Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

Things I Learnt As A Bookseller

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Working in a bookstore was always something I wanted to do, regardless of for how long it would be. I’ve been fortunate to work as a Seasonal Bookseller, two Christmas’ in a row, at a high-street bookstore, and I thought I would share some of the things I learnt during my time there.

 

HOWEVER MUCH YOU THINK YOU READ, IT’S NOT ENOUGH

It’s pretty self-explanatory that you have to read a lot of books. But no matter whether you read 10 books a month, or 10 books a week, it is NOT ENOUGH. The book industry is constantly moving and unless you grow fifty pairs of eyes and arms, it’s pretty hard to keep up with.

 

THERE IS HOMEWORK

As someone who is very rigid when it comes to genre, you have to do a lot of relying on what other booksellers are into. If someone asks about cookbooks, it’s easily to palm that person off on your co-worker that spends all their free time baking cakes. But when a customer comes up to you with a book from the new releases section and wants to know whether it’s any good, reviews are your best friend. I spent a lot of time when the store was quiet just reading summaries and reviews of the latest releases I had no interest in reading, just so I would look like I knew what I was on about.

 

SENIOR BOOKSELLERS ARE WALKING ENCYLOPEDIAS

I lost track of how many obscure questions customers asked me where I stared back at them blankly, not sure they were talking about something real, only for a co-worker to go “oh yes I know all about that, let me show you out selection.” If you get to work as a bookseller, or the next time you go into a store, take time to talk to them. They have an endless supply of knowledge about books and various topics. I’m convinced some of them aren’t human.

 

PREPARE FOR BIZARRE INTERACTIONS

Following on from my previous point, I have my fair share of odd stories to share. My personal gem is a woman who told me she was looking for a book (handy as she was in a bookstore) and told me she “didn’t know the name of it, or who wrote it but it was on tv as a serial killer drama at the moment and she thought the cover was a light green colour.” Hoping I could narrow the search down, I asked if she knew what channel the show was on. To which she said “how the bloody hell should I know?” And walked off.

 

YOU WILL WANT TO TIDY EVERYTHING

Long after you’ve left your position (if a temporary one), and knowing the secrets of brand standards, you will struggle to avoid reorganising in stores. I have a bad habit of putting books in series order on a shelf, tidying tables before that horrible “I don’t work here” moment dawns over me and I scamper out of the store to safety.

 

SHELVING IS HORRIBLE

Is this 5-8 fiction or 9-12? Is it a biography? Travel? Am I going to leave it on this trolley for someone else to deal with? Absolutely. The only way to solve this problem is by paying attention to your surroundings and learning where everything is. There is no shortcut and it’s often a struggle to shelve books when the store is open. Also, you’ll probably get something wrong and see a senior bookseller grumbling to themselves as they move a book to the right place.

Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

History Of Magic: A Comparison

“J.K Rowling first had the idea for Harry Potter while delayed on a train travelling from Manchester to London in 1990. Over the next five years she planned the seven books in the award-winning series for them at Bloomsbury. Harry Potter’s journey had only just begun…”

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To mark the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter, the British Library held an exhibition all about the series. It covered everything from aspects of the content, to their real life magical counterparts, along with the chance to see J.K.Rowling’s notes and drawings in person. Like many, I was not able to attend, so breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced the exhibition would be turned into a book. In a time when we’re seemingly bombarded with endless add-on books (as discussed in my good things blog post LINK), I was slightly sceptical. But after reading, I can confirm this is probably the only extra Harry Potter book that needs to exist.

The book is available in two physical versions: The hardback which is called History of Magic and the paperback which is called Journey Through A History Of Magic.

The first main difference between the editions is the price: the hardback retails at £30 and is more of a “coffee table” book, whereas the paperback retails at £12.99 and is much easier to carry around.

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Both editions contain the same art and information; covering topics such as Defence Against The Dark Arts, potions and magical creatures. But the way that content is conveyed varies. The Hardback is more academic and very dense to read. I found myself having to take a chapter a day in order to get through it, and often had to reread passages because I didn’t understand what I’d just read.  Whereas the paperback is more aimed at children, and so the information is condensed, highlighting the important pieces of information to take away. It’s overall a lot more colourful and appealing to look at, along with little games to “try at home.”

Naturally, because I am such a child at heart, I enjoyed the paperback a lot more. It gives you the interesting highlights, has all the colourful illustrations from Jim Kay, and it’s easier to consume. Where it took me two weeks to get through the hardback, I was done with the paperback in an hour.

Have you read either edition? What did you think?

Posted in adult fiction, Dystopian, review, Uncategorized

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

“These three words were always the last thing an Oasis player saw before leaving the real world and entering the virtual one: Ready Player One.”

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Blurb: “In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.”

Ready Player One has been very much an “on the fence” book for quite a while: I knew it was very popular but I just couldn’t quite bring myself to commit to reading it. Whenever I’ve brought up the prospect of delving into this one, I’ve had quite a few people speak very highly of the audiobook – which is narrated by Will Wheaton – so I decided to go for that format.

The world of The OASIS is equal parts fascinating and terrifying: since  its creation, it has grown into essentially its own kind of universe in which people marry other avatars without knowing where they are or what they look like in the real world and many, like the protagonist Wade, actually transferred from school in the real world to an education institution within this virtual existence. Learning how this way of life had become a way of life for so many people was really interesting but the concept of these characters spending hours upon hours motionless in a unit while they explored a different world with their avatars created this sense of vulnerability; which doesn’t work out well for a few of the characters.

The story gets straight into the crux of the plot, opening with the death of Halliday, the OASIS creator, and the video footage in which he reveals that he is leaving his fortune to whoever finds the hidden easter egg. The protagonist, Wade, goes on to explain how he went about solving the mystery and for me, the storytelling really fell apart. I appreciate the fact that this story takes place over a vast number of years (it takes five years from the Halliday video to the first clue being found) but the narrative went through consistent lull periods throughout and often, for that reason, ended up getting a bit sidetracked with other things. A lot of the plot points were just told in a “then I did this and then I did this” sort of way and I’m not sure how I found such issue with this as that’s basically how stories are told. But it felt like I wasn’t really being shown things. Along with that, I’m not sure if Wade comes across really obnoxious because of the writing style or if it was the way that Will Wheaton acted the part, but it didn’t sit right with me.

A big thing that made me apprehensive about picking up Ready Player One is that I knew it is packed full of eighties references so I felt that I wouldn’t gain full enjoyment given that I was born the decade after and have only see the odd eighties film. Naturally, there are a lot of jokes and sly comparisons that readers more familiar with the era will pick up on but it doesn’t majorly detract from the enjoyment if you’re not as aware of them.

The standout character for me was Artemis. Her frustration really seeps through the story as she always seemed to be just a few steps behind Wade throughout the book’s events.

For me, Ready Player One is a book with a fascinating concept but doesn’t quite hit the mark.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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Posted in Audiobook Of The Month, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized

Audiobook Of The Month | When They Call You A Terrorist

If you’re wondering “but wait, Charlotte, you’ve already posted your audiobook of the month!” Then you are absolutely right. It turns out that I should stop pushing myself to try other genres out when I know I don’t like them. So I refunded The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet and set about finding a new book to replace it. I listen to a weekly book podcast called Mostly Lit and the guest on one of their episodes was Patrisse Khan-Cullors who is the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. She talked in great detail about a lot of things in the episode and mentioned her book, When They Call You A Terrorist and read a passage from it.

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I’ve come to learn that the best way to consume non-fiction is by listening to the audiobook because the reader is able to hear the story, and when it comes to listening to something as personal as someone’s life, it can make all of the difference.

As you can tell from the title, When They Call You A Terrorist documents the lives of Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele and the movement in which the individuals would go on to be labelled “terrorists.”

I am 11% into the audiobook, down to the fact I’ve exchanged my credit so late in the month. But it is only short so it’s likely I’ll get it finished before my credit renews.

The most terrifying thing about this book so far is that Patrisse reels off names and places so easily: names like Trayvon Martin and Ferguson. But each of those names and places she refers to further illustrate the points she makes of systematic racism, is not just a name/place or a statistic. Every single one of them refers to a person who lost their life, and a community that was left reeling, and yet those left behind are made to feel like they are the ones in the wrong.

It’s hard-hitting, emotional, but I feel one of the most important books I will read this year.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review, Uncategorized

The King Of Average – Gary Schwartz

“No one had any cause to give James a second thought and that’s the way he liked it.”

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Blurb: “James isn’t the world’s greatest kid, but he’s not the worst, either: he’s average! When he decides to become the most average kid who ever lived, James is transported to another world where he meets Mayor Culpa, a well-dressed talking Scapegoat who recruits him to become the new King of Average.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The story follows a boy called James who is completely average. His grades are average, his aspirations are average, his life is average; even his name is average. His mother hates that he will never achieve great things, but James has other ideas: he will be the most average person that’s ever lived.  This leads him into the Realm Of Possibility where his adventures with a scapegoat, an optimist, and a pessimist take him on a quest to be the new King of Average.

This world is so cleverly put together. From the Kingdom of Average to Dullsville, to the Sea of Self Doubt and Disappointment Bay, it’s practically impossible not to laugh out loud or crack a smile at some of the witty inclusions to the world. James constantly fights with himself over doing things to help others that may violate the conduct of being average and reaches points in the narrative he has to tackle what the right course of action is based on what he’s seeking.

What I really love about this story is James approach to perceptions of himself. His mother is quite mean to him and he could take that to heart in a bad way but instead he chooses to embrace himself and sets out to be the best at being… well… not the best and I think that’s a wonderful message to give to children.

I only wish this had been a bit longer because the transition from the “real world” to the Realm of Possibility was far too quick. James’ average life is set up and before you have a chance to find your feet you’ve already moved on.

Overall, this is a fun, light read that’s bought to put a smile on your face.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

Favourite Opening Lines

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the importance of opening lines. After all, once you get past the blurb and the cover, it’s those precious first few sentences that can captive your attention and encourage you to delve further into the story. So I’ve decided to share some of my favourite opening lines with no summaries of what the stories are about. Quite simply just the opening lines.

 

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 

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My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip. I give Pirrip as my father’s family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister – Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

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First the colours.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things. 
Or at least, how I try. 

Here is a small fact: you are going to die. 
The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

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In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie

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All Children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful,  for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this forever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end. 

I Capture A Castle by Dodie Smith

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I write this sitting in the kitchen ink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.

Twilight  by Stephenie Meyer 

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I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly pleasantly back at me. Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

 

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I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After. Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman. 

 

What are some of your favourite opening lines?

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Book Mail

Recently I have been feeling deflated. After graduating university, failing to gain employment in Leicester meaning I’ve had to move back in with my parents, and also struggling to get a job here (especially after having an interview for Lush which was one of the few jobs I genuinely wanted), it’s safe to say I’m not operating at maximum Charlotte levels.  With all my friends (including my partner) now scattered across various parts of the country, and having to give up the independence and the self I spent three years building has knocked me down quite a lot. I have no life here and spend every single day switching between reading and working on my novel, which isn’t a bad thing, I just don’t have that down time to do other things because my closest friend is a two hour £30 train journey away.

On a typical, below average, boring day the post arrived and among the mainstream letters for the parents and the odd ones for my brother, was a package for me. And quite a big package as well. I knew that I hadn’t ordered anything so I wasn’t expecting anything with my name on. But I took it, opened it and this is what I was greeted with:

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A big wrapped item, a small wrapped item and a letter. From reading the letter I found out that one of my university friends, Jenny, (who I’m going to be a bridesmaid for in two years – yay weddings!) knew I hadn’t been feeling too good lately so she’d bought me a few things to cheer me up until I manage to get my life in order.

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Also, can we talk a moment to appreciate that she wrapped the presents in book themed paper? I love like-minded book lovers!

So on to the small package first!
My wonderful friend, sent me these:

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As a writer, one of the many things I seem to be collecting lately is journals. I tend to flit between periods of writing my current novel on my laptop and going back to good old fashioned pen and paper. Either way, I plan a lot on paper, so these handy little notepads will prove very useful when I need to document ideas for my character. Also, they’re Harry Potter themed. Who wouldn’t want Harry Potter themed things in their life??

Next up is the big package, and from years of receiving books for birthdays and Christmas, I can easily identify if it’s a book… and this, my fellow readers… was a book.

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This book is utterly beautiful, and I instantly fell in love, before I even knew what it was about (Well, Jenny did make reference to Alice And Wonderland in the letter she sent with these things).

So here’s a summary from the book itself:

“What happened before Alice fell down the rabbit hole?
Oxford. 1862. As Mary Prickett takes up her post as governess to the daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, she is thrust into a strange new world. Mary is poor and plain and desperate for change but the little girls in her care see and understand far more than their naive new teacher. And there is another problem: Mary does not like children, especially the precocious Alice Liddell.

When Mary meets Charles Dodgson, the Christ Church mathematics tutor, at a party at the deanery, she wonders if he may be the person to transform her life. Flattered by his attentions, Mary begins to believe that she could be more than just an overlooked, dowdy governess.

One sunny day, as Mary chaperones the Liddells on a punting trip, Mr Dodgson tells the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But Mary is determined to replace Alice Liddell as Mr Dodgson’s muse – and will turn all the lives around her topsy-turvy in pursuit of her obsession.”

It sounds really intriguing and I can’t wait to read it!

You can find my fantastical friend Jenny on Twitter and you can find her blog here

As always, my links:
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Posted in Uncategorized

The Future

I know that the purpose of this blog it to deliver reviews on books I have read recently (along with the occasional bookish tag) but today I will be taking a different direction, however, for a very good reason.

On Thursday 16th July 2015, I graduated from De Montfort University with a “second class (upper division)” in Creative Writing and English.

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If it isn’t at all obvious from the title of my degree, I really love reading and I really love writing.
When I started University I was struggling with low self confidence and anxiety. I moved to a city, into a flat in halls with four other girls that I didn’t know and I would literally hide in my room watching Glee boxsets while eating copious bowls of cheesy pasta that I had made at 2am to try and avoid them. In classes, I was the stereotypical quiet one – keeping their head down hoping that the teacher wouldn’t pick me.

After the “settling in” period I knew things needed to change, that needed to change and so I began forcing myself to ask people if I could sit next to them in classes. The result was gaining (what would become) two very close best friends, funnily enough, both called Jenny.

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I have always known that I want to be a writer. Going to University helped me learn which genre my strengths lay with and what path to take with my writing: Young Adult Fantasy. I remember in my first year having a chat with one of my teachers and when she asked what my end goal was and when I said being a writer she said “then you’ve already achieved your dream” when I asked her, rather confused, what she meant she said “if you write, then you are a writer. What you want to be is an author.” This teacher in particular helped me gain the confidence to say that I am a writer and to not be ashamed of it as I had felt so much in the past. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who thought the same way as me. They were willing to have intense debates, listen to and understand opinions even if they didn’t agree with them. Being surrounded by fellow writers made me feel confident because all of them had experienced negativity from family and peers over wanting to pursue a career in some aspect of writing. They listened to my ideas for novels, encouraged me, and even made suggestions.

I was able to unapologetically be myself.
When I started coming out to people as bisexual, and when I told what would become my friendship group, I was shocked to discover that not only did it not bother them, but being heterosexual was actually the minority.

In my second year I really pushed myself to experience more from university life. I joined the Creative Writing society, run by Corey who would become a lifelong best friend. I went on nights out and tried to push myself to see how long I could stay out. The result? I eventually met my boyfriend in this society.. on a night out.

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Whether I had highs or really bad lows, it didn’t matter as much anymore (well it did a little) because I had that support network I didn’t have before. For one of the first times in my life I now have people I can turn to if needed and they won’t project their own issues on me when I confide in them.

Third year was must tougher as I had a Creative Writing portfolio (dissertation) to work on. I am now turning the piece I submitted into a novel.

Also I now have a very expensive piece of paper showing the world that I am now a good writer. So I can stick a finger up to anyone who’s negative to me.

I am now constantly bombarded with questions about the future… my future. For now, I will continue working on my novel so that it is good enough to be published. I will also continue providing review for you lovely readers. The long term plan? Write novels and work for Bloomsbury.

My intention with this post was to not only to share a special day but to show anyone out there who has doubts about what they want to do, that it is possible. You just need to work hard!

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For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

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For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings