Why I Love… the Ninja Book Swap

It’s autumn so not only does that mean it’s getting a bit colder and the leaves are starting to turn brown but it also means that signups for Ninja Book Swap are open!

autumn-swap

The Ninja Book Swap is a lovely thing where you can send and receive bookish goodies to people. This Autumn there’s the regular swap where you send one book (or more if you wish) and some goodies to someone and get the same in return from someone completely different, and there’s the Trick or Treat Swap where you can send someone a book from a genre they’d like to read more of. For more info on both swaps, check out the Ninja Book Swap blog.

I’ve signed up for the Ninja Book Swap about three times now, this Autumn Swap will be my fourth, and I’ve loved putting together gifts for people and then the surprise of getting something in the post in return is wonderful. It’s really interesting looking through someone’s book wish-list, as well as spending ages picking out some books to send to them, I nearly always discover new books and genres that sound great and then I add them to my own wish-list.

img_3804

My first ever Ninja Book Swap package I received from an awesome buddy in Germany

Probably the hardest thing about the Ninja Book Swap is finding the goodies to send to who you’ve been given. It does depend from person to person, but it really does help if when you sign up for the swap you give a good list of the things you like and don’t like. Even if it’s broad thing like saying you love Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, it gives the person who’s got you more scope to find some cool things to send you. I know in previous swaps I’ve only listed like four things I like and this time when I signed up for the swap I tried to list as many things as possible, just to (I hope) give the person who ends up partnered with me an easier time in finding goodies. Also you can totally get crafty and make some goodies to send – I have little to no crafting skills so that’s something I’ve yet to do but I’d definitely love to receive something that someone has spent some time and effort on, it makes it all just a little bit more special.

I personally often kinda suck at the community aspect of blogging (I am so sorry about how it usually takes me days to respond to a comment) and sometimes find it hard to find, follow and interact with new blogs so Ninja Book Swap is definitely a great way to meet new people and find some great new blogs or Twitter accounts to follow. It’s always nice to have people who you can gush about books to and the Ninja Book Swap is all about spreading the love and joy of books.

I really would recommend signing up for Ninja Book Swap. If you like books, have a presence on any social media whether that’s a blog, Twitter or Instagram, and say hi to the creator Bex (just so she knows you’re a real person) then you can sign up and share the love of books and meet new likeminded people. It’s a fun thing to do and it’s always great wrapping up presents, and receiving a parcel that you have no idea what’s in it is always a nice surprise.

Sign-ups close at midnight on Sunday 2nd October so you’ve got to get in there quick! For all the info you need, check out the FAQ and if you think it sounds as awesome as it is, then do sign up – you never know, I could be the one sending you a parcel and if I am then I apologise in advance for my love of sellotape!

REVIEW: Middle of Nowhere (2008)

middle-of-nowhere-2008-posterWhen Grace (Eva Amurri Martino) realises her irresponsible mother (Susan Sarandon) hasn’t paid of the credit cards that she took out in her name, thus running her chances of getting funding for college, she teams up with her summer job co-worker Dorian (Anton Yelchin) in his scheme to make money from selling marijuana.

Middle of Nowhere has some great performances and some believable and relatable teenage characters. While Dorian and Grace are good friends it doesn’t mean they don’t fight and fall-out with each other, but again, just because they fight doesn’t mean they won’t still look out for and still care about each other.

Middle of Nowhere doesn’t go in with all the usual clichés for coming-of-age films and it is very true to life because when you find out that someone has hurt you it doesn’t always turn into a huge shouting match. Sometimes, you have to hide the fact you’re hurt and then just get over it. Also sometimes you might kiss someone and then you go back to being exactly as you were, you neither never talk to them again nor suddenly realise they are the love of your life.

Grace’s younger sister Taylor (Willa Holland) is also a great character and manages to be her own person and avoids being the “annoying younger sister”. Grace cares about her, and so does Dorian. There’s a scene where Taylor ends up at a party with Dorian because he has drugs to sell and when she gets into trouble he reacts and helps her even though it could potentially put himself at risk. Yelchin, Holland and Martino all have amazing chemistry which is important because the film pretty much rests on their performances and relationships.

Middle of Nowhere is a hidden gem; it’s teenage characters are relatable as they struggle with parents’ expectations and figuring out what they want to do with their lives. With great performances and a lovely soundtrack, Middle of Nowhere is worth checking out. 4/5.

REVIEW: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

HomegoingThis is the story of two half-sisters from eighteenth century Ghana and their decedents. Effia was married to a white Englishman while Esi was sold into slavery and was forced onto a ship to America. Their stories and their children’s and grandchildren’s stories couldn’t be more different but there are always connections to the past.

Homegoing is a phenomenal book. Through following two sisters and their families, it covers three hundred years of history. Each chapter follows a different character, alternating between Effia’s family and Esi’s family. Each chapter is like a snapshot at a certain point in history and while you only get one chapter with a character you still learn more about the previous generations that you’ve already read about through that chapter. This means while you’re always meeting new characters or getting their story from their point of view for the first time, the past and the characters you’ve already encountered are not forgotten about. This is really interesting because you as the reader tend to know more about these characters’ families and their history than the characters do. It’s interesting to see if stories from the past are passed down through the generations and what is remembered or what is forgotten. All these characters you encounter are flawed and interesting and you want them to do well and not make the same mistakes their parents did or to do better for themselves like their parents wanted. The writing in Homegoing is great because you do become invested in these characters even if you don’t spend much time with them and there is some beautiful writing in this book.

By following a family through multiple generations, from the 1700’s to the start of the twenty-first century, you can also see how things changed both in Ghana and in America. There’s how Ghana came to be a country called Ghana and the slave trade on the Gold Coast and colonial rule. While in America there’s slaves working on cotton plantations, the Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights Movement. Sometimes it is a bit difficult to pinpoint where exactly in history you are but the events unfolding around these characters helps give you an idea where the story is set.

Homegoing is such a compelling read. I read it in two days and I haven’t done that with a book, especially a “literary book”, in forever. This family and how traits and personalities are passed down or how one mistake or action can not only effect the next generation but future generations was fascinating.

Homegoing does tackle some tough subjects such as rape and violence and drug use and it never shies away from it but it is never overly judgemental either. Homegoing is a truly enlightening read because it unapologetically shows you what life was like for black people in America over the years, and how white people (mostly the British) colonising Africa affected generations.

I cannot recommend Homegoing enough. It has beautiful writing, a compelling and clever story and it’s an eye-opening and important book. 5/5.

REVIEW: Mustang (2015)

mustang-movie-posterWhen five sisters are seen innocently playing with boys on the beach, their conservative guardians confine them to the house and make plans to marry them all off.

The five sisters are each unique in their personalities and how they deal with the situation they find themselves in. Their home becomes a fortress with high gates and bars on the windows but they still manage to find their own small ways to rebel or to still have fun. While their struggles affect them all, you see most of what happens through Lale’s (Günes Sensoy) point of view. She’s the youngest so she has to watch her sisters get forced into marriages while she dreams of escape to Istanbul. Through her you see the effect’s the sisters’ confinement and arranged marriages have on all of them and how these five sisters have such a strong bond.

Throughout Mustang there’s reference to feminism and female empowerment. In one scene you can hear people on the TV saying that feminists are against motherhood, and the idea that the girls have to be virgins when they are married is important to all the older family members.

The thing about Mustang is that there are shocking moments but they all happen off screen, it’s as if it’s trying to protect Lale’s innocence. There’s also many moments of humour as the sisters find something to laugh about even though their situation is suffocating, like when Lale and Nur (Doga Zeynep Doguslu) say they’re going swimming but really they pretend on blankets and towels in their bedroom.

The cast is phenomenal, especially the five young actresses and the way the film is shot makes everything look beautiful. Mustang is a wonderful film that looks at the complexities of siblinghood and how sisters will always look out for each other. There’s moments of laughter and sadness as the sisters slowly discover that if they really want something in life, they will have to take it. 5/5.

Alzheimer’s and Me

In three weeks I will be taking part in the Memory Walk in Brighton to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society and to raise awareness for the disease. If you’d like to sponsor me, you can do so here. But this isn’t just a post begging for money, I also wanted to talk about why I’m doing the walk and how Alzheimer’s has been a part of my life for almost ten years.

Dementia is the broad term for a persistent disorder of the mental processes that are caused by brain disease, like Alzheimer’s disease, or a brain injury and that causes memory problems, personality changes and impaired reasoning.

My grandad got diagnosed with dementia when I was fifteen. While there had been various instances that we were all noticing leading up to the diagnosis, when we look back now we can see that things hadn’t been right years before but no doctor or anyone had said there was anything wrong. Looking back, my grandad had a couple of strokes when I was very young, only about six or seven, and when he was in the hospital bed he’d say there was a bird sitting on the end of it or there were rabbits running around the ward. We all found it funny and as he was otherwise fine and had no physical problems from the stroke we all thought nothing of it. Now we think that that might have been a sign of dementia but then we were unaware that such things as dementia and Alzheimer’s even existed.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the past ten years is that dementia and Alzheimer’s are words used much more frequently, before my granddad was actually diagnosed doctors just said it was a man getting old.

(more…)

REVIEW: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis ElenaSquareEyesSatrapi was the intelligent yet outspoken child of radical Marxists and the great-granddaughter of Iran’s last emperor and her childhood was always entwined with Iran’s history. As a graphic novel memoir, Persepolis follows Satrapi’s childhood in Iran during the revolution of 1979 and the Iran-Iraq War, to her adolescence in Europe and how she copes being so far from her family and her home.

There’s so much about Iran’s history and politics that I don’t know – I don’t have a very good understanding of what’s been happening in Iran recently, never mind what was happening in the country just under 50 years ago – but Persepolis did such a good job of shedding light on what growing up in Iran during a revolution and a war was like. The young Satrapi is constantly learning because the rules of her country are constantly changing. Persepolis is almost a crash course in Iran’s recent history and it’s a great introduction as you learn so much about what happened from someone who lived it. That being said, there’s still many elements that could be explored more but as it focuses on Satrapi’s experience rather than an expensive history, it’s understandable why there’s some gaps to what was happening between countries like Iraq and Iran, and Iraq and Kuwait and how countries like the USA and Britain were really involved.

Besides growing up in Iran, Satrapi also moves to Austria when she is a young teenager. She moves there alone, with no family and a limited grasp on French. In some ways Satrapi enjoys the freedom that Austria offers her compared to Iran but in others, she doesn’t feel like she understands how society in the West functions or if she fits in.

That’s what Persepolis is about really. It’s about a young girl who becomes a young woman and how she slowly discovers through trial and error who she really is and where she feels like she belongs. She may make different friends along the way and even have boyfriends but the one constant in her life, even when she was miles away from them, was her family. The relationship between Satrapi and her parents and grandmother is a wonderful element of the book and seeing how they all influenced her and helped her grow was really interesting and lovely.

The art style in Persepolis is relatively simple but effective. It’s all black and white and most of each panel is often made up of a speech bubble. The art style works because while it’s about difficult and complex topics, the language is also simple. This is because most of the book is from the perspective of someone who is twelve or a young teenager who may think she knows everything but really doesn’t.

Persepolis is a fascinating read about the difficulties of growing up in a war torn country and finding where you truly belong. It’s sometimes funny and often sad but it’s always enlightening. 4/5.

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Books You Want to See as TV Shows

Top 5 Wednesday is a great feature created by GingerReadsLainey and hosted by ThoughtsonTomes. To find out more about Top 5 Wednesday and the upcoming topics, check out its Goodreads page. This week, in honour of autumn TV it’s all about those books we’d love to see adapted for TV. Here’s the five books I think would make great TV shows.

fiveghosts vol1Five Ghosts by Frank J. Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham
This is a comic series about an adventurer kind of like Indiana Jones but he has this stone embedded in his chest which grants him the powers of five ghosts, or rather the ghosts take over when he needs it most. It’s very pulp-fictiony and would make a great adventure TV show because it’s full of supernatural elements, archaeology and bad guys.

 

sabriel1Sabriel by Garth Nix
The Old Kingdom series would make such a good TV series! It’s all about a young girl who inherits her father’s legacy of sending the dead back where they came from. It’s magical and creepy and set in a different world to ours. It’s a rich world so having it as a TV show would be a lot better than a film.

 

the passage elenasquareeyesThe Passage by Justin Cronin
This would be a great TV Show for fans of The Walking Dead and The Strain. Most of the story is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a disease has pretty much wiped out everyone and those who are left have to struggle to survive against creatures that are pretty much vampires. The interesting thing about The Passage is that because it’s set a good 100 years after the breakout of the virus, the characters don’t know what life was like before, there’s no nostalgia just a sense of getting on with life the best they can.

emancipatedEmancipated by M.G. Reyes
This would be a show would be full of the usual high school tropes because it’s a bunch of teenagers living together but also have an air of mystery as to why some of them have been emancipated and there’d be secrets and lies to uncover.

 

FullSizeRender (70)Geezer Girls by Dreda Say Mitchell
A crime TV show about some women who were once under the control of a London gangster but now try to live their own lives until that gangster comes back onto the scene? Sign me up! It’s good to see women be bad or morally ambiguous, who will do bad things to protect those they care about plus there’s the family of choice trope.

 

What books would you want to see adapted for TV?