Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Attention! Dear Readers… I am flying the coop!


I think I have come to a decision. I am definitely hopping over to Wordpress so please, please pretty please go and add my Wordpress blog to your blog feed thingy – whatever it is you use.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>CLICK HERE<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Something just told me to make the change. I don’t mean a voice from the sky – but lately I’ve just been feeling the need for change. I’ve been buying new clothes with brighter colours and different styles then I’d usually have gone for. And so along the same vein, I’m changing the clothing of my blog. The difference is only in the link.

I just want a fresh start and I really like the behind the scenes of Wordpress –even though the themes aren’t as customisable – I’m rotten at all that anyway.

If you would like to subscribe to my new blog’s RSS feed click HERE (see I’m making it so easy!) and I hope you will like it!

Tell everyone you know that The Book Coop has found a new nest and has gone over there and intends to stay.

Friday, 21 January 2011

To change or not to change, that is the question…


Here is the thing.

I’ve been looking at Wordpress and I’m wondering, should I convert? I have imported this blog over there to see what it would look like and there is something cleaner and more grown up about it. Maybe I just need to spruce up my blogger design here… but the thing is I’m starting to like more what I see over there.

Is this a case of the grass being greener on the other side? If I do decide to jump ship, it’s no turning back. You can’t just go over there to test it out and hope people follow you. If I make the leap, that is it.

What do I not like about Blogger? Well nothing much – sometimes it irritates me when I want to edit the post from within the site (as I use an external programme called Windows Live Writer to write my blog posts) it buggers up my format. I notice on Wordpress that is not really the case. Some of my formatting in the crossover has become a little screwed but nothing a few tweaks can’t handl.e

I like the more subdued, mature interface rather then the big blue buttons of Blogger – I like the layout of the dashboard and the flexibility of the themes.

I like that when I go to the dashboard it gives me my recent comments and posts and information straight up without the fuss, bother or bubbles. Also, I’ve started to really admire the Wordpress blogs I read and prefer the layout and the feel. Sure there are going to be some things I won’t like possibly… but that goes with everything.

So, do you use Blogger or Wordpress or have you used one and converted to the other. Why? Is it worth the change. My heart I think is leaning towards changing, but this is literally something I thought about in a few seconds. No, that is a lie… it has been a dormant thought, a curiosity which I have now taken to the next step, but it feels sudden.

What do you guys think? Does it matter, should I just stick to what I’ve got? I’m not unhappy about it as such… but at the same time I’m beginning to question it. It is starting to feel too cute, too young and since Christmas I just want something a little different.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

My Green Book of Quotes


Carin, from A Little Bookish got me thinking about quotes in one of her coffee chats a couple of weeks ago. When I am reading, I rarely stop to think of quotes or to write them down, but this time it’s going to be different. Why? Because half an hour ago I decided that I was going to write them down in my little green book of quotes.

To mark the beginning of My Green Book of Quotes I thought I’d share one with you. I’d noted this one down a while ago and only just lately come across it.


It was a usual midday university scene, but as I sat watching it with renewed attention, I became aware of something. In his or her own way, every one I saw before me looked happy. Whether they were really happy or just looked happy, I couldn’t tell. But they did look happy on this pleasant afternoon in late September, and because of that I felt a kind of loneliness new to me, as if I were the only one who was not truly part of the scene.

- Haruki Murakami (Norwegian Wood, p. 103)

 [I wrote happiness instead of loneliness which I only just noticed typing it out!]

I used to keep a hand written record of my books and things in an A4 sized notebook, but I’ve transferred that to Goodreads. This blog is another way I have to remind myself of my reading journey. Yet, it occurred to me – even though I have my Ereader… how much I miss something hand written, something accessible whenever, where ever and real. My hand writing isn’t so good but maybe in many years time I will appreciate looking through a book of quotes and seeing what I felt was relevant at the time, or what marked something out in me as important or interesting.

I have never been one to keep a personal diary, what would it consist of? I got up, I did exactly the same as I did yesterday: nothing special or out of the ordinary. However, I have always thought that things like these – quotes, book reviews, reading records… are still a sort of personal journal or diary of sorts because how it reflects on you at the time.

Does anyone else keep a hand written record of what they read, or anything like that. In this digital age, everything seems to get done on a computer screen – even reading!

I didn’t read the same things ten years ago as I do today, and in ten years from now, who knows what I’ll be reading? With each experience in life, will my reading change – will certain passages mean more or less to me as they did then? Can I track my life through books and quotes? My kind of internal journal as it were – from my subconscious.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Guess Who Got an E-reader? Yes me, a Sony PRS-350 to be precise…

image  Despite once thinking that E-readers were products of the devil, some time after Christmas I decided to get myself one. All I can say is that I have been taken over by the Shiny New Gadget disease that’s going around town. I just had to have it… and now I have one. Yay!

The Sony PRS-350 is a 5" Pocket version of the 650 – which is 6" and considerably more expensive.

So, after forking out one hundred and thirty four (including postage) quid to Waterstones.com I (im)patiently waited for my device to arrive, feeling slightly apprehensive. Why was I getting myself an E-reader? I like books, I like the smell, the feel, the touch… now I was going to be resigning myself to a cold metal thing that smells of nothing. It’s surprising how quickly I became used to it though. I do not think I’ll ever get over my love for a real book that you can hold and touch – but it has it’s advantages.

I decided to go with the Sony because I liked how sleek and smart it looked – without too many buttons and things to distract me from the fact it is a cold electronic device. I can hold it and turn the pages by simply wiping my finger across as if I was actually turning a page. You swipe your finger to the left to go forward, and right to go back. It has a very responsive touch screen and e-ink technology really does make you feel as if you’re reading paper. Also, as we do not have a huge range of E-readers in the UK yet I thought that it was the best option available. The Kindle felt like it was forcing me to use Amazon exclusively and I’m not interested in that. The others out there did not appeal and Sony has high ratings all over the place, so I felt it was a pretty safe buy. Plus I’ve always liked Sony products – my current MP3 is a Sony Walkman and the only thing that is going wrong with it is the W. logo is starting to peal away from the front.

I really like the built in dictionary and being able to highlight text, annotate and draw silly pictures. It comes with its very own little stylus so you don’t have to put grubby fingerprints across the screen. All in all, I think I like it.

I have never had another E-reader before, so I cannot compare it to any others. All I can say is that I really do like my Sony Reader and it doesn’t bother me that it doesn’t have wifi, 3g or whatever like the Kindle. Not being able to download books on the hoof isn’t a major concern for me. I think that the Sony Reader is a good little contraption and as of yet, I haven’t found any faults.

I’m still kind of in mixed minds about E-readers on a whole. Half of me really loves my own E-reader, but then there’s the other part of me that feels kinda weirded out by the whole electronic book thing. Am I a traitor to print? What would Johannes Gutenberg, the bloke who invented the printing press be thinking now? Would be be rolling in his grave?

On E-reading as a whole… there’s the ups and the downs. I hope they don’t signify the end of print books. It’s hard not to think like a fuddy duddy sometimes about all this ‘new technology’ stuff. Will it be the downfall of books? Will the quality of books go down? I notice that many of the books I do want are not actually in the electronic format! Popular or more recent books are available, but not always older ones. In time, I guess, in time.

So, E-reading in general… is still a kind of mixed bag for me, but it definitely has it’s plus points. It’s much easier to pick up a book now then before.


  • Free classics from the Gutenberg Project and Feedbooks. I prefer Feedbooks for having a better designed website and better ease of use – also the ebooks they provide I find are much better quality. I feel I have access to many books that I’ve been interested in, but not willing to buy – so I will be able to read lots of different books I would have otherwise.
  • Light and easy to hold – very good for those bricks that weigh an absolute tonne. I’m no longer going to get neck ache leaning over a brickish book or find it heavy or awkward to hold in bed.
  • Less distracting. I’m a fiddler and a picker. If there’s something to fiddle with, I fiddle with it, including book covers and fanning pages. Maybe this is just me, but I also find that I’m no longer so concerned with how much of the book I’ve read or got less – I am less conscious of the length and so very long books no longer seem so daunting.
  • It is visually easier to read. I was unsure about the pocket version – thinking it would be too small. I only got it because it was the cheapest - £119 on the Waterstones website where as on Amazon it was £150 and the 650 even more at £214. However I find it easier to concentrate on a smaller ‘page’ and what with being able to change the font size it does make it easier. I’m no longer going to have to squint at small text unless I want to. With some books, my eyes tend to wonder or get tired but not so much with my E-reader.
  • I love looking through the books on my shelves, but there is something about being able to lie down in bed and look through all the books on my E-reader, feeling excited about reading them all that is difficult to do with my other book shelf considering how wedged in they all are. (Not to mention the box that I can’t even get into my room.)
  • I can now keep on buying books indiscriminately without worrying about space.
  • I do not have to dig through every book in my shelf to get to the one at the very back… it is easily accessible with no trouble at all on that score.


  • I haven’t taken it outside yet because the weather has been crap lately what with it raining cats and dogs – a slightly damp book is no problem. Wet E-reader however is another kettle of fish. I look forward to showing it off (it’s my new baby!) but at the same time don’t want to flash a rather expensive bit of equipment about. I don’t think I’d be able to replace it anytime soon if it were damaged, lost or stolen.
  • It doesn’t feel or smell like a book. There’s something about the smell of the pages, the ink… you just don’t get that. It takes away the satisfaction of getting a new book. The rush happens quickly because you get to look at it instantly – but that’s it. It doesn’t fill that space of excitement when you get a new book. Nothing can beat picking a new book of the shelf or receiving a little white package from The Book Depository.
  • There are no book covers. The E-books I have bought have both been quite plain – understandably enough. Although my E-reader can show images – it is only in black and white and there is just something about the work and the art that goes into a book cover. Nor is there the description on the back, and when I read a book there’s always this ritual that I do. I look at the back cover, the front cover and flick through the pages and get a feel. When buying ebooks online – or any book online I suppose – you don’t really get to look through it first. Online previews (most only easily available on Amazon) just aren’t the same and I can’t always get a feel of the book.


The cons weigh more heavily on my heart then the more uplifting pros, but overall I think I do love my new E-reader and am very pleased I got one.

I also bought myself purple Cover up to keep my Reader safe. imageIt’s really good quality and cost £20 which is quite a lot, but I think worth it. It’s a really good fit and the E-reader slips into it snug and safe. It smells of leather which isn’t quite a booky smell (anymore anyway, I suppose in the past it might have been), but at least it smells of something other then nothing. It’s still very light and comfortable to hold – a little bit more like a book, although I’ve become quite used to not having to hold a cover open!

I really like the detail of the stitches around the edges – it gives it a very nice sort of authentic feel – smart, but bookish at the same time. It could easily be mistaken for a journal, or a pocket diary now and I’m going to feel safter carrying it around now – knowing the screen won’t crack or get dirty.

I’m still quite nervous about carrying over a hundred pounds worth of equipment around. At least with a paper book if you lose it, or if it’s stolen you know that it’d be easy enough to replace – and whoever stole it will be pretty disappointed, unless they’re an avid reader. However, I’ve never heard of people pinching bags just to get hold of the book inside. If someone wanted the book that bad I’d just give it to them!

purple chop

Who else out there has an E-reader? How do you feel about yours and why did you choose that particular make? Or do you think that E-readers are the spawn of satan and should be burnt along with all the book traitors who read them? Are they the end of books as we know them? Ebooks have become more and more possible, in the US I believe they even took over traditional books… is this a new era of literature?

Also, what makes me think – do you think that having E-readers will change the books themselves – will they have an affect on style, writing, story – publication? I think publishers will have to start operating differently as it will be much easier to publish books now – even without all the marketing power. Will this be good or bad?

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Book Review: The New Jackals by Simon Reeve


  2. Genre: Non-Fiction/Terrorism
  3. Published: 1999
  4. Pages: 294



Written in 1999, before the 9/11 WTC attack, Simon Reeve was one of the first author to pen a book about Osma Bin Laden. It did not sell very well when first published, but after 9/11 it became a best seller. It starts in 1993 when a young man known as Ramzi Yousef planted a massive bomb in the car park under one of the World Trade Centre towers. His aim had been to destroy them, but in this he failed. What happened afterwards though was a manhunt that saw him “bombing his way around the world” as Reeve phrased it. The second half of the book covers Osma Bin Laden and the rise of the Al-Qaeda , accounting for his life and rise to infamy.

I started reading this on the anniversary of 9/11 in 2010 because I could not get into any of my other fiction books and it seemed in a way, appropriate. Simon Reeve is a very talented journalist/author. I have read another one of his books – One Day In September – which is about the 1972 Munich Olympics terrorist attack on the Israeli Olympic team and the following revenge attacks by Israel’s agency Mossad.

I am not a great reader of non-fiction because I have a misjudged prejudice that they are all written by boring old men with long white beards. Obviously this is not the case, because those that I have read have all been pretty clean shaven. Simon Reeve has also presented some very interesting travel documentaries on the BBC – but he travels around to places you’re unlikely to go yourself.

Reeve interviewed numerous sources in the writing of this book. This included FBI and CIA officers, police, witnesses and terrorists themselves. He would have interviewed Ramzi Yousef himself had he been given half the chance – but this was not allowed. Reeve comes across as a very intelligent and trustworthy author, although it may surprise you that he was only about twenty five at the time this was published. He is non-judgemental and analytical – but he never pushes himself or his opinions across too forcefully.

This book was written two years before 9/11 and so reading it retrospectively gives it a different dimension then it would have had originally. The book covers Yousef’s attempt to destroy the World Trade Towers and what happened next – both his escape, his other movements including an attempt on Benazir Bhutto’s life, and how the CSI tracked him down and captured him. Reeve also gives brief history and analysis of Osma Bin Laden and the rise of terrorism. It is a short book and of course by now there has been numerous books written about this subject that will go into much more detail – and more up to date. Reeve’s narrative of the events is both sensitive, well written and detailed without being dramatic or sensational.

After Yousef was arrested, one of the FBI officers said to him as they flew past the WTC towers: “They’re still standing.” To which Yousef replied “They wouldn’t be if I had enough money and explosives.”

Reeve ends the book with a warning about the future – little could he have known.

I would recommend this book even if you are well read on this subject, simply because it was written before the worldwide panic about terrorism really took over. If you are not so familiar with the history or haven’t read an actual book about it – then I think The New Jackals is a great place to start. It provides you with just the right amount of information to set you up for further exploration of the topic. I would also recommend Simon Reeve as an author and a presenter. Watch out for his series called Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn (also a book) because they were really good.

Here is the first part of one of his documentaries “Places That Don’t Exist” that seems to be available on Youtube. Very interesting and I recommend. You can see some of his others on Youtube as well, it seems…

Monday, 3 January 2011

Review Ratings


Back when I started this blog I decided upon a five star rating system and explained it here. At first I was quite happy with my system. I like ratings as they help you record how much you liked it or not so you can look back down the line and see what you thought of the book at the time. They are also useful for other people, in that it gives them a general idea of how much you liked the book and they help colour the review.

Yet, lately I have been feeling confused. Five stars is sometimes not enough because I could give two different books four stars but still like one of them significantly more then the other. I have been thinking that I should change my rating system for my blog. For the last few reviews deciding upon a rating has been very difficult and quite uncomfortable.

However, I have no idea how I want to change it, because I still feel as if I need some kind of visual representation if how I feel about a book. Perhaps I should move the rating to the bottom of the review rather then at the top, like I have seen in many other books? Then it would put less of a relevance on the rating itself.

Or maybe I should rate books out of ten rather then five, because there is not enough leeway with five stars. On the other hand, that feels too complicated and will have me thinking even more about how many numbers award the book.

Perhaps I should replace stars with words? Or perhaps a wordle of words I would use to describe it? Or maybe colours? Something that just represents my feelings on a simple, visual level.


This for example? Just a simple wordle containing some adjectives that relate to how I feel? I think I’m starting to sway towards this idea. Choosing a star rating would be easier perhaps but it’s also fairly restrictive.

I’m still contemplating. I started this blog post not really knowing what I was going to say, or decide on other then to discuss a change of rating system. I feel that after coming back from my unexpected blogging break, that I wanted to change the way I review books because it was one of the things that was causing me some frustration.

I’m in the mood for refreshment and turning over a new leaf. Is anyone else going through some blog refurbishments?

Sunday, 2 January 2011

2010 in Pie Charts, Music and Whatever Else

A fresh page... a fresh start...

 Happy New Year to everyone out there!

In 2010 I read a total of 48 books which is 17,455 pages all together.

TBR currently standing at 447 books.


It is yet again, another new year which means new calendars, a new diary, another birthday to celebrate and a new number to memorise when filling in forms.

Twenty-Ten has been a mixed bag for me. Book-wise there has been nothing exceptional. I have read some really good ones, but none that have blown me away in amazement. Personal-wise a lot of things in my life has been changing in small ways – I’m starting to deal with things rather then burying my nose in a book all the time, so I am hoping 2011 will bring more fulfilment my way.

So let’s begin.

The Books I Really Enjoyed:

  1. The Road Home by Rose Tremain
  2. From Hell by Alan Moore
  3. The New Jackals by Simon Reeve
  4. The Hidden Roads by Kevin Crossley Holland
  5. The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor

Newly Discovered Authors that I will be reading more from:

  1. Sebastian Barry (The Secret Scripture)
  2. William Boyd (Any Human Heart)
  3. Chris Bohjalian (Midwives)
  4. Natsuo Kirino (Grotesque)
  5. Yoko Ogawa (The Housekeeper and the Professor)

Due to chronic uninspiration over the last few months there are a few 2010 reviews I still need to write so please look out for those in the future. It feels a bit of a silly start to the new year catching up with the old one but better late then never, I always say. (I would be late for my own birthday.)


imageI took part in the Japanese Literature Challenge for the first time and I read four books by Japanese authors – Haruki Murakami, already a favourite and two new ones: Natsuo Kirino (already owned) and Yoko Ogawa (completely new to me). I didn’t read as many as I hoped I would but I did pick up a lot of new recommendations I had not known about before who I will explore hopefully this year.

I hope to read Silence by Sashuka Edo and The Silent Cry by Kenzaburo Oe sometime this year.


I started this blog in May 2010 sometime after very littler persuasion from a friend of mine. I think my favourite blog post, and the one I am most proud of is my special edition Character Connection featuring the Four Men in Harry Potter. Even with my long blog-funk I feel really happy that I started writing this as I have really began to enjoy myself.

I hope that any reclusive readers out there come forward because I love to know what people think – criticisms, praise, improvements etc.

Pie Charts

And here is the part you have all been looking forward to, my pie charts. You may remember me talking about my spreadsheet obsession in July shortly after I started this blog. If not please refresh your mind here where you will see some pie charts detailing my 2009 reading data. I had one for setting and genres and this year I have a new one – publication date.

Now I understand not all of you may be quite as fascinated by percentages as I am when it comes to books (when it isn’t about books I couldn’t give a hoot about percentages) but I like to track my reading. Not necessarily for improvement, but just as a way to reflect on what my year looked like in the form of books. I have a theory that I can learn something from the kinds of books I read over a certain period. I started the spreadsheet in 2009 and so I am now in my third year of recording my reading in such a way and I really enjoy doing it.


I do not feel as if I have widened my horizons this year. I still seem to stick to English settings rather then ranging further afield. In 2009, 44% of what I read was set in England and this last year is a rounded 50%. In 2009 I read books set in 13 different countries and this year I read 14, which is no major leap. Fantasy, Japan and the USA are still my most popular settings to find myself in and last year I read more books set in fantasy lands (as opposed to fantasy still set in England).


The YA fantasy is slightly skewed as it includes my month long re-read of Harry Potter, but I do feel as if I have read a lot more fantasy in 2010, although not necessarily by new authors and none that I have really enjoyed. In 2009 I read 12 different genres and only 10 last year. However, in 2010 I seemed to have read more widely in each genre. In 2009 50% of what I read was crime and historical fiction.

Again, as with settings I have not really ventured outside of my norm as much as I would have liked.

My third and final pie is of the decade each book was first published in. I did not do this last year so this one is new. I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of books I generally go for. I want to read more classics and so this is a way of keeping track of the timelines I’m reading within.


As you can see, the vast majority of books I read have been published within the last two decades and a pitifully small amount during earlier times. I do not think I naturally go for the newest thing out – I am usually five years behind most of the time.

Long-Winded Semi-Analysis & Reflection on Books and Self

I think from looking at these pies and comparing them to 2009, I can see that I am still very much set in my ways and reading what I find comfortable. I would like to extend my boundaries more, so we shall see what 2011 will bring, whether I will be able to go beyond my comfort zone.

However, saying this – I don’t really think that is the most important part about reading. I want to enjoy the books I read. Maybe it has just been the place I’ve been in for a while that I seek books I enjoy rather then taking myself into unknown areas. I move slowly. I will extend myself but it might not be evident until a few years down the line. Reading is a long journey and one where there is now map to guide your way. I hope through my pie charts and journals however, that I’ll be able to track my journey and maybe see a little bit into myself.

Who am I? Can books tell me this? Not literally of course because who I am changes constantly. I want to connect more with myself – this is one of my resolutions – not just for this year but for the rest of my life. I have realised as of late that a lot of my problems come from ignoring myself, ignoring other people and not letting people in, or myself out. I think we should all be able to reflect on ourselves and question who we are, what we’re doing and why.

Having this book blog gives me a way to express myself in a way that might be interesting to others. My life is dull as dishwater, but the books I read are not. So finally I think I have found my reason for blogging – and what my blog is to me.

Blah Blah

Anyway, before I chase you all away with this pseudo-spiritual soft sappiness, let’s just move on into 2011 and get reading!

I am still reading a biography of Adolf Hitler by Ian Kershaw. It’s a massive great book of a thing and comes in two parts, each part as massive as the other. It is very interesting and well written, but I do not read non-fiction very fast and it can be a bit heavy at times. It is very interesting – I have always enjoyed history related to the second world war and have been meaning to read more non-fiction books on history.

So, in a way it is a good thing I have a backlog of reviews to write because it might take me a while to finish this one. I’d appreciate any more recommendations for non-fiction about the first and second world wars – ones that are accessible to non-historians. No long bearded, babbling authors please, just someone who can educate the uneducated.

Musical Discoveries and Re-Discoveries

And finally, seeing as I have written a vast amount and that if any of you are still reading perhaps your eyes have dried up and you’d like to be revived with music. Well, I love music, doesn’t everyone, but I like sharing and discovering new music too as I don’t listen to the radio so need other avenues of discovery!

In 2010, music really did get good for me. I found my all time favourite band Mumford and Sons. People who can sing!

And look, they’re in a bookshop. Many of their songs (Timshel, Dust Bowl Dance) are inspired by John Steinbeck, one of my favourite authors. Marcus, the lead singer also hosts a book club on the Mumford & Sons website. How awesome is that? Great music and books. It’s like finding out that Heaven does in fact exist and it’s here on earth.

I also rediscovered Linkin Park. I used to like them a bit when I was a teen and they were singing things like Crawling and Papercut, lots of shouting and angst, but recently just felt like them again. Well I’ve grown up since first liking them and so too have they. I just love how creative they are and how they all get involved in every bit of the music they make.

This is from the most recent album ‘A Thousand Suns’ and it is one of my favourites.

I love how everything is so different but together on this album, going between loud and shouty and passionate and inspiring. I know The Messenger is rather soppy – and I guess I’ve just been in that mood recently.

Another of my favourites. The mood I’m in presently (and I go through some weird music obsessions where I listen to nothing but) I could just list every song they have ever created here… but I won’t.

Just one last track… I promise. Rachid Taha. Actually, can’t remember if I found out about him in 2009 or 2010… hmm anyway I really like music from other cultures like this and I really love the Arabic and Western rock/pop mixed into his songs.

That’s it!

So, how has everyone else’s 2010 been any great books you want to press on me, any good music you’d like to share? Or any good anything that you’ve discovered, books music, food, thoughts… anything, whatever.

All my best wishes to everyone that they have a wonderful 2011!


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