Story Telling (Or; Bore off You Attention Seeking Misery)

Just as often as you will find me with my nose stuck in a book you are likely to come across me scrolling through Twitter. I love the fast paced interaction, hearing what people have to say, somebody I have never met making me laugh with exemplary use of their 140 characters. I do appreciate Twitter can become something of a bubble, as you are generally choosing to follow people on there who hold similar opinions to your own and create a little online world in which you would like to live. Every now and then you can click that follow button on somebody less than savoury without quite realising what you have done. Now I think it is great to branch out and hear new voices (maybe the results of the general election and the Brexit vote might not have come as such a painful shock to me if I had done so) but also there are some who are just so tiresome in their beliefs you really don’t need their toxic views filtering into your day. I’ve never done the inexcusable and followed Katie Hopkins, you are just asking for the headache then, but there have been others who I thought were harmless enough before being pulled up short one day realising their negativity and plain mean spiritedness to others is working its way into my daily consciousness and I am the one who can choose to stop this with the quick click of an unfollow button. 

For some time now a columnist for The Times has been sending out tweets that leave me feeling angered and frustrated, but I still didn’t press that button, I don’t really know the reason why, is there a part within us that enjoys having a foe? In this last week two of her tweets have caused my mind to tick over in such annoyance I felt like I had to respond, I am a terrible one for letting anger boil away within and getting my feelings out on paper is often enough to take the heat out of that.

The tweets by Camilla Long were in response to the announcement that Kazuo Ishiguro has won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year. Before I go any further I will confess I am a huge fan of the work of Ishiguro and am delighted at him receiving the award which I believe to be more than well deserved. Despite my stance on this you could switch in any author to the comments made by Long about the win and my response would still be the same. Here follows her tweets:

“Sorry but Kazuo Ishiguro is just lame as a Nobel choice. His books are made into films FGS!”

I read this and just thought ‘oh heavens, here she goes again’ but did give her some benefit of the doubt thinking it could be a really poor joke. Other readers clearly thought along the same lines and questioned her on this, her answer:

“It’s not a joke. Film adaptations are a lazy form of art and not one Nobel prize winners should entertain”

I wonder if she made that opinion known when she got the job as The Times FILM CRITIC – yes, really. Apart from this being more than a little ‘one does not become a Nobel Prize Winner but is born one’, what utter, total bullshit! I won’t take up your precious time listing all the winners of this award who have had their work adapted into a film, take my word for it, there is A LOT.

The real thing that gets up my nose? The snobbishness of it all. I live and breathe books, to, some would say, an unhealthy point. When I am not reading I like to be talking about reading, or book jacket covers, or genre, or…well you get it, the written word is my love. BUT. I do not believe that literature is some godly like art form that all must kneel before. I know some who think TV, film, music or videogames cannot compare with the hallowed book. I disagree entirely. That may be where my passion is and the talent that goes into producing a great work of fiction is a thing to admire, but not one of these forms can be held above the other. Their success lies in what they are to the person who is engaging with them at that time.

We have always been a story telling animal and we will always tell our stories across many different mediums. I think it is important we just cherish that the story is told and that we gain pleasure from it, not imposing some worthy rating system as to who engages in these tales in the most ‘pure’ way. Musicians have been inspired by authors who have inspired movies which have inspired plays which have inspired poems, if you follow the theory of there only being seven stories in the world, with different ways of them being told, do we all not absorb these and then bring them back into the world in an altered form coloured by our own experience? It gives me nothing but pleasure to think that somebody who is not a fan of reading could get to enjoy a story that has absorbed me in a different form, why miss out? One of my most favourite authors and general Wise and Respected Person, Philip Pullman has said…

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the things we need most in the world”

I hope, as humble as my opinion is, he would agree with me, get lost in the story in which ever way you want to.

So, the annoyance has now cooled off, I am heading to my sofa to read some more. Later I am going to watch a film, I expect both experiences to be pretty damn good. You know what will be even better though? Before I do either of these things, there is a narrative I don’t want to be involved in any more, and all I have to do is hit that unfollow button.

Story Telling (Or; Bore off You Attention Seeking Misery)

Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee 

When the Man Booker long list was announced I had not heard of one of the entries, ‘Elmet’ by Fiona Mozley, and I must confess in all the following conversations about the roster of Big Names who had secured their places once again, I didn’t dig too deeply to find out about it. Although I may have anticipated some of the names on that long list, what I certainly had not forseen was a long delay in an airport as we were told it was in no way safe to get on our plane that had just bumped along the runway to collect us. 

Time + bookshop + forgotten national book token in purse = another paperback struggling to find a place to be housed in my flat. The bookshop had a section for the Booker offerings and although I hadn’t intended to stop there my eye was immediately caught by the cover of Elmet. Clean white lines with a central design by the artist Vanessa Lubach showing an Autumnal scene ticked my book boxes and I decided to go for it with little attention given to the blurb. 

Reader, I take pride in myself here, I made an EXCELLENT decision. This book was read in a couple of sittings but I could easily have lost a whole afternoon to seeing it off from start to finish if time had allowed. When I’d reached the end I was recommending it to others saying how much I enjoyed it, but what I did not anticipate was how much the book would stay with me. I have not been able to stop thinking about it, and with every passing day my enthusiasm for it grows. 

Now I must confess ignorance in that I did not have a clue as to what ‘Elmet’ means, assuming it would be revealed in the novel itself, but those who hark from God’s Own Country and wear the White Rose upon their chests may not be so blindsided by the word. Between the 5th and 7th century Elmet referred to an area of Yorkshire and this is the scene for our story to unfold, but in a contemporary setting. We are told the story by our young protagonist Daniel, who is currently travelling northwards, as he looks back to a time with his sister Cathy, their Daddy and a night that changed everything. 

The three are a solid unit, needing no others, living in an isolated fashion that confirms this to the outside world. They live in a secluded, wooded area in a home their Daddy has built himself. Attuned to and respecting nature, they have left formal education and rely on their father to advise and provide them with all they need. Daniel appears to be a gentle soul while Cathy has more of an untamed spirit that knows of future battles that will lie ahead for them. 

Always ‘daddy’ to the children, their father is a character I could read about for hours, a beautiful study of the light and shade that can exist within one person. I found the book to be almost a quiet contemplation on violence, how it can live within a person with a need to sometimes be purged. Their Daddy is somebody who holds violence in him, a man who is a huge, hulking presence and is widely known to be the best fighter in the country. He doesn’t live his life within the lines of the law but he does believe in a code of ethics within the world he inhabits, doing things the right way. Paperwork, legal business and suit and tie living may not be his area, but he will defend his children to the last and will work hard for those he loves. The contradiction in his behaviour is strikingly played out as we watch violence pulsing from his every fibre as he fights in a forest to the next moment the calm, tender time as he lays his body back to have his hair washed by his children, vulnerable and at peace.

The way this family conduct their lives does not sit right with all those around them, and a dispute over the land they have built their home upon soon starts to cause tension not only for them but within the whole community. The story slowly burns and builds like blood boiling before a moment of unbridled aggression.

Beautifully written throughout, the language is lyrical with local dialect slipping on to the pages. I’ve rarely found myself so taken aback by the final quarter of a novel and so thoroughly satisfied with how a story played out, I feel like Mozley hasn’t put a foot wrong with this piece. 

Will it win the Booker? I’m not sure to be honest, a lot of people think it is Ali Smiths time and George Saunders is up there too, but if her name is called out from that podium I will be cheering on a very well deserved win.

Elmet by Fiona Mozley £10.99 (John Murray Originals) 

Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee 

The Sun is Shining, The Books are (mainly) Sweeeet 

Birds are chirping away outside my window, the sun is shining down on my little village and my flat is LIKE A SAUNA! Oh I love its brightness, the big old windows, but I had forgotten the grand old temperatures it can reach as it warms up outside and I feel as if I am potted at my desk in a greenhouse. Anyway, glorious weather means for certain you need some glorious books for those moments you can relax outside and read, so today I am bringing you a bumper edition of the good, the ok and the damn right ugly to see if any take your fancy!

So get settled, maybe grab a pimms for this one, you know, get us really in the spirit, and away we go.

We’ll start with a book that will be out in about two weeks or so by Gail Honeyman. This debut writer entered a competition for new novels and then lo and behold has had the book published to acclaim all around, it cheers my soul to see new writers being discovered like this, bravely pressing the submit button after spending the previous chunk of their working life in completely different job roles. 

‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ introduces us to, you guessed it, Eleanor. A woman who likes things just so, she gets through her working week quietly in the corner, not interacting with anybody around her if she can help it. When Eleanor finds herself in conversation with others her blunt, straight forward way of looking at the world immediately casts her as ‘an odd one’, somebody who is perhaps not so subtly laughed at behind computer work stations in the office. When not at work she keeps herself very much hidden away at home, vodka and pizza seeing her through from the moment she shuts the door on a Friday evening until she has to leave again Monday morning. Her solitary situation is only broken by a weekly phone call from her mother, which does not seem wholly welcome to her, and her crush on a local pop star who she religiously keeps up to date with online.

This ground hog day feeling is broken when walking home from work one day, Eleanor is witness to an elderly man falling in the street. Her first instinct is to carry on homeward bound, seeing that a fellow colleague has spotted this accident and is on his way to help, but when he shouts for Eleanor to join him in the rescue mission she feels duty-bound to go. This one small moment provides a catalyst for changes in her life that can often feel overwhelming and push her into situations she could never have imagined.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, finding Eleanor completely and utterly loveable. The plot line itself is engaging although I did guess where it was going, but it really didn’t matter to me as I just wanted to spend time in her company. I think with a character like Eleanor she would so often be presented to the reader as ‘other’, somebody odd who the reader laughs at, the strength of this novel is that it never strays into this territory. Eleanor is funny, yes, but her observations are astute and perfectly reasonable from the life she is living, she is a whole character, never a caricature. I really recommend you spend some time seeing life through her eyes and pick this up for a summer read.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman £12.99 (Harper Collins)

Two very quick shout outs here for a couple of books that were quick to read but leave an impact deeper than the mightiest of tomes. The latest book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was always going to be something I snaffled up the day it was released bearing in mind I think of her as something of a QUEEN. ‘Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’ is a thought provoking, kind and outright smart letter from Adichie to her friend who had just recently given birth to a daughter. Her friend had been in touch after Adichie’s now famous TED talk titled ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ (and my god, if you haven’t read that do so NOW, it will honestly take 5 minutes and should be essential reading, as should all of her fiction…) and wanted to know how best to raise her daughter as a feminist, how Adichie would advise her to go about doing this. These fifteen suggestions, if applied by all, would make the world of difference with boys and girls, men and women, living to their full potential in a much more respectful environment. She rocks – read it!

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions £10.00 (Harper Collins)

The next call out is one a lot of you will know and which I have been incredibly tardy getting round to, but now realise is an essential book to have in my house as something of a balm for my soul in case love ever cuts deep. ‘Milk and Honey’ by Rupi Kaur is a collection of poetry that charts her journey through love, pain and healing. The collection is also illustrated by Kaur with simple line drawings throughout. It is raw and honest, although if you like poetry to be stanza after stanza with imagery to work through that is not what you will find here, simple and often only three or four lines long, these feel like they have been written in the moment as the emotion has flowed through her finger tips. Amazingly this was self-published at first but word of mouth did its job, a publisher picked the book up and now it is something of a worldwide phenomenon.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur £9.99 (Andrew McMeel Publishing)

I guess we better get to the downright ugly bit yes? I am sorry to any Hanif Kureishi fans out there but URGH, his new novel ‘The Nothing’ did not sit well with me. I have enjoyed movies made by him in the past, having studied ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ and being struck by the performance from Peter O’Toole in ‘Venus’. I read his book ‘Intimacy’ a couple of years ago and was incredibly irritated by that, not that the writing was bad, I simply found the main character abhorrent (and I can easily enjoy a book with a character I do not like) I don’t really know what made me pick up ‘The Nothing’, I think Kureishi has always held intrigue for me, always being touted as ground breaking, pushing boundaries in new ways, well blah blah blah, NO LONGER Kureishi, you are OUT of my system. This book was so misogynistic I wanted to hurl it out of the window so it was no longer polluting my flat. There is some story line in there, if you look hard, about our elderly protagonist’s younger wife having an affair. The man she is having this affair with is trying to run a scam to take their fortune and run when her husband dies, our protagonist knows all this and makes half-hearted attempts to stop it. Really this is all by the by, it is never engaging and all seems to serve as a lazy vehicle to have this character listen in to two people having sex and make comment on what women want and who they are (as a collective whole, remember, according to Kureishi we women are all one homogenous being) and what the take away message from it was, what we want is his penis and his money. Now excuse me while I go and scrub my skin off with a wire sponge. I am reluctant to give you the details, but I must so…

‘The Nothing’ by Hanif Kureishi £14.99 (Faber & Faber)

Now let’s end on a much, much better note! That there Ruby Tandoh, Bake Off legend, and her partner Leah Pritchard decided some time back to begin a Kickstarter project to raise money to produce a one off zine on mental health. They got writers of amazing calibre to sign up who all, in some way or other, have had their lives effected by mental health problems. I knew this was something I would want a copy of so happily contributed to the project. As I say, this was a little while a go so it had somewhat drifted out of my mind. Last week I was really struggling with my own mental health and was having a day that was the deepest shade of blue. I made it down to my post box which was something of an achievement and found a package waiting for me. When opened, lo and behold it was ‘Do What You Want’, the zine itself! It was exactly what I needed. Can I just say, to all you fellow book sniffers out there, this zine smells gorgeous! It has illustrations throughout by a whole host of artists, some of which I wouldn’t mind prints of to go up in my flat! It covers so many topics, gives excellent hints and advice and generally just made me feel a little less alone that day, reminded me there are others out there who know what it can be like. A total bonus I didn’t expect was a collection of recipes in there as well, all delicious and all to be tried out in the Dog Eared Reads kitchen! I am really impressed with what Tandoh and Pritchard have done, the proceeds of the zine have all gone to mental health charities and there is not a doubt in my mind they will have helped many out there. Three cheers to them!

‘Do What You Want’ by Ruby Tandoh & Leah Pritchard £7.00 (Do What You Want)

In ‘oops I bought a book’ news – you may recall one of my favourite novels of the last couple of years (and if all time now I mention it) was ‘My Name is Lucy Barton’ by Elizabeth Strout. Well her latest offering is out, ‘Anything is Possible’, a collection of stories all set in Lucy Barton’s home town, with a couple of familiar faces appearing within the pages. I’ve had a proof copy of this for a while but almost can’t bring myself to read it as I don’t want it to be over, if that makes sense?! Anyway, despite owning it already I spotted a signed first edition in a shop recently and we all know what happened next! A review will be appearing soon, I promise I’ll try not to drag it out too long to make it last!

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout £12.99 (Penguin)

Ok, I think I will leave it there for today guys, I actually have MORE books to talk about but I am guessing your eyes are going blurry and starting to water a little bit by now! As always, feel free to leave a comment below, if you’ve read any of the above, what you are reading at the moment or if you just want a general chat! You can also get in touch via email, dogearedreads1@gmail, with anything you want to see on the site or just pop ‘Subscribe’ in the subject line if you would like to receive an alert each time a new post pops up on here. Until next time…
Happy Reading! 

The Sun is Shining, The Books are (mainly) Sweeeet 

Two Helpings with a Sprinkle on Top 

Today over at Dog Eared Towers I find myself looking out at pretty bleak weather and feeling filled with a warm contentment, to me it is like a giant permission slip from the sky saying ‘stay cosy, read with a cup of tea in hand, it is what the world wants you to do!’ So, that is what I am doing, having just finished a novel, ‘Bleak House’ (part of a Dickens group I am in the long term midst of), a re-read of some non-fiction by Xinran, ‘The Good Women of China’, I thought I would pop on here to have some book chat before beginning anything else, a palate cleaner of book sorbet shall we say. I wanted to also talk about two other books I have recently finished, one adult fiction and the other YA, and bring to your attention some exciting book news that has caught my eye. With no further ado, let’s get going.

In the past I am sure I have mentioned what a fan I am of Pushkin Press so I am always keen to take a look at their new publications. They kindly provided me with a proof of one of their latest reads ‘The Beautiful Bureaucrat’ by Helen Phillips and off I set into the pages, not expecting that with each new chapter I would find myself so unnerved, yet desperate to read on despite a creeping unease. The novel follows Josephine and Joseph, a couple who have moved to a new city to find work after both enduring months of unemployment. It feels like the two are clinging to each other as the only solid permanence in their lives when they cannot even find a solid base to call a home, rental after rental being both unreliable and often uninhabitable. Josephine is our protagonist here and she does eventually find work in a building so large it covers enough land as a small town would. Its hulking grey presence feels like a weight pressing down on the landscape, drowning out any spark of life around it, and soon the job itself is having a similar effect on Josephine. Working alone in a tiny office she spends her hours inputting dates onto a database, not sure what the whole thing means, just knowing she has to work her way through the files she finds stacked on her desk each morning. Other than her boss and one other colleague the building seems like something of a mausoleum, the only evidence of other workers having been there being the fingers marks and scratches left on the walls around her desk.

Home life seems to be changing in parallel to this job. A quick agreement is made between her and Joseph not to talk about their days and what they are doing as they both appear to find their situations so miserable there is no need to pollute their hours of freedom from their employment with acknowledgement of it. Joseph is changing before her eyes however, becoming more distant and sometimes so far removed from the man she fell in love with she can become quite frightened by him. When she looks in the mirror she struggles to recognise herself as her eyes become bloodshot and her face drawn from paranoia. Eventually deciding to question her job, what exactly she is doing there and why it is spilling out into her personal life, the situation soon spirals away from her with alarming consequences.

I thoroughly enjoyed this dystopian read and it keeps playing over in my mind, just who pulls the strings in our lives and how much self-control do we have over our days? The book won’t give you all the answers, but where would the fun be in that?!

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips £10.99 (Pushkin Press)

Now when I am reading some intense adult fiction I often like to mix it up with something lighter. I foolishly fell into a trap here though, turning to a new piece of YA writing that I thought would provide some light relief. Yes, smack my hand with a ruler, YA certainly does NOT mean a story will be less intense as I sharp was reminded. ‘Sea’ by Sarah Driver is the first part in ‘The Huntress’ trilogy, although with my classic ‘not reading any info about the book before I start it’ move, I was beside myself in the last few chapters as to how this would all be wrapped up, assuming it was a stand alone!

The Huntress is actually a ship, upon which a 13 year old girl called Mouse and her younger brother Sparrow live. Life at sea is tough for them both after their mother died in Sparrow’s infancy and their dad has recently gone missing. They are under the protection of the Captain, and I must confess I let out a bit of a whoop when the Captain is revealed to be…their Grandma! Mouse has clearly inherited great bravery and determination from her Grandma, although still has lessons to learn. These are put to the test when a new shipmate joins the crew, welcomed as a past member of the crews family, Mouse can’t help feel suspicious towards him, doubting his motives for being there.

This is a classic rip roaring adventure of a read, and although I found it sometimes confused itself in all of the action I think this was more me over scrutinising as a reader, I am pretty sure I would not have worried a jot about these things had I read the story aged 12/13. The language used in the novel is gorgeous, those who live on board the Huntress have their own lingo and it felt earthy and real to me, I particularly have a soft spot for the term ‘heart thanks’, when you are truly grateful to somebody. The judgement for a new trilogy is always whether I will be bothered to pick up the next instalment when it hits the shops, I can confirm that I will be there at a shop till with purse and a copy of ‘The Huntress: Part Two’ in hand eager to find out what other adventures Mouse will be going on.

‘The Huntress: Sea’ by Sarah Driver £6.99 (Egmont)

And last but not least to our bookish news. I feel very lucky that in the book world there is a great community to be a part of, interesting people to meet who are bound by their passionate love for books and getting great stories into other people’s hands. I get to talk to these people both through working in a bookshop and using online communities, twitter etc. A year or two ago I started talking to Sam Missingham through twitter, always admiring how outspoken she was in the publishing community and how she always wanted to drive it forward, especially how respectful she was of the blogging community. I then got to meet her at last when she visited Mr B’s, a good old natter ensued and my belief was confirmed that she was an Excellent Woman. Well today in the book world there has been an exciting announcement, if we had a ‘breaking news’ bar running along the bottom of our screens we would see Sam’s name appearing there. Having recently left Harper Collins, the wonder woman of the book industry is starting her own project which I am blummin’ excited about and want to make sure all fellow book lovers are aware of. She has launched her own website which you can find at which is ALL about getting the right books into the right hands from personal recommendations. I really encourage you to have a gander over there and get involved, I know it is going to grow stronger and stronger and be another spot on the internet us bookworms can gather. If you want to follow Sam on twitter as well her personal handle is @samatlounge and the websites is @lounge_books.

Beautiful Sam Missingham £Priceless 

So, my reading nook calls as my book has waited impatiently on the arm of my chair. Later this week I will be publishing a blog I wrote some time ago but did not get to hit ‘go live’ on due to being unwell, so please excuse the tardy nature of the books write up! I will add a little note so you know it is an older post.

As always you can sign up for notifications of new posts here on the site, or email me over on with ‘Subscribe’ in the subject line for email notifications. You can also follow us over on twitter, @dogeared_reads

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Two Helpings with a Sprinkle on Top 

Outfoxing Them All 

 Oh to be able to write a debut novel as impressive as this! What a total joy – I have been banging on to anyone who will listen about this book since I finished it. I must confess I was drawn in by the gorgeous artwork on the cover, and the fact that I am slightly partial to a picture of a fox, as you can see! (If you know me from Mr B’s you will have seen I am usually found ambling about the bookshop in winter in my giant wool jumper with a rather splendid foxy fellow blazoned across the front). 

In my usual style I started this book knowing very little, no idea that is was a debut and only the briefest of outlines of the story in my head. Turns out I had started something that couldn’t have been more up my street if I tried – reader, the comparison I can give you for this book? None other than my favourite Sara Baume! There are real echoes of her style of storytelling for me while still being completely fresh and captivating.

The novel centres on a thirty something woman called Mary, recently out of a potentially abusive relationship and currently very flaky in the whole turning up to work stakes, we are immediately aware this is somebody who is unravelling at the seams. Living in a semi-detached house in London with an over grown patch of wilderness at the bottom of her garden, Mary appears to be gradually cutting herself off from any possible human relations, blanching whenever her next door neighbours make contact. Those neighbours do keep forcing conversation though, as problems with foxes in the area are becoming a real issue for them. Trying to engage Mary in ways they can tackle what they appear to think of as something of a war for their home turf, she begins to try and put off any action in ways that will make her motivation unclear to the others. As we follow her into her unkempt home we soon find her reasons. A fox has been visiting her garden, leaving gifts of found objects on her door step and little by little working his way further into her affections. The perfect storm is brewing as Mary clearly begins to unravel further, the neighbours become more militant and it becomes something of an Us versus Them situation.

I love a story with an unreliable narrator and Mary is certainly that, but then that isn’t a title that falls on her head alone, as the story has the reader questioning the motives of so many along the way, beautifully so even the fox at times. The novel is incredibly readable and a moving insight into just how important having a connection, or feeling like somebody cares for us, is. The story of Mary may seem extreme at times but I think it pushes the reader to consider how close we all could be to letting things fall that bit further apart when we least expect it.

One of my most enjoyable books of the year so far, find a burrow and curl up to read.

How To Be Human by Paula Cocozza £12.99 (Cornerstone)

Happy reading! 

Outfoxing Them All 

Get Nasty! 

*quick note for this post, it’s another from the archives that didn’t make it on time due to illness, please excuse its tardy nature and the discussion of a long list that is now actually a short list (I’ve added a pic of the shortlisted books so you can see what made it!) Ok, off you go…

You are a lucky bunch dear readers. You only have to encounter me when you choose to, you can click on these links if you don’t mind me yapping in your ear for a little while and you can just as easily shut me down and walk away. Those who know me, family and friends, do not have it so easy. The problem is, I really am consumed with books. Recently I was asked what my interests were outside of work (which is 100% book focused) and I replied with reading. They asked for more so I mentioned writing on this very blog about what I have read. Next was the question of what I like to do with my friends, “well, I meet up with my friend Emma and we talk about…books”. Even for keen book readers I realise I can be a bit much but when you love a world, and it is very much a world to me, it is hard not to enthuse about it whenever you have the chance.
To try and ease the pressure on those who may not want to travel in this orbit as much as I do, I surround myself with fellow explorers who are as happy in book sphere as I am. This is mainly on twitter and YouTube/BookTube. There is something endlessly delightful in having a community to sit with as you all wait for the midnight announcement of the Baileys longlist (more of which to come), when usually that feeling of belonging is saved for the like of mass sporting events. Because of keeping in touch with the comings and goings of fellow souls in the book world, I get to see a lot of bookish news, and recently a project caught my eye. Kickstarter projects are really gaining traction now and can be a wonderful way of getting work out there that you want total self control of, regarding both content and how quickly the book finds its way into the hands of the people. I started seeing signs of 404 Ink asking people to get involved with a new book they wanted to put out, a collection of essays by a range of different women, on what it means to be living their experience in the 21st century. This book was to be called ‘Nasty Women’…SIGN ME UP!

Now a little about 404 Ink as I don’t believe I have introduced them on the blog before and they are worth knowing about. They are a shiny and new independent publisher ran by Laura Jones and Heather McDaid. They are publishing both books and a literary magazine that will come out twice a year. They look set to support some really interesting voices that will be fresh and challenging, something I always want to support. Here are some details if you want to check them out as well. They are @404ink on twitter, their website is and if you are feeling really helpful you can hop on over to their patreon account

Now – to the book. I read it in two sittings, it would have been one but life got in the way as it is want to do *shakes fist*. This collection is stellar. I love reading essays about women making their way in the world you all know this and I did worry that I would be reading some essays with a sense of déjà vu of collections gone past (although that is not to belittle the experiences, the reason these stories get told so often is that it is about time they are taken seriously and listened too). This was never the case, every essay opened my eyes, made me ask questions and appreciate the women who have spoken so honestly about their experience to push us all further in the goal for equality. Themes of violence against women, intersectional feminism, body image, contraception and politics run like a thread throughout the book, universal experiences. These was also hidden delights that I in no way expected, the main one of these being an essay called ‘Foraging and Feminism: Hedge-Witchcraft in the 21st Century’ by Alice Tarbuck, a topic that I have never read about and certainly never considered the feminist implications in but found endlessly fascinating. ‘Hard Dumplings for Visitors’ by Christina Neuwirth had me feeling the woven nature of the story lines of the women in my own family and ‘Fat in Every Language’ by Jonatha Kottler had me nodding in recognition and wanting to highlight sections for future reference (and also thinking, ooh Jona, what an awesome name, if I am ever have a baby girl I will go back to my mental note of that one!).

These voices should always have been heard but at this moment in history it seems even more relevant and their response to shout out loud, get people reading and thinking about these issues deserves praise – and support, so if you can I highly recommend you grab yourself a copy. Nasty Women Unity!

Nasty Women £8.99 (404 Ink)

 It seems fitting that this post also mentions the recent Baileys Longlist announcement, since we are talking about women kicking ass. The list was announced as International Women’s Day 2017 began in the very early hours. In case you haven’t seen it yet and are interested, here are the contenders, with added passing thoughts from me along the way:

Ayobami Adebayo – Stay With Me

The Power – Naomi Alderman I very much expected this one to feature & see it as a strong contender. Review to be found here on Dog Eared Reads if you want further info!

Hag-Seed – Margaret Atwood The mighty Ms Atwood, who is mentor of Alderman above, I must confess I did not see this one coming.

Little Deaths – Emma Flint

The Mare – Mary Gaitskill

The Dark Circle – Linda Grant

The Lesser Bohemians – Eimear McBride HUGE fan of Eimear McBride & I delighted in this book with more of her raw and innovative style.

Midwinter – Fiona Melrose

The Sport of Kings – C.E. Morgan

The Women Next Door – Yewande Omotoso

The Lonely Hearts Hotel – Heather O’Neill I have heard brilliant things about this from Anna James over at @acaseforbooks, check her out on twitter & YouTube, what she doesn’t know about books isn’t worth knowing

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry – It had to be on here, I have yet to meet a reader who hasn’t loved this book

Barkskins – Annie Proulx – a mamouth novel that I haven’t felt an urge to pick up, but wonderful Emma did and I am now wondering if we could peer pressure her into popping onto Dog Eared Reads and doing a guest review for us?!

First Love – Gwendoline Riley

Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien – I can’t believe I still haven’t got round to this when it has been on my bedside ‘must read soon’ table for so long. I will report back soon.

The Gustav Sonata – Rose Tremain – I haven’t read this yet but I was intrigued by the blurb and listening to an interview about the novel.

NOW – one thing I will say is, why on earth are you all reading my opinions as clearly I know noooothing. I would have put money on some books being on this list in full confidence and are they there? Are they bugger. Now first we have to address what is the TRAVESTY (in my humble opinion) of Autumn by Ali Smith not appearing, to me this makes NO sense as I just think it was a beautifully crafted piece, although to be honest that’s a given when she picks up a pen, so moving, innovative in its immediacy and darn right special. It better be on the Man Booker *shakes fist*.

I also fully expected to see Zadie Smith with Swing Time, Yaa Gyasi with Home Going and Hannah Kent with The Good People on there. What did you guys think of the list? Any disappointing omissions or books you have been cheer leading on there? Let us all know!

*and here is the short list!

So there is a blog filled with writing women, filling the world with their words and inspiring me, and hopefully you, as they go.

As usual drop a line in the comments or over on twitter @dogeared_reads with a shout about what your reading at the moment or just for general chatter, I’ll be about with a cuppa, book and biscuit in hand no doubt, ready to natter back!

Happy Reading!

Get Nasty! 

She’s Electric, Can I Be Electric Too? 

When it is 4.32 a.m and as of yet you have been unable to sleep, what is the best thing to do? Have a hot milky drink, avoid all blue screen light and spray some lavender on your pillow? OR you can grab your laptop, prop yourself up with some pillows and write that blog post you have been thinking about for the last hour or two anyway.

I thought I would come online and eventually talk about ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman. Now fellow book bloggers and/or regular book blog readers will be well versed in this book by now, has anybody not talked about it?! But you know what, the fuss is for a reason and I loved it, so I want to get in the mix as well.

Alderman has a phenomenal background, quickly spotted as a rising literary star she has had three other novels published, makes appearances on Radio Fours most well-known shows, regularly writes in the Guardian AND co-created one of the top selling games for your smart phone. Oh also, she is a Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University (big up my fellow Bath Spa crew!) and did I mention the fact she is mentored by MARGARET FREAKIN’ ATWOOD!! As Beyoncé would say, bow down bitches.

You’d think it all couldn’t get much better but I really believe with ‘The Power’ she has gone into a whole other league. I finished reading it a couple of months back now but it plays about in my mind regularly. I can imagine in the future 16 year old brains being expanded as they read this for their GCSE’s (well, if the Gove’s of the world can keep their noses out of literature in education and stop insisting on only dead, white men being worth studying).

The novel looks at a period of time when, one by one, girls are finding out they have a power within them that has possibly lain dormant until now, or maybe has just started to develop in their bodies. Under their skins a type of electricity flows, which they can harness and by touch can cause serious, potentially life threatening, pain to others. Around the world girls learn just what they can do with this new skill and the realisation also comes that for the first time in history they are the more powerful sex. Walking home with keys grasped between fingers becomes redundant when you know you can fell an attacker by simply touching him. We then watch as the ramifications of this spread through society, men crossing the street to put distance between them and a girl right the way through to segregation in schools for the protection of boys and riots breaking out in the streets of Delhi. With social media the world can change that much faster and the pace of the story reflects this, I found myself so caught up in these changes it was exhilarating. Power will always lead to problems though and this novel plays out the whole difficult scenario of a world struggling with this new strata.

We are lead through this changing world by four characters, first off meeting Allie. Using her power for one of the first times to make a change in her life that few could not cheer her on for, she soon propels herself into something of a mysterious figure head for girls embracing this way of life. We have Margot, an American politician who has the challenge of towing the party line with what is appearing to become something of a revolution, while fully aware she has a teenage daughter of her own that needs ‘controlling’ at home. And then there is Roxy and Tunde. I adored these two characters. Roxy for her energy, she is so vibrant on the page and I would most definitely want her fighting in my corner should the world order ever be flipped on its head in such a way. Tunde fascinated me and I thought was beautifully drawn and complex. A Nigerian journalist, intrepid in his travels, who finds his moment of fame because of his recording of a girl using her power going viral. He decides to pursue this story no matter the dangers that could be await him.

One of my favourite things about this novel is its structure. Alderman has used the format of giving us a book within a book. We begin and end the story with letters going back and forth between a woman named Naomi and a man called Neil. The man has asked her if she wouldn’t mind having a read through his book, which looks at how on earth women came to be such a dominant force in society, why they live under the matriarchy…and so we go on to read his work. The letters that are penned once Naomi has read the fruits of his labour are possibly my favourite thing about the whole novel and I believe this is where Alderman’s real genius comes through. Clever, funny and thought provoking, I wanted to applaud with delight when I read them.

This is easily up there with one of my favourite reads in the last few months and I can see it being a strong contender at the end of 2017 when I think of my favourite books of the year. I love it when I get to recommend a book and I am totally confident in it being everything a great read should be. Everyone needs this dose of feminist science fiction in their lives, trust me, I am a power wielding woman.

‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman £8.99 (Penguin)

P.s. Apologies for the terribly obvious title of the blog, I couldn’t not! And also the fact you’re likely to be singing it all day now, I’m the book worm giving you an earworm! 

Happy reading! 

She’s Electric, Can I Be Electric Too?