Please, Mr. Panda – Steve Antony

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It seems an odd thing to be sat contemplating a review of a baby’s picture book. In a previous life, although I could well appreciate the wonderful cosy vibe of the children’s room in Waterstones, my radar couldn’t have been any further away.

Rather than being obvious and opting for one of my own childhood favourites, I thought I’d turn my attention to a board book that is not only fairly recent but also currently HOT property in the Relish household. We’re talking a repetition of at least 5 times a day minimum….so, without further ado, I introduce Mr Panda.

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This picture book is funny, simple and repetitive. In short; a stellar combo for young children. Mr Panda has a box of doughnuts which he goes about offering to his friends (fair play, I wouldn’t share my Krispy Kremes with anyone) who are, quite frankly, all a bit rude. He quite rightly refuses to share them with anyone until a slightly manic though incredibly polite lemur pops along and uses the magic P word. He is rewarded with the entire box since it turns out Mr Panda doesn’t like them anyway (ah hah! Explanation)

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This is all, of course, gearing up to drum into our toddlers the importance of saying please and might I say that it is an excellent way of doing so. Baby loves the bold illustration (black and white is thought to be particularly good for very young babies so this would be great for newborns) the repetition and the hilarious characters who just lend themselves to ridiculous voices and accents…or is that just me?

Being nice and short and snappy, this is my favourite so far of what I always think of as ‘trendy’ baby books. I don’t know what makes me think of them as trendy exactly…..maybe the stark simplicity…monochrome colours. I find that some nowadays can be overly stylised and a little, in the words of my other half, ‘try hard’. Although these are the kind of books that can probably be appreciated when they’re a bit older, right now we need sheer hilarity, and this has got it in spades.

The Circle – Dave Eggers

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Despite me taking a little mini break when baby arrived, with a little help from a good friend the Manchester Book Club is, thankfully, still going strong. 6 years this spring!!

Although it may have something to do with my waning concentration span, last years’ books felt like a bit of a mediocre bunch. Even Elena Ferrante’s much lauded My Brilliant Friend – that I was so, so, excited to read – was met with sighs and eye rolls, including by yours truly. Though I did finally read A Clockwork Orange….one for the bucket list I suppose.

I always see our first book of the year as perhaps, in some fatalistic way, setting the tone for the next 12 months. Dave Eggers’ The Circle, is, by 2018 standards, hardly going to blow anyone’s mind with it’s tale of a Google-style multinational/all-powerful corporation that has the monopoly over most of the world’s digital information and major technological advances. However, although the premise might sound fairly unoriginal, it’s really important to think about how much our digital world has actually changed in the 5 years since this book was published and therefore how particularly relevant this story is to us today.

The novel follows our marginally dull, girl-next-door-type Mae Holland as she bagsies a job at the most sought after company in the world; the Circle. All is innocent enough at first, as she starts in a fairly lowly customer service role, albeit working in lovely surroundings with all the bells and whistles of the latest technology. Things however, soon turn sour, as her work colleagues’ California smiles start to look more and more deranged, the founders’ ethos creepier and creepier and Mae’s position more precarious as she is sucked into a world where privacy of any kind, even in your own home, is seen as a betrayal against those around you. Mae is utterly brainwashed, the Circle’s grip on society becomes greater and oh my god have I really reactivated my own social media accounts?! Eek!!

Although I know that this already won’t be a favourite of mine this year, The Circle made for a perfect book club book. Eggers shines a light on many pertinent issues; the positive and negatives sides to current technological advances being one of them. However, the spotlight is mainly focused on personal privacy and the question of how much individuals should be sharing with those around them. In a society where many people voluntarily offer up their homes/lifestyle/partners/children/jobs to scrutiny (see Instagram. I love you Instagram but you scare me sometimes), in Mae’s world this scrutiny becomes a requirement; the ability to go ‘off grid’ impossible. And the scariest thing of all? Hardly anyone questions laying themselves bare for the cameras in the grand quest for shared information, knowledge and transparency. And for those who do? Well, I won’t spoil the story for you 🙂

So far so excellent book club book. Eggers’ novel is gripping, an easy read and incredibly prescient looking at it from the other side of the frenzied whirl of social media we live in today. The major gripe here would be that sadly, in his eagerness to make all of these very valid points, plausible plotlines and proper characterisation occasionally fly out of the window, leading to raised eyebrows here and there. Mae all too readily agrees to wear a camera around her neck and chart her every move, sacrificing her personal life in the quest for transparency. Does this girl have no opinion? It also seemed slightly lazy to bung one of Mae’s college friends (and therefore surely equally young/inexperienced?) smack bang at the top of the Circle, for all of our convenient plotline needs. Perhaps I should have bothered applying for that Google CEO job when I left university after all….

Not one to scour your local bookshop for but if you see this in the library it is a quick and chilling read. Good entertainment all around.

Peepo! and the perils of parental reading

**Coughs**

Hello?…..Anyone out there??

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My incredibly bad (and spotty) ode to librairie mollat

I have to admit, it feels a little odd and vaguely embarrassing to be writing an actual blog post today. I have no idea (but very much doubt) whether my old bloggy friends and lurkers on here remember me or pay a visit to old reviews from time to time but, whether I’m rekindling old connections or speaking out into the void, welcome!!

Our life has had a complete transformation over the last year and a half. Namely starting our very own little family (puppy included) and hopefully a future generation of mad-fer-it little readers.

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It is such an obvious cliché that parenthood will have a huge impact on your reading; particularly for those former die-hards with tottering TBRs who used to regularly burn the midnight oil to finish a book. Two weeks’ into this adventure, once the shock had subsided and I remembered that I was, after all, Literary Relish and that I kind of enjoy reading a book from time to time rather than purely bingeing on daytime telly – well, it was a revelationDozy days spent on the sofa breastfeeding lend themselves to one thing and one thing only, BOOKS and lots of them. God forbid however that you find yourself stuck without a glass of water or, worse, a complete dud of a novel.

Thankfully I was fairly lucky in the early days, using books to help me stay awake during night feeds and experiencing some absolute gems; Ellen Wood’s East Lynne being one of them (I talked about my absolute faves of last year for the wonderful Rebecca Foster in this here post on her fabulous blog).

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New filing system

This peaceful time is inevitably short-lived but, in our frantic lives, particularly when running around after and raising little humans I think it is essential not to lose sight of ourselves. For me, whether I read 5 or 50 books this year, I find that self in literature.

I read an article on the fabulous books section of the Guardian website months ago (and didn’t bookmark or save and now can’t find it – poor show) where the author cited having a baby as the event that helped him out of his reading rut. Lengthy nighttime feeds and, in toddler/childhood, reading to his children at bedtime and introducing them to much-loved classics, completely rekindled his love affair with books.

Children’s books are wonderful things and, during weeks when I can barely keep my eyes open past 8pm, such gems as Mog and the Baby (Judith Kerr), Hairy Maclary (Lynley Dodd) and Please, Mr. Panda (Steve Antony) keep me going, maintaining that wonderful fuzzy bookish feeling in my tummy. It won’t help my Goodreads Challenge, but it will certainly help my soul.

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My poor ravaged old bookshelf

It feels great to be back and rambling into the blogosphere again. If any of you are still around I’d be delighted to know what’s new. And if you have some lovely children’s books to recommend or tips on how to maximise reading time on very little energy, throw them my way!!

xx

A little literary vacation…

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Hello you lovely lot.

I thought it’d only be polite to drop by to say hello and apologise, first of all, for my dwindling posts over the past few months. Needless to say things have been rather hectic over at the Rock-Seed household (not least due to the little poppet attached) and, although my reading and internet lurking has survived, actually thinking about what I read and putting it into some kind of coherent review has dwindled to zero and I have to say, I’m kind of enjoying it!

This blog has been going for quite some time and I am so grateful to you bookish folk for sticking around so long. Although Literary Relish is far from dead, it’s time I took a much needed break with a temporary 2016 hiatus. It’d be just lovely to spend some time getting on top of my TBR and playing with the puppy. Pressure off.

I will of course, be duly lurking around everyone else’s blogs and podcasts (how would I figure out what to read next otherwise?!) but am taking a break from my own garble for now. A little refresher. Although I always appreciate review requests, that’ll also mean a break from these just for a little while.

So for now, peeps, it’s goodbye from me (and goodbye from Milton!) I will see you all very soon on some other part of the tinterweb. Keep reading!

Dirty Thirty

Never too old for a tutu...
Never too old for a tutu…

2015 may have been a so-so year on the reading front but it was the year I turned the big 3-0. Indeedy do. We had so many lovely bookish adventures last year but our trip to York for my thirtieth had to top it all. So, donning the tutu my 5 year old niece very kindly bought for me and bagsying an astonishingly cheap hotel deal, the other half and I proceeded to explore the winding old streets of York; its bookish nooks and oldy woldy pubs, for the first time.

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With my deep love of history, real ale and all things bookish, I’d always been told that York would be absolute heaven. It really was and I’m hugely embarrassed that it took me 30 years to experience a city that really isn’t very far at all as the crow flies. Nestled within the city walls we discovered a cornucopia of cobbly streets, wonky buildings and, best of all, cute bookshops to explore, spandangling window displays included.

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The Minster Gate Bookshop features at the top of every York book shop list and was the one place I was hell-bent on visiting but, unbelievably, very almost missed! After a good hour getting lost in the windy medieval streets, we finally chanced upon this absolute treasure trove, nestled in the shadow of the Minster.

PicMonkey CollageSet over five floors in an old Georgian town house it’s hard to believe this shop has only existed since 1970; so cosy and bedded-in does it feel. Although (as you can see from the pic above) there are countless sections to explore I found myself routed to the spot in the ‘bargain basement’ fiction section downstairs. Lordy lord. Brand new books; contemporary and classic fiction all as cheap as cheap as can be. It is, if you’re ever lucky enough to be visiting York, the nicest way to while away an afternoon. Indeed I got so lost in my perusals that the OH had to come and bring me back to reality after I’d been down there for well over an hour….sigh…

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Dotted around the outlying streets are some nicher offerings, like Janette Ray’s colourful shop above. Others are open by appointment only, I tremble to think of the delights inside.

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Our shabby-chic hotel was the perfect place to retire after a day of hardcore city tramping. The cosiest corner to settle down with my book haul, which included the following:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou –

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

The Luminaries  by Eleanor Catton

The Lazy Tour Of Two Idle Apprentices by Charles Dickens & Wilkie Collins

The Perils of Certain English Prisoners by Charles Dickens & Wilkie Collins

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

Mugby Junction by Charles Dickens

Crash by J.G. Ballard

The Parasites by Daphne du Maurier

Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier

 

Bingo! Have those of you who’ve had the pleasure of York before got any favourite corners of this fabulous ancient city? If you haven’t been please do take some time this year to give yourself a wonderful weekend out and report back here to let me know what you think!