Thursday, 25 August 2016

A to Z of Books

Every now and then I like to do a little challenge, and also have a browse through my bookshelves to find some tomes I'd forgotten about.  Andrew Hook shared his blog post on Facebook, so I thought I'd have a look and give it a go.  If you'd like to do the same, leave me a link so I can have a look at your answers.

Here we go...

Author you've read the most books by
I guess I'd have to say Roald Dahl.  I know I haven't read all of his books, but I've read a lot of them - both his adult and children's books.

Best sequel ever
I don't tend to read books in a series or with sequels, so the only one I can think of is 'Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator' by Roald Dahl.

Currently reading
I'm about three quarters of the way through 'Lovely Bones' by Alice Sebold.  I'm reading this for the category of B - a BEST SELLER for the 2016 BookaShelf Reading Challenge.

Drink of choice while reading
I drink water mainly, whatever I'm doing.  If I'm feeling adventurous I may have some tropical fruit squash!

E-reader or physical book
Physical book every time.  I did download some free books onto my ipad but I can't get used to 'turning' the pages on there.  The whole experience of a book isn't just about reading the words.  It's about the feel of the pages, the size of the book, whether it's hardback or paperback, old or new or second-hand, the smell, the sounds it makes as the spine creaks and the pages are turned.  Oh man, there are so many amazing reasons to read an actual book.

Fictional character you would have dated in high school
Hmm, this is a tough one.  I've never read a book and 'fancied' any of the characters.  If I had to choose, I'd probably say Death from 'The Book Thief' by Marcus Zusak.  I was in a very dark place when I was in high school, so he and I would have got on really well!

Glad you gave this book a change
'The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency' by Alexander McCall Smith.  I work in a library, and his books are extremely popular, so I thought I would by some.  They sat on my shelf for a while and then I decided to read the first one.  I really enjoyed it even though I wasn't sure if I would.  I'm looking forward to reading the next one!

Hidden gem of a book
'Fatso' by Lars Ramslie is a brilliantly sad book about how society expects certain things from people and how people struggle to fit in with the constraints society places on them.  Well worth a read.

Important moments in your reading life
I was super proud of myself when, at 8 years old, I took a reading test at school and was told that I was reading at the same level as 13 year old.  

I also remember a lot of bedtime book reading with my dad (one of my favourites being 'Animal Tales' by Lucy Kincaid), and he made it so enjoyable which clearly sparked my interest and passion for the written word, and I am eternally grateful for that.  And my mum and I would 'compete read' the same book.  We started with 'Matilda' by Roald Dahl when I was in primary school.  She would read a bit during the day when I was at school and then I would read some when I got home.  It sounds silly now, but it was really fun and then we could spend time talking about the book together.

Just finished
A few days ago I finished 'Apocalypse Cow' by Michael Logan.  It's a very strange book about zombie cows and how the nation deals with the frightening realisation that these herbivores are now ready to eat meat.  Quite funny, but extremely silly.

Kind of books you won't read
I've never read a historical book, nor have a read anything from the fantasy genre.  They just don't appeal to me.  I have tried but given up pretty quickly as it's not my thing.

Longest book you've read
The Bible.  

Major book hangover
I rarely have book hangovers, but I think the only book that has left me feeling like no other book can compare is 'The Book Thief' by Marcus Zusak.  For so long afterwards I couldn't pick up another book.  Everything else paled into insignificance after reading that one!

Number of bookcases you own
I've got two large bookcases and many shelves.  The books are mainly double-parked.

One book you've read multiple times
Usually I read a book once and then never pick it up again, but one book I know I've read many times is 'The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4' by Sue Townsend.  No matter how many times you read it, it's still so funny.

Preferred place to read
I don't really mind where I am as long as it's quiet, and no-one takes it upon themselves to talk to me while I'm reading.

Quote from a book you've read that inspires you
"So Matilda's strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea.  These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message; You are not alone."
'Matilda' by Roald Dahl.

Reading Regret
Last year I found a book called 'The Distance' by Helen Giltrow.  She is no relation, but I get excited when I see someone who has that surname as we Giltrows are a very rare people.  So I borrowed the book from the library and started to read it.  It was dreadful.  I struggled with it and after about 50 pages I took the book back.  A few months later I decided to give it another go.  I wish I'd trusted my gut the first time round.  It took me about four weeks to read a book that should have only taken a week or so.  Whatever you do, don't read it!

Series you started and need to finish
I don't read series.  I know some people get so excited about them but I really struggle to read more than one book in a row by the same author.  However, I will eventually get around to reading more from Alexander McCall Smith.

Three of your all-time favourite books
'The Book Thief' by Marcus Zusak
'Brave New World' by Aldous Huxley
'The Three' by Sarah Lotz

Unapologetic fan-girl for
I really don't know if I have an answer for this one.  I don't tend to fan-girl over anyone or anything.

Very excited about this release
I have never been excited about a book release.  I don't really follow new releases.  I just pick up a book if I find it interesting.  It doesn't matter when it was written or released.

Worst bookish habit
Buying more books than I will ever have time to read.  I can't help it though.  They're so pretty and have so many beautiful words in them.

X marks the spot: start on the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book
'More Tales of the City' by Armistead Maupin.  I have no idea what this book is about.  I think I got it in one of the library's 'fill a bag for £1' sales!

Your latest purchase
I have a few latest purchases.  The library is always having book sales.  If you buy two books you get the third free.  Books cost between 30p and 60p, so I often come home with piles of books, and have only spent a few quid on them.

Zzz-snatcher book (last book that kept you up far too late)
I can't read it bed because I go to sleep pretty much as soon as my head hits the pillow.  But a book I couldn't put down recently was 'Only Ever Yours' by Louise O'Neill.  An insightful look into how we're so preoccupied with our appearance and how dangerous that can be.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

BookaShelf 2016 Reading Challenge

As you may (or may not) know, I have a YouTube channel called BookaBecka.  My friend, Hannah, has a YouTube channel called Shelf Restraint.  We have combined forces to create a new YouTube channel called BookaShelf!  This channel will be an extension of all the awesome bookishness that we share on our individual channels.

The first amazing bookish thing is the BookaShelf 2016 Reading Challenge.  We have created a list of categories, and the challenge is to choose and read books that fit into each category.  The aim is to complete the list in 2016.  The different categories should encourage us to read things that we might not normally read.

If you would like to take part in the challenge, please download the list so that you can keep track of your progress.  Click here to download the printable list - BookaShelf 2016 Reading Challenge

Please keep up up to date with your progress by sharing your books with us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Keep reading!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

KLWG June 2014

The June meeting of Kessingland Library Creative Writing Group met on Wednesday this week, with a slightly smaller turnout than usual.  But we still had a productive meeting, so that's all that matters.

Homework from last session was to take a walk around a graveyard and take note of the words on one grave and write a story for that person.

I had a pleasant wander around the local graveyard on a Sunday afternoon, making the most of the sunshine and the peacefulness.  Even though I managed to sting myself on some nettles, I found the whole experience rather uplifting, to see that so many people died young or alone, and it makes you realise just how blessed you are.

So while I found quite a few interesting names ...

... but chose this one to write about ...


I could have
  • ·         learnt how to crawl then stumble then walk
  • ·         cried all night long keeping my parents awake
  • ·         tied up my shoes and buckled my belt
  • ·         built a fort with my cushions and quilt
  • ·         played in the snow in my pyjamas and socks
  • ·         watched the school playground and wished I was six
  • ·         collected bugs and eaten worms covered in mud
  • ·         stamped my feet and held my breath to send my parents mad
  • ·         come home drenched in glitter and paint on my first day of school
  • ·         perfected my pout and secured my scowl
  • ·         bruised my arms and grazed my knees
  • ·         screamed and shouted and made too much noise
  • ·         played and danced and made up rhymes
  • ·         had adventures, explored and roamed
  • ·         skateboarded head first down a hill
  • ·         hid under my bed through thunderstorms and hail
  • ·         spoken to an imaginary friend
  • ·         kept all the treasures that I’d have found
  • ·         had sleepovers and midnight feasts
  • ·         thrown snowballs in winter frosts
  • ·         been afraid of spiders or ghosts or clowns or heights
  • ·         had my heart broken and broken some hearts
  • ·         studied hard or failed all my tests
  • ·         worked my way through fashionable fads and tastes
  • ·         found a job, gone to university, or travelled around the world
  • ·         conformed to society or rebelled, running wild
  • ·         fallen in love and had our own little family
  • ·         passed my driving test after six attempts, finally
  • ·         taught my children to ride their bikes
  • ·         written a pile of best-selling books
  • ·         cut hair, flown planes, fixed pipes, answered phones
  • ·         not paid my speeding fines
  • ·         watched my children lead their lives and grow
  • ·         dyed my hair and plucked out all the grey
  • ·         lied about my age, filled my wrinkles with cream
  • ·         broken the law and committed crimes
  • ·         watched my husband get ill and die
  • ·         got my telegram from the Queen before I knocked on heaven’s door

if I hadn’t died when I was only 3 hours old


During the session, I tried an activity that I'd worked on with my teen writing group, and that was to write a 26 sentence story, with each sentence starting with a different letter of the alphabet (in alphabetical order).


Angry, Jeremy stood at the top of the stairs, hands on hips, a furrow in his brow, shaking his head at the pile of boxes covering the hallway floor.

"Barry!" he yelled, knowing full well that Barry would still be asleep and quite possibly wouldn't wake up for a good few hours.  Climbing cautiously over and around the maze of boxes, Jeremy pushed open the living room door and pulled open the curtains, letting the morning sunlight burst in.  Drowsily, Barry groaned from the sofa and rolled over, away from the light, hugging a cushion over his face.

"Ever thought about getting a proper job?" Jeremy breathed in his brother's ear, and then planted a kiss on his cheek.

"Feck off," Barry croaked, waving his arm in front of his cushion-covered face, as though trying to swat a fly.

"Get up!" Jeremy shouted, pulling Barry off the sofa by his ankles.

Hanging on for dear life, and putting all his strength into making his body as rigid as possible, Barry managed to pull the sofa over, covering himself, and knocking the vase off the coffee table.

"I give up, I really do.  Just when I think that you couldn't waste any more space, you go ahead and surprise me by being even more useless," Jeremy ranted while leaving the room.

Kicking a small box out of his way, Jeremy dropped his head and rubbed his right eye with the heel of his hand.  Life was so difficult with Barry around.

'Maybe if he took things a bit more seriously he wouldn't be such a pain,' Jeremy thought as he clicked on the kettle.  'No, that'll never happen.'

Outside, a sparrow danced on the bird table, jabbing its beak into the mesh of the bird feeder, getting its breakfast, while inside Jeremy stirred his coffee and daydreamed about jabbing his spoon into Barry's head.   'Perhaps I can do it, one night, when he's asleep, when he's dead to the world and won't feel anything,' he thought, smiling.  Quite unexpectedly, Barry appeared in the kitchen doorway, looking worse for wear.

"Right, look, I know what you're going to say, but you don't need to say it; I already know," Barry says, sheepishly, holding his hands out, apologetically, to his brother.

"Shut up, just just up, I've heard it all before.  Time and time again, the same excuses, the same apologies, but this time I don't want to hear any of it," Jeremy snapped.

"Understood," Barry said, knowing full well that he had pushed it a bit too far this time.

Vacantly, Jeremy looked back out of the window at the sparrow on the bird table.  "What's in those boxes this time?" he asked but wished he hadn't spoken.

"Xanax," Barry mumbled.

"You had better get those drugs out of my house, and any other drugs you have here, and go; I never want to see you again!" Jeremy screamed, not turning around to face his brother.

Zigzagging across the sky, the sparrow flew off into the morning clouds, leaving the earth behind to carry on turning.


The homework for our next meeting is to go for a walk and take note of signs (street signs, direction signs, house names, menu boards, lampposts, etc), and use the words found in a story.

Our next meeting is on Wednesday 16th July, 10:30 - 12:00.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

LLTW - June 2014

Another good turn out for the Lowestoft Library Teen Writing Group this week, with six creative writers turning up.

This session we each wrote a 26 line story, where each sentence began with a different letter of the alphabet (in sequence).  This is a bit like an acrostic/abecedarian poem, but obviously using prose.  We had fun trying to think of words beginning with the more difficult letters of the alphabet.  I think a little cheat should be allowed with X, as we could only think of 'xenophobic' and 'xylophone', which didn't really fit in with anyone's stories, so words beginning with ex- were allowed (exciting, example, explore, extend ...).

While writing this I found that I don't know my alphabet as well as I should!  We can all recite it, but when it comes to knowing which letter follows on from another, out of context, it can be quite tricky!

Anyway, here's my story.


A few years ago the world was subject to a terrible catastrophe.  Bombs were dropped on all major capital cities, killing millions of innocent people.  Catharine should have been in London on that fateful day, but a power cut has meant that her alarm hadn't gone off, and she slept in till 10am.  Dragging herself out of bed, bleary eyed, she sighed as the red lights on her clock came into focus.  'Eric should have called me,' she thought, as she reached for her phone, which was sitting on her bedside table.  From the flat next door, Catharine could hear old Mrs. Jacobson sobbing and wailing like a deranged banshee.  Groaning, she pounded her fist on her bedroom wall in the hope it would quieten down her neighbour, but the crying just got louder.  Her phone vibrated in her hand, but when she looked down she was disappointed to see that it wasn't Eric, but instead her battery was dying.  Irritability started to set in as Catharine scrambled about under her bed looking for the right charger cable for her phone.  "Just how many of these things do I need?" she mumbled whilst untangling the wires.  Kneeing herself in those nose as she stood up, Catharine grumbled and flopped back onto the bed.  Laughing, she pulled a pillow over her face.  Moments later her phone vibrated loudly.  NICOLE flashed across the screen, and Catharine knew to never ignore a call from Nicole.

"Oh my goodness, where have you been?" Nicole screamed into Catharine's ear.  "Please tell me you're alive, I couldn't bear it if something had happened to you," she continued.

Quickly, Catharine opened her mouth to speak, but, as always, Nicole carried on talking before waiting for an answer.

"Really, you should let your best friend know if you're dead or alive, if nothing else.  Something like that should be at the top of your list, you know.  Talk to me Catharine, I'm begging you."

"Uumm, my alarm didn't go off, and I feel like I've been kicked in the face, which I kind of have been, but with a knee rather than a foot, and I'm a bit confused as to why you're panicking more than usual," Catharine answered.

"Vap-a-rize dropped their bombs today," Nicole said solemnly.

"What are you talking about?" Catharine asked.  Exhaling slowly, the penny dropped.

"You must remember, they've been threatening to drop them for ages, and today, this morning, first thing, they annihilated the world's major capital cities; London being one of them," Nicole blurted out.  "Zombie apocalypse annihilation would be a day at the beach compared to this."


Our next meeting is on Wednesday 2nd July, 5-6pm, at Lowestoft Library.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

KLWG May 2014

We had another great meeting this week, with 9 members coming along.  We had been meeting for an hour, but I felt that it was too short to really get a lot of writing and reading done, so I suggested lengthening the session.  Everyone was in agreement, and one member suggested that we go from 10:30 to 12:00.

Homework from last session was to randomly pick a Picasso portrait and use that as a basis to write something.  Everyone approached this task from different angles, from writing from the point of view of the model, to the point of view or the canvas, to factual pieces about the artist, to fictional pieces inspired by the image, to personal responses to the picture.  

I chose this picture -

And wrote this -


What’s it like to be out there?

What do you mean?

I mean, how does it feel to be real?  To be out there in the world?

I don’t understand.

Ok, let me try to explain.  What are you doing right now?

Nothing really.

Yes you are.  What are you doing?

Well, I’m just looking in the mirror.

Right.  So what does that mean I’m doing?

You?  You’re me.  We do the same things.

I wish that was true, but it isn’t.

Yes it is.  Look.  I move my hand, you move your hand.

It’s not the same hand.  Move your hand again.  The right one.  And look closely at my hand.  It’s not my right one.  It’s my left.

Heh, so it is.  I’d never noticed that before.

No, you don’t notice much.

What’s that supposed to mean?

While you spend your time looking in the mirror, I spend my time looking out.  At you.

If I’m not looking at you, how can you be looking at me?  I move my hand, you move yours.  I close my eyes, you close yours.  I turn around, you turn around.  That’s how mirrors work.

Is it?  Is that really how mirrors work?

Yes.  Everyone knows that.



How do they know?

What do you mean?

Ok.  Turn around and look at the wall.


Just do it.


Now turn back and face the mirror.

What was the point in that?

What did you do?

I turned around.

And what did I do?

You turned around too.

But the thing is, I didn’t move.

Of course you did.

How do you know?

Well … I …

Did you see me turn around?

No, but …


You just had to.


Because that’s how it works.

Who told you?

No-one.  Some things just happen.

Do they?  Do they ‘just’ happen?  Does the sun ‘just’ rise?  Does the rain ‘just’ fall?  Are babies ‘just’ born?

What’s that got to do with this?

Weren’t you ever taught to think?  To question?

Yes, but …


I never thought I’d need to question the workings of a mirror.

Why would you?  It serves a purpose, and when you’ve finished with it, you forget about it.

How dare you?

Everything you see in this mirror is a reflection.  It’s not the truth.  It’s a palatable version of the truth.

What’s that supposed to mean?

I don’t think you could handle seeing the real you, the way I see you.  You’re more concerned with the way you look than the way you are.

Are you saying that I’m vain?

I’m saying it how I see it.

You don’t know what you see.  You’re just a reflection, remember.  You’re not real.  You don’t exist in the real world.  Everything you do and everything you are is because of me.  I move my hand, you move your hand.   And when I turn around, so do you.  You’re nothing without me.

What would you do if I left, right now?

You wouldn’t.  You can’t.

Just watch me.


In the session we spoke about writing 'faction' which is a combination of fact and fiction.  A lot of writers draw from personal experiences, but fictionalise everything.  Writing faction means that a real person will exist in a fictional setting, or fictional people will exist in a real setting.

We each wrote a piece of faction, about a real person in a fictional setting.

Tony looked at himself in the bathroom mirror, peering closely at the hair growing out of his ears.

'Why does hair sprout out of every part of my head other than the top?' he pondered.

The reflection of the clock behind him caught his eye.  He was late, as usual.  He splashed some water on his face and walked downstairs, drying his skin with his sleeve.  An alarm sounded.  He was going to be in trouble.  One more late mark against his name and he would be up in front of the commander.

Tony put on his hat, to cover his hairy ears, straightened his tie, and placed his palm on the pad by the front door.  The alarm stopped and the door slid open.  Sergeant Noble was waiting for him, with a strong hand held at his temple in salute.  Tony reluctantly raised his hand and touched his eyebrow before waving at the young boy standing nervously in Noble's shadow.

"And who do we have here?" Tony asked.

"Corporal Andrews, Sir!" the young boy asserted, with a salute.

"And what can I do you for?" Tony asked.

Andrews looked confused.

"He'll be accompanying us on patrol today," Noble said.

"Jolly good," Tony said, smiling.

"You're late," Noble said, walking away from Tony's house.

"When am I never not late?" Tony asked.

"It doesn't set a good example for the new recruits," Noble tried to say out of Andrews' earshot.

"It's ok, Sir, I'm always late for everything," Andrews said, perking up.

"Andrews!" boomed Noble.  "You will only speak when spoken to!"

"Yes Sir, sorry Sir," mumbled Andrews, looking towards the ground.

"Leave him alone, Noble.  Remember, you were new once," Tony said.  "So Andrews, so you like football?"

"Excuse me?" Andrews responded.

"Football, the greatest game England ever invented," Tony said.

"I'm sorry Sir, I'm sure I don't understand," Andrews said.

"He was born way after the collapse of England, so there's no way he'd remember football," laughed Noble.


Homework for next time is to go to a graveyard and find a name that stands out.  Look at all the information (their age, if they had family buried there, etc.) and write a fictional story using this information.

Our next meeting is on Wednesday 18th June, at Kessingland Library.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

LLTW - May 2014

Due to work, I was unable to hold Lowestoft Library Teen Writing Group for a few months, but with a change of day we are all back up and running.  We now meet on the first Wednesday of each month, 5-6 pm, in the library cafe.  The age limits have also been extended from 11 years old to 18 years old.  This is because I received a lot of interest from younger writers, and I wanted to be able to provide a writing community for them too.

So now the group has 7 members, which is great.  All girls though.  It would be nice to see some boys who want to take part, but I certainly can't complain.

Another change is that I've stopped giving homework.  A couple of them are taking exams now, and what with school work for the others, they're not going to have time for writing group homework too.

So we met on Wednesday 7th May, and 6 people turned up.  I know they're young, and fairly shy, but I want them to have confidence in their work and their ability to share.  Last time I asked them to bring along some work to read out to the group.  Two girls did this, and I was so pleased with what they had written and the fact that they were brave enough to read it out.

In the session I gave everyone a copy of a story plan.

I asked everyone to fill in one box and then pass their paper on to the person sitting on their right.  We carried on doing this until we had filled in all the boxes.

I ended up with this outline for a story - 

Mirror Shards

A city in the shadow of an active volcano, with a corrupt government & eruption day nearing.

Main Characters
Shana - Oblivious to everything.  She thinks the volcano won't erupt.
Emmy - Determined to get Shana to realise that the volcano is going to erupt someday.

Supporting Characters
American police officer - Ignorant to the corrupt government.  Aims to help everyone he can, but isn't too smart.

Emmy has an evil twin, is taking over the world, trying to get Emmy to be evil too.  Only one thing can stop her, has no idea what it is.

Hire a vigilante spider to conquer all foes and problems.  He returns to the centre of the earth.  Can be called upon whenever Earth is in need.

Although there wasn't much time left, we all started to write the story from our plans.

Shana sits on her balcony, staring out at the mountain in the distance.  She smiles at the occasional black puff of smoke which pops out of the top.  She sees the mountain as a friend, someone she can confide in.  She knows that the mountain won't judge.  She knows it won't leave her.  Her family left her a long time ago.  They left her alone, running scared, believing that the mountain was a volcano and that it would erupt soon.  Shana didn't understand the panic.  As soon as it started smoking, six weeks ago, people started to leave the town in their droves.  But Shana didn't believe anything bad would happen.  The mountain was her friend.


If everyone wanted to finish the story for homework they could, but they didn't have to.

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday 4th June.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Z is for ... The Zutons

Today is 30th April, so here is my twenty-sixth post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.  This year I am sharing my musical tastes with you.  I hope I can introduce you to some new bands/artistes, and if you'd like to comment perhaps you could introduce me to some of your favourite bands/artistes beginning with the appropriate letter of the day.  For more music, please have a look at my profile.

The Zutons


I have to admit, when The Zutons first came out, I really didn't like them.  I don't know why I didn't like them.  They just didn't appeal to me.  I could have seen them in a really small venue when I was at university, but I didn't.  And now I wish I had!

Many of you may have heard 'Valerie' by Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson, but how many of you know that it was originally written by The Zutons?  Please listen to the original as it's so much better than the cover.

They're indie.  They're rocky.  They're a band I missed out on for a while.

Honourable Mentions go to - 

Zig & Zag - Ok, these guys aren't musicians.  They're aliens from the planet Zog, and they used to co-present The Big Breakfast on Channel 4 during the 1990s.  I dare you not to love it.  Wrap your ears around Dem Girls.

Zwan - If you like The Smashing Pumpkins, you'll like Zwan, basically because they sound pretty much the same (and it's not just because they have the same lead singer).  Wrap your ears around Honestly.

Zero 7 - They're a bit jazzy and a bit electro.  You can chill out with these guys.  Wrap your ears around Today.


What Z bands/artistes do you like listening to?

2013 A-Z Challenge post - Z is for Zut Alors!