James Blake, Retrograde

I love this.


Hey folks,

Just a little note to say I started up a new blog yourpaperfriend.com so I’ll be adding to that from now on. I’ll still be writing book reviews under the notes page so do have a look. You’ll see there are some extra features this time around, with more of a focus on music and stationery and all things lovely.

Thanks for reading! x

So I know you haven’t heard a peep from me in a while, and I’m very sorry for the silence, but never fear I have yet to disappear!*

I moved into a new flat in January and unfortunately there have been numerous teething problems that have led to prioritising my time away from the this here blog for a bizzle. Alas they are still ongoing, but I had the absolute pleasure of watching The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (written and directed by William Joyce) mere moments ago and I just couldn’t contain my excitement.

If you’re on the ball you’ll know this bad boy won the Oscar for best Animation Short last weekend, and rightly so. It’s a piece of visual delight and any book lover will glow with pleasure watching it – I know I did. I still am. Watch and Enjoy my friends**.

x x x

*Yeah that’s right first blog of 2012 and I’m already rhyming. Boom.

**And while you’re at it make sure you watch last year’s winner The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan. I own this on DVD. It was worth every penny and I would really like my Dad to give it back now… Please. Give.It.Back

26 Stories of Christmas

A favourite customer of mine (also my year 9 English teacher) had the most amazing Christmas tradition. Every year without fail, she used to come into the bookshop and order boxes upon boxes of classic, modern and obscure titles. We’d have to go through list after list and ensure that every book arrived before Christmas Eve, in time for their extravagant family auction. You see instead of your typical stocking fillers and Christmas tree gifts, the Thorpe family spent their Christmas day placing bids on the books they wanted to spend the next year reading. A wish list was compiled and Mrs Thorpe would purchase every single one.

I was never quite sure of the rules of engagement – Did everyone have an equal amount of money to bid with? Perhaps instead of piles of gifts a purse of ‘auction tokens’ with your name in italics was tied to the tree… Were there red herring bids? Did the Great Aunt grounded in Scotland have to bid over the phone? Maybe they had to play charades first – by guessing the name of the book you were entitled to bidding exclusivity…?! Only the Thorpe family knows.

But I absolutely love the idea of a room full of neatly wrapped books, just waiting to share their stories with a family greatly anticipating the pages in front of them. So much so that they actually compete against the ones they love most in order to read them first. AMAZING.

So for those of you just as excited as myself and the Thorpe family about receiving a book for Christmas, here’s a early gift, an advent calendar of sorts – 26storiesofchristmas.com*. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. They’re beautiful.

x x x

*The creative souls at writing organisation 26, challenged 26 writers to write a short story for the 26 days of Christmas – from the exciting 1st to the bloated, wasn’tthatgreatbutIneverwanttoseeanotherturkeyagain 26th. This is the result. And yes, I have written one of 26 stories, the very last one in fact…

The Flask by Nicky Singer

A childlike understanding of life can be as refreshing as it is astonishing and humorous. And it’s this understanding, this skillful way of writing that always brings me back to Children’s books. They have a way of captivating the imagination that other books often fail to replicate. For that reason alone I shall always start my book search in the Children’s Department, with the hope of finding something as spellbinding as The Flask.

Nicky Singer’s upcoming release, The Flask, is a stunningly subtle and sincere look at grief, the meaning of family & friends, and holding on to your beliefs (especially if they’re attached to the life force within a flask!)

With the imminent arrival of Jess’s conjoined twin brothers, and the aftermath of loosing a beloved aunt, Jess’s life is clinging on by a weak tether. But then she finds a flask. It’s beautiful. It’s breathing. And somehow it becomes her lifeline, strapping her in and tugging her step by step, day by day.

The Flask manages to breathe life into wonder and fear, and captures a truly believable young voice unaccustomed to change and anxiety. I was absolutely blown away by this book. Particularly because as a twin, I have had several unpleasant reading experiences where twins are depicted – 26a by Diana Evans being a prime example of a book I never should have read, it broke me*. Luckily The Flask had the opposite effect.

Much like Feather Boy, Nicky Singers’ The Flask is a beautiful coming of age tale that reminds you what it means to be young and afraid of loosing everything you hold dear, and doing anything within your reach to hold on to them.

The Flask is released by HarperCollins February 2012. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

x x x

* There should be a warning on the book – ‘Do not read if you are a twin, and your twin is on a GAP year, and you’re studying miles away from her’… I’m just saying. Disclaimers are helpful!

A Scattering, and Dancing Jax

Whilst the first layer of paint dries on my homemade advent calendar* I thought it a good time to rectify my neglect of this blog with some lovely but unsettling reads…

A Scattering – Christopher Reid

One of the most beautiful collections of poetry I think I have ever read. Written before and after the death of his wife, it remains an eternal tribute.

I finished A Scattering in one day. And yes I cried on public transport. None of that wailing, bawling, attention seeking snotty stuff, don’t worry, it was a very civilised affair of gently streaming tears. But they were tears of sadness nonetheless. I defy anyone to read A Scattering and not well up with emotion.

Every word comes straight from Christopher Reid’s heart, and when you’re a hopeless romantic such as myself still dreaming of finding ‘the one’, you tend not to imagine what would happen if you had to watch them die before your very eyes. Reid’s raw grief and ability to craft it into this collection of poems is astounding.

Dancing Jax – Robin Jarvis

Set in a coastal town, just like any other. A very dangerous book gets into the wrong hands and uses its words to tear apart the world as we know it, word by word.

Robin Jarvis’s Dancing Jax is an absolute page-turner of a intelligent teen read. I was hooked from the first moment a piece of mould shivered and moved, to the climax of the very last page. Oh boy was I addicted to this book.

Page after page Dancing Jax just get’s darker and more terrifying, and no matter how hard you will things to get better, they just don’t. If you’re looking for a pretty read wrapped up with a neat happily ever after, step away now. Then again, if you want to read cleverly written dialogue that jumps off the page, and to be so wound up that you actually yell at the characters and anyone within hearing distance** buy it, read it, devour it and just pray to god the next book comes out soon!

x x x

*You have to be prepared with these things – otherwise the 1st of December will come around without the all important count down tool!

**I had several rants a day, no kidding, full on “and he has the audacity to laugh as every goes mental” rants.

It’s not that I didn’t read throughout September. I did. I just haven’t blogged. I’m so sorry. Blame the new job, my new ‘embrace London’ moto, and most importantly, blame the fact that I no longer have my own laptop.

But you know what’s great about these nippy months? The crisp turning of pages. Yup. One of my favourite feelings in the world is when you’re snuggled up on the sofa/bed/in an alcove/under a desk/in your wardrobe*, with a blanket wrapped around you, book in one hand and a steaming cup of tea in the other. It really is bliss.

But before I get carried away with my October reads here’s a brief recap of what ended up on my bookshelves this September …

Stuck, Oliver Jeffers

Stuck is just as visually gorgeous as his previous titles. And much like The Heart and the Bottle the images maintain a soft simplicity that combine to create a wonderful treat of colour and humour. Touching nuances of curiosity, friendship, family, and growing up, sadly don’t feature in this simple tale of getting a kite stuck up a tree. But Floyd’s intensity as he goes to every length to retrieve his stuck kite is infectious, and little gems such as a curious Whale ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’, and a perfectly depicted lighthouse make Stuck a true work of picture book art.

Ruby Redfort, Lauren Child

It’s been a long time coming but a modern Harriet the Spy has finally been born. Ruby Redfort is a delightful read. Quick witted, and full to the brim with action and genius code-breaking, she’ll be every young girl’s hero in no time! The only problem is the Americanisation, by an English author. Why couldn’t she be British exactly? Just putting it out there.

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

If you’re looking for a fast paced, all encompassing read, then this epic teenage fiction trilogy is just the thing. No doubt you’ve seen the trailer for the 2012 film, or heard the rumours that the series is brilliant. Don’t question the hype people, get reading. Picture Battle Royale combined with Big Brother. It’s a scary thought right? Terrifying. Add some stylists, a love triangle and a girl on fire, and you’ve made a bestseller right there**.

Smith Journal, Australian Magazine

The makers of Frankie Magazine***, have created a male version in the form of Smith journal. And what a beauty it is. With features on Typewriters and their owners, taxidermy, living alone in Alaska, and making whisky, Smith Journal manages to encapsulate everything the indie male is interested in whilst still maintaining the creative and whimsical feel of Frankie.

Ohhh and before I forget, I met my all time favourite children’s author/illustrator, Oliver Jeffers last month. It was a pretty big deal. I mean, seriously, heart racing, nonsensical thoughts rambling in my head and stuttering their way out. Big. Flipping. Deal. He signed my copy of Stuck and very kindly put up with my babble about how much I love him and his illustrations. Apparently he gets it all the time.****

x x x

*Fact for you – I actually read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in a wardrobe with a torch.

**Wow. I just made myself excited, and I’ve already read the books!

***The best magazine in the world. Hopwood fact.

****He’s an Irish dreamboat don’t you know!

A gripping and passionate tale about Last Words and searching for the Great Perhaps.

There are a number of reasons why I loved reading Looking for Alaska. One of them being, it’s a seriously well written book with bonkers lovable characters, the other, and perhaps the most exciting and pathetic all in one go – is that the book itself only cost me 25p. 25p!*

Twenty-five glorious pence bought me entrance into to the world of Miles Halter, an awkwardly lovable loner adjusting to his new place in Culver Creek boarding school. Friendless and in search of the Great Perhaps**, he walks willingly into a fresh start in the blistering heat of Alabama.

As with what you expect from this scenario, a cocky roommate nicknamed the Colonel introduces Miles to all the right people for the events in Looking for Alaska to unfold, including Alaska herself. An enigmatic girl on a mission to die young.

But it’s Miles’ unfaltering belief in the power of people’s last words that kept me turning page after page. His ability to recall them at the right moment and to carry the weight of their meaning up until the very last word is truly astounding. In Miles, John Green creates a truly lovable character that despite all his teenage induced flaws you can’t help but route for.

Poignantly split into Before and After, Green astutely counts down to the very last word. And it’s worth reading every one.

x x x

*Unfortunately this isn’t a worldwide or even nationwide offer that I can point you in the right direction of. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. You’ll most likely have to pay £6.99. But it’s worth it. It really is.

**“I go to seek a Great Perhaps” were the last words of the poet Francois Rabelais.

The Secret Bookstore

The Secret Bookstore.

I just saw this and thought i should share it with you guys – Anyone up for a trip to New York?!

x x x

A few weeks back I mentioned that I attended the Sydney Writer’s Festival whilst travelling Australia. But then I got overexcited about Patrick Ness’ ‘go, libraries, go’ speech and I didn’t mention the festival again like I intended. Sorry.

I was only in Sydney for a total of 4 days – two of which were taken up by the Finders Keepers market, and another by VIVID Sydney. So I only had the chance to attend one event. Luckily for me it was the final lecture in the series and well worth the trip around the Sydney Harbour.

Perish the Thought – James Gleick

I had never heard of James Gleick before this event, nor had I clocked any of the various titles, not a toot not a pip had I heard about him. Nada. Nichts*. Nothing. But after attending Perish the Thought I went back to my hostel a changed woman. Here was an American I actually thrived off listening to, an American that radiated intelligence and humour. An American with innovative ideas and a lack of Hollywood cheese**.

Mr Gleick was a phenomenally inspirational speaker. He was charming in every way and had me eating out of the palm of his hand. He challenged the way I thought and stimulated many inner monologues/debates throughout the following weeks.

The event started with 4 words projected onto the back wall of the theatre:


Simply and eloquently put – that’s what everyone in attendance that evening lived for. Words. And we wanted to hear that they’d survive, that there was still a place for them in our celebrity and technology driven society.

So Mr James Gleick spent over an hour talking about what the digital era meant for the book, discussing its merits and it’s downfalls, and what could be expected of the publishing industry over the next couple of years. I was absolutely fascinated by his insight and wish I’d taken a note-book. Instead you’ll have to put up with the brief quotes I can remember***.

The audience were treated to titbits of information and snippets of history that put eBook progression into much needed perspective. Consider for a moment how tiresome it would be if we were all still trawling our way through scrolls?! Development is inevitable and J.G reminded us of it’s importance by stating:

It’s the message, not the medium”.

As long as the content of ‘books’ are kept to a high standard then we really shouldn’t be too worried about the medium in which they are produced. In fact, Gleick also reminded us of something R.I. Richards once wrote:

“Books are machines to think with”.

So why should we find it so challenging to accept that a machine can host a book? Interesting thought.

As long as the ideas continue to grow we should be satisfied. Should be. Please note my hesitancy because although I think what Gleick says is true, there are still so many of us (myself included) who just can’t let go of the printed word. We need shelves full of physical books in our homes. We need the smell of it’s pages and the satisfaction of displaying our reading habits…we believe books are more real if they exist****. This behaviour does of course make accepting the eBook all the more difficult. There were many of us who thought like this in the auditorium and were overjoyed to hear the term “Biblio-nechrophilia” uttered. That’s right guys, it’s a real term – I’m not the only one worried about the demise of the good old fashioned, page turning book. It’s worldwide state of mind.

Rest assured the debate between the printed and digital word will continue for quite some time but if I learnt anything form Perish the Thought, it’s that the demise of the book is a very long way off:

“The book is like a hammer, …and it will adapt to the technologies that deliver us words.”*****

x x x

*That’s German don’t you know.

** I know, I didn’t think that was possible either!

*** I promptly left the theatre, rushed back to my hostel and in a trail mix fueled frenzy made note of everything I could remember. Geek and proud my friends. Geek and proud.

****Does that make sense? You know what I mean… touch, smell, taste etc…it’s there, it’s yours and it can’t disappear, unlike a digital file…(I understand this can be argued but lets save that for another day).

*****James Glieck. The man. The legend. Author of Chaos and The Information.