy while travelling. Go ahead, buy that book. Let your little bookworm heart leap with joy! And if you’re genuinely fond of the magnets, sure, buy them as well.
The point is that you can discover amazing little treasures while travelling. You do you. And if that means a literary hunt, go ahead and just do it!
P.S. Remember to show us all what you found. The second best thing to finding it yourself, is for other bibliophiles to show you what they have found on their own book hunts!
There are days when you don’t really want to get out of bed. And sometimes these days come closer together. Maybe you don’t like your job. Maybe you are going through a breakup. Whether that’s a family member, a friend or a lover, it’s possible a loved one is no longer in your life . But it just might be that you are going through a rough phase. It’s alright. We’ve all been there.
When I was around 10, there was a special book I called friend of mine. Whenever I had an unpleasant day at school, or had a fight with a friend, I would curl up in my bed. I’d get A Tree Grows In Brooklyn on my lap and start reading. Boy, did I read that book a lot! There was a time in my life I could recite every line. Somehow, it made me feel better. Somewhere between getting away from the real world and getting lost in another one, I always seemed to start feeling better.
“We read to know we‘re not alone.” C.S. Lewis
It’s not always something simple like a sad day. And books are not the ultimate remedy for everything. But starting a new story, or even revisiting an old one, has a magical way of making me feel better. I do, indeed, as C.S.Lewis wisely said, feel less alone. I meet characters that think he same way I do, feel what I feel – or maybe I feel what they feel- and, in the process, I realize that I am not alone in what I go through.
Sometimes you just need a different perspective. Sometimes you need to get away from it all and return with a clear mind and have a fresh start. Other times all you need is to feel that someone else has been there before, and things might just not be as bad as you imagine them to be.
For some people, music does the trick. For some others, books do the job. Whatever the reason, pick up the book. Get lost in another world. Give it a try – the possibilities are endless.
Remember that somewhere out there, there is another reader going through a rough phase. Somewhere out there, a writer has put in paper what you feel, has made a story out of what you happen to be going through. And maybe, just maybe, they have something to say that will help you go through it.
If all else fails, connect with the readers
Remember that readers are usually highly empathetic people. When you read, you tend to see other people’s perspectives, which also helps respect different reactions and feelings. If you find the need to connect more, keep in mind that literature is not just about the books .
A while back I asked the Bookstagram community about reading. I felt down, and sad, and a bit frozen in place, as if my life was moving no more forward to the point I wanted it too. So, I reached for fellow readers and asked one simple question: “Why do you read?”. I was surprised to find some incredibly beautiful answers:
“I read because I like reading (it) relaxes me. It takes me to world in certain books. That the stories are interesting because I get a glimpse into another person’s life.” – @bookwormbelle27
“I read because it allows me to live a thousand lives. It allows me to see the world through different perspectives. To travel in time and distance. I read because its part of my life. Can’t imagine my life without books.” – @moodforbooks
“I read because sometimes this world is too much….” – @ a.mind.needs.books
“It is such a stress reliever and re-energizer!” – @notes_of_a_book_dragon
“I read so I can take a break from being me” – @popsicle_doodles917
“…to take a break from reality. […] And sometimes books actually make me appreciate what I have now, and teach me not to take some things for granted”. – @alinasreadingcorner
“I read to escape reality for a while” – @welshbookdragons
And my absolute favorite:
“For me reading had always been a promise. The promise of adventure and love, that even ordinary me could be special in another world or for another someone. It was the promise that even the saddest stories can have a happy ending. Reading was me living a life both better and worse than mine. Nowadays I read to be enchanted, to be in another world, to feel when I don’t wan t to feel my own emotions. To cry for another so I won’t have to cry for me. To be touched or angry or sad.” – @Booksofhopeanddreams
It’s all in the community.
I always say that readers are the introverts you want in your life. They listen, they (at least try to) understand, they empathize. Should you find yourself in a hard time, should you need a person to talk to, find a fellow reader. Talk and be heard. Listen to what they have to say. You might just find what you need in order to get through your hard times.
Footnote: A very big thank you to all the bookworms that took part in sharing their reasons for reading with me. You can find these wonderful people on instagram and follow their bookish stories.
I picked up a book that caught my eye because of its title: “Our Endless Numbered Days”. Now, that is one interesting contrast. Let’s just look at the back and see what it’s about.
Two minutes later, I was heading out of the bookstore, my new book in my arms. Its unique title and beautiful cover had drawn my attention to it, but the story was what really enchanted me.
Peggy is eight years old when her survivalist father packs up and takes her into the woods, away from any form of civilization.
Leaving his wife behind, he announces to his daughter that there has been a major disaster, and the two of them are the only humans that have survived it.
Deep into the wilderness, the eight year old girl will have to learn how to survive. But the most difficult thing for her will be to learn how to live with the memory of a mother that is no longer there, and considered forever gone. For years, her life will revolve around hunger, hardships and fear. Her endless days will only be numbered by the change of the seasons.
Peggy, however, is a strong girl. She is the princess of her own fairy tale, a hero in her own story. And she proves it when, after all, she finds her way out of this.
But how did she manage to find her way out? What happened to her father? Can her life become normal again after this nightmare? What will she find when she goes home?
This is Our Endless Numbered Days
A fairy tale that is unique, interesting, and often dark. But, as you’ll see Claire Fuller saying later on, all stories need some darkness. After all, what good would it do for everything to be perfect, polished, and completely unrealistic?
Our Endless Numbered Days is Claire Fuller’s debut novel. It has been welcomed wholeheartedly by readers all over the world, and has also won the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize. I had the honor of asking Claire Fuller some questions about the creative process of this story, as well as her personal thoughts on some of the aspects this book approaches. Here is, firsthand, the creator’s view of Our Endless Numbered Days.
Our Endless Numbered Days is your first novel. It has been loved by readers worldwide, and has also won the Desmond Elliott Prize. Did you expect that magnitude of response to your work? How did it make you feel when you found out you had won the Prize?
I didn’t even expect the novel to be published. I was aware as I was writing it, how difficult it is to get an agent and get a book published, so even those things surprised me. I certainly didn’t expect it to win the Desmond Elliott Prize. The announcement was made at a ceremony in London, and I had to go up and make a short speech and accept my cheque and a bottle of champagne. But I was so overwhelmed I left the cheque behind on the podium.
How long had you had the idea for before starting writing the book?
I thought of the starting point of the novel only as I started writing it. It wasn’t something that I considered for any length of time before I sat down at my laptop.
A question most authors find difficult to answer is where their inspiration comes from. If we could alter that a bit, what helps you create your worlds?
I think I can answer where my inspiration comes from in nearly all cases whether that’s my novels or short stories. With Our Endless Numbered Days it was from a news story in 2011, when a teenager appeared in Berlin saying he’d been living in the woods with his father for the previous five years. This story turned out to be a hoax, but that was the spark. With my second novel, Swimming Lessons it was a project me and my (future) husband did, to hide notes in each other’s houses. But while I’m in the middle of a novel, what often helps me to create worlds are pieces of flash fiction that I write. These will often inspire scenes within the narrative.
Our endless numbered days follows the life of Peggy, the heroine, who has clearly been through a very traumatic period in her life. How difficult was it to portray the psyche of such a traumatized person?
She definitely is traumatized but when I was writing her I didn’t think about that. I didn’t give her a label, I suppose. I knew she was going through some difficult things, and I put myself in her position and tried to imagine what she would feel, how she would behave, and what she might do to cope with those particular set of circumstances.
We watch the story unravel between past and present. Is there a part that you, as the author, found more challenging to write about?
The sections that took place in the present time of the book were harder to write for two reasons: firstly, Peggy’s characteristics and the things she had faced in her past clearly needed to have an effect on the kind of person she was in the present sections (whereas the present obviously didn’t have an effect on the past). But even more difficult was the need to be aware of the information that the present sections drip-fed readers about the past. I had to make sure that enough was revealed to keep the intrigue without giving too much away.
Who was the most difficult character to create?
I think this was probably James, Peggy’s father. He’s a complex man and his mind works in ways different to my own (which made writing him interesting), but of course we only see him through Peggy’s eyes when she is a child and a teenager. If the book was published I the majority of my readers to be adults, so I needed to try to make the readers understand his motivations even while Peggy didn’t question them herself.
Peggy’s father is a survivalist. Throughout the story we watch him organizing drills, creating lists, teaching his child about surviving in the wilderness. There was clearly a lot of research put into it. How much of a writer’s time is spent in researching?
I imagine it’s different for each author and every book, but when I started writing Our Endless Numbered Days, I knew very little about the history of the survivalism movement, and almost nothing about how to survive in the wild. I do my research as I go along when I realise there is something I need to know, so it’s impossible to break down the time between writing and research, but I did a lot for Our Endless Numbered Days. From what plants are safe to eat, how to make a fire, to how to skin a rabbit, and how many calories there are in a squirrel; I had to research it all.
There is often a “once upon a time” feeling in the story and many readers have characterized this as a “dark fairy tale”. How do you feel about this?
I’m very happy with that description. Once I’d decided that most of the story would take place in a European forest, it made sense to add to the feeling of menace by using a theme of fairytales. There are five or six traditional fairytales that are obliquely mentioned in the novel, and it’s up to readers to spot them!
We see a lot of effort from the story’s survivors to mend “lost” or “broken”, fragile relationships. How easy do you feel mending relationships such as this story’s is? Do you believe any human tragedy can be overcome by effort or are there things that cannot be mended?
I’d like to think that any broken relationship can be mended, but I understand that in reality this is more difficult, and depends to a huge extent on an individual’s bias, history, and character. I’m thinking here beyond the relationships in the book, or even family relationships, to broken relationships between countries, ethnic groups, and religions. I always have hope.
We see difficult decisions being made in the book, and “evil” actions. Do you believe in absolute “good” and “evil” characters?
Oh, definitely not. I try to make my characters complete people with good and bad elements, the same as with anyone in real life. I don’t think anyone is absolutely good or absolutely bad, sometimes people make the wrong decision, but there is always room for redemption.
Readers have argued in the past about whether the book has a happy or sad ending. Would you consider it a happy ending? What constitutes a happy ending in your opinion?
I would say it’s happy or sad, just hopefully real. There is some possibility and hope for Peggy at the end of the book, but she has a lot to overcome to achieve this. For me a completely happy ending, where everything is neatly tied up at the end of the book is simply unrealistic and will mean that I don’t enjoy the book. It also doesn’t leave any room for a life for the characters in readers’ minds beyond the end of the novel, which is something I also strive for.
Claire Fuller was born in Oxfordshire, England. She is a writer and an artist. Her second novel, Swimming Lessons, was published in 2017. Her third novel, Bitter Orange, is going to be published in 2019. You can follow her work on her page: https://clairefuller.co.uk/
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