Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Touch Down - I'm back in the UK

(My last class in China)

Touch Down - I’m back in the UK

So as the title suggests, for the first time in a long while, I am back home in Newcastle. And it’s amazing! I can walk into a bookshop knowing 99% of the books are in a language I  can understand, I can go to a restaurant where I don't have to mime a chicken to get my dinner, but better yet, I’m finally back in a place where I can walk down the street and have no one stare at me for being a foreigner. And so my two year journey in China has officially come to an end.

Am I sad? A little. It was an incredible experience, I made some amazing friends, seen and done many things that I never thought I would do and looking back to the me of 2013, I know I’ve really changed as a person. I’m more confident, more outspoken and the happiest I have ever been in my entire life. Living in China and teaching English was an experience I will never forget, and as sad as I was saying goodbye to all my students, I knew it was time to move on to the next thing. 

So what are my plans for 2015? Well I want to spend a month or two here in the UK. Now that I am officially unemployed and back with my parents, I am determined to at last finish my YA novel - currently stand at 60,000 words so hopefully this is an achievable goal! Just need to make it to 75,000! Who know’s, maybe this is the year I can make my dream of publication real. 

Otherwise once I’ve caught up with my family and friends I think this will be a year of travel and adventure. I’m already setting plans in motion to fly to Canada where I can meet up with my other half before we make our way back to Asia. So far it seems to be a unanimous decision that Vietnam will be our first stop but from there… who knows?! I can’t wait! 

Life is so good right now that I am almost afraid to jinx it! But I hope everyone else’s 2015 is shaping up to be just as good? And if anyone has any questions about moving to Asia, or teaching English as a foreign Language, or heck, if anyone wants to travel but is afraid to go it alone -come along with me! I’m just at the other end of an email!

Take care
XxX

The Bookshop Book - Book Review



The Bookshop Book - Book Review
Jen Campbell
Non-Fiction

Synopsis:
Every bookshop has a story.

We’re not talking about rooms that are just full of books. We’re talking about bookshops in barns, disused factories, converted churches and underground car parks. Bookshops on boats, on buses, and in old run-down train stations. Fold-out bookshops, undercover bookshops, this-is-the-best-place-I’ve-ever-been-to-bookshops.

Meet Sarah and her Book Barge sailing across the sea to France; meet Sebastien, in Mongolia, who sells books to herders of the Altai mountains; meet the bookshop in Canada that’s invented the world’s first antiquarian book vending machine.

And that’s just the beginning.

From the oldest bookshop in the world, to the smallest you could imagine, The Bookshop Book examines the history of books, talks to authors about their favourite places, and looks at over three hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents (sadly, we’ve yet to build a bookshop down in the South Pole). 

The Bookshop Book is a love letter to bookshops all around the world. 

Review:

I took real pleasure in reading this book. Made up of letters, short stories, author interviews and memoirs, this book describes the many hidden bookshops around the world. It was insightful, interesting and I loved each and every page of it. 

My favourite part of this book was hearing the stories from the bookshops owners, their reasons and inspirations behind opening their stores, and the ways they try to make their shops unique and inviting places. They are all amazing people and big advocates of promoting reading in people of all ages. 

Also not only was it great to read about bookshops that I myself love and visit regularly, but this book was a like a treasure map, each page leading to a new an exciting location. Some of these bookshops are local places that I plan to explore at the next opportunity, while others are more far more out the way (France, America… Mongolia, just to name a few) but they have all sparked both the bookworm and travel bug in me. 

Interestingly, this book also brought up the question of paperbacks vs e-books. Many authors and booksellers seem to be of the opinion that despite e-books impacting upon the sales of paperbacks, the independent bookshops will survive. I have to agree because as a book lover myself I adore my hardbacks and paperbacks, I can’t imagine a world in which they don't exist. Nothing can surpass the smell and feel of a real bound book!

Complete with photographs, random facts and insightful stories from best-selling authors, The Bookshop Book is a brilliant read and would make a quirky present for any book lover. Continually Jen Campbell has also written Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops - which I have yet to read, but have heard its  an hilarious and I intend to check out soon.


She is definitely an author to watch out for. Fantastic! 

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Courting Magic - Book Review

22451936
Courting Magic – Book Review
Stephanie Burgis
MG/YA Historical Fantasy
‘The Kat Series – A novella’
Synopsis:
In Kat Stephenson’s Regency England, magic is even more shocking than a stolen kiss. But now that she’s eighteen, it’s time for a wild and magical Kat to be introduced to high society by her older sisters, whether she likes it or not… and to finally have a romance of her own!
Of course her true love is hopelessly ineligible. But when has Kat ever let society’s opinion stop her from making up her own mind? Once she realises she’s found her perfect match, she’s not going to let anything or anyone stand in their way – even if she does have to solve a magical mystery, match make for an old friend and break a few rules along the way!
Review:
I adored ‘The Kat’ series and was utterly delighted when I found out Stephanie Burgis had written this novella. Set five years after the series ended, it follows the life of a now grown up Kat as she debuts as a society lady … what could possibly go wrong?
Now with the rest of her siblings happily married and producing families of their own, everyone’s attention is focused on one sole task – Introducing a now eighteen year old Kat to society with the hope of finding her a husband! Something that Kat herself is forcibly objectionable too.
Not only is Kat now a fully-fledged guardian – a role that comes with a power and responsibility to protect the world from evil magic – but she is still the stubborn, adventurous, trouble seeking girl who knows there is more to life than dresses and parties. And right now, with a magical thief divesting the upper classes of their jewels and finery, Kat has more to worry about than hapless romance… or so she thinks.
But when a friendly figure from her past makes an unexpected return, Kat is suddenly plunged into a new world of feelings and emotion. Can she keep her head and do her duty as a guardian, or will she let both the thief and her legacy slip away as she dreams of green, green eyes…
Yet another story of magic and mayhem, I couldn’t help but fall in love with Kat all over again!
As a character she has truly grown. Mastering her temper, she is both smarter and more controlled in her actions, yet remains a feisty tom-boy in her thoughts and head strong attitude. Never afraid to plough straight into danger, she yearns for adventure and brings about delightful chaos wherever she goes. Yet for all her growth, Kat is still blissfully naive when it comes to romance.
And what a sweet romance it was! Bringing back a character from the last book, Stephanie Burgis chose to pair Kat with a soul just as mischievous and troublesome as our heroines (well, almost) and I have to say, I think they suited each other perfectly.
Since I don’t wish to give away spoilers, I will call Kat’s mystery man Mr. X, and with the inferiority of his birth working against them, and step mama’s obvious protests, not to mention Kat’s own obliviousness to his feelings, there were times I felt very sorry for Mr. X indeed. For him love was a difficult road.
Yet what I think grabbed me most about this book was seeing not just Kat, but nearly all the other characters again. I can’t express how much I enjoyed the Kat series and reading this charming little novella brought back all the warmth of being ‘in and among’ Kat’s family again. Hers is a crazy but cosy world and if you haven’t already, I strongly urge that girls –whatever your age – give these books a try.
Sometimes you read books with characters you just don’t want to say goodbye to –this is one of them – and I only hope Stephanie Burgis considers writing a couple more Kat stories in the future.
I would certainly like to read more about Kat’s life as a guardian, find out what her brother Charles is up to, and maybe even dip into the home of Lucy and the Marquess (I adored their somewhat Pride and Prejudice romance). So yes… I admit I am a little addicted to the series.
But no matter what your mood, funny and tomboyish-ly sweet, these books are sure to put a smile on your face. Courting Magic is no exception, 5 stars!


Friday, 2 January 2015

Lucy's Secret Reindeer - Book Review


Lucy’s Secret Reindeer - Book Review
Anne Booth & Sophy Williams
Children

Synopsis:

Dear Lucy,
Thank you so much for asking me if I needed help this christmas. What a kind girl you are! As a matter of fact, I do. My smallest reindeer is not very well, and needs someone to make him better before Christmas Eve. Starlight guides my sleigh through the night sky, so without him, I won’t be able to deliver any presents. Go down to the shed at the bottom of the garden and you will find him.

And Lucy, this is TOP SECRET!
lots of love from Santa

Lucy has a big secret …  Santa’s left her a little reindeer in the garden shed! But starlight is poorly, and Santa won’t be able to deliver any presents if he’s not well in time. Can Lucy make starlight better and save christmas? 

Review:

This was a sweet, seasonal read that would really be enjoyed by younger children - and most likely their parents too! I happen to be neither child nor parent, but I too found this story cute and heartwarming. It’s definitely something I would have wanted to read as a little girl.

Lucy is friendly and kind hearted girl - she love’s animals and is always helping her grandmother out with the wild hedgehogs and foxes she rescues. But what Lucy wants more than anything is a pet of her own, and this year she is sure Santa will bring her a kitten. What Lucy doesn't expect, after she innocently offers to help Santa with his work, is to be trusted with the care of Santa’s smallest reindeer, Starlight.

But Starlight is unwell, and no matter what Lucy tries, he doesn't seem to get any better … Now with Santa counting on her, and with the hours ticking down to Christmas Eve, can Lucy save both Starlight and Christmas before its too late…

This is a lovely christmas story, and a great way to spend a spare hour - and it will definitely put you in the christmas spirit. I found Lucy to be a kind, polite character who always tries to do her best, fulfilling her promise to Santa, she keeps Starlight a secret, even though it means a little sneaking, and a few white lies to her mum.

 The family dynamics also made me smile, and because it was christmas, I liked how everyone contributed to the homely atmosphere by being polite, generous and generally helpful in and around the house. 

Not only does this book give the reader a nice story, but it will help teach children some manners and morals as well. A happy, cheerful read, ‘Lucy’s Secret Reindeer’ was a lovely Christmas book that I think will be enjoyed by young children everywhere. 4 stars!