Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

To Kindle or not to Kindle?

I’ve been wondering recently whether to put a Kindle on my birthday wish list.  It’s not my birthday yet folks so don’t panic but you have to realise that in my house I have to start dropping the hints early-on and at regular intervals so they become fixed into the minds of all my family because that way there’s a tiny, teeny chance that I’ll get at least one thing that I want.  Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Anyway, these kindle things.  They’re popping up in more and more places.  Every time I go into the rest room at work I see yet another colleague with lunch in one hand, kindle in the other.  And at swimming club, the bloke who sits next to me has one.  My friend bought one recently too because she says they’re great for taking on holiday and I have to say, that’s probably the biggest advantage.  It must be nice to read a book by the pool or on the beach without said book falling apart due to sand, beer,  salt-water, tequila’s, sun-cream, ice-cream, wine etc. getting all over it.

So Book or Kindle?  Let’s see . . .

  • Convenience – the holiday thing as mentioned above.  But at least you can share books.  I suspect that not many people would be prepared to lend out their Kindles.  You finish one book on holiday and then you lend it to your friend/sister/whoever and they lend you one back that they’ve just finished.  And there are book shelves in most hotels anyway where visitors take and leave books so you needn’t really take any books with you unless there’s a particular book you want to read.
  • Takes up less space.  Yes, but my book shelf wouldn’t look half as homely with one little kindle sat there instead of my musty collection of books.  In fact it would look really quite lonely.
  • Much easier to read in bed.  Got me there.  I find it really hard to hold my book when I’m led in bed, especially if it’s a large book or a hard-back.  I just can’t get comfy and my wrists start to ache after a while from trying to keep the book open with my thumb.
  • E-books are cheaper.  Yes but it would take a lot of e-book purchases to cancel out the initial cost of the Kindle.  In any case, there are second-hand book shops.  Used books are cheap.  And what about the little corner book shops?  Amazon, on-line Waterstones and what-not have already started to cripple the independents.  How can they ever hope to compete with a Kindle.  And there are the public libraries.  Oh, erm Gideon and Cammy-boy are getting rid of those aren’t they.  Well the central libraries will still be there (I think. Hope).  I can’t see those libraries lending out Kindles although I’m sure there will come a time when libraries are lending out e-books.
  • Kindles make great gifts.  Well that depends on how much you want to spend.  I often buy books as gifts for friends and family.  I love buying people books for their birthday.  It’s  so easy.  You just choose something that’s appropriate to their views or personality and they love that you’ve given them something so thoughtful.  And I love the ritual of writing a witty, personal message on the inside cover then dating and signing it.  How can I do that if the Kindle replaces real books?

Well, there you go.  I think I’ve just talked myself out of abandoning the lovely, pulpy book for a Kindle.  Yes, for me there’s just something about the good, old-fashioned book that can never be replaced by electronics.  It’s the smell.  The feel.  The look.  I love my books.  And I love my beloved book shelf that displays everything I’ve read over the years – each book instantly there to refer to, talk about, hold in my hand and marvel over how much I loved it.

But . . . . wait just one cotton-picking liddle minute you silly girlie.  You’ve forgotten one crucial factor.

Yes, how could I forget the most important issue?  The impact.  THE impact.  Me, who named myself after our lovely planet and consistently banged on about the protection thereof, has recklessly failed to consider the environmental impact factor of  both the Kindle and the book!

[Please turn away now while I partake of some serious self-beratement]

So I did some research and t’would appear that although the production of one single Kindle uses up tons more energy than the production of a seemingly pure and innocent book, from hereon-in it gets much worse for the poor book.  In fact, the pulped version turns into a eco-nightmare compared to the e-book. I won’t go into detail because it hurts too much but trust me, I’m mortified.

Gutted folks.  Truly gutted.  But I have to stay true to my eco-me and so, taking all things into consideration, I have come to the decision that (sob, sniff) the books are not as kind to the environment as Kindles are and it is with the greatest of sulking begrudgement that all my future book purchases will be either used books or e-books.

When I get my Kindle that is.

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On Detaining Children

I wrote about Yarls Wood last year and it seems that things haven’t improved much there.  It seems we’re still treating the detainess without dignity and those vulnerable children are still having to go through a truamatic and inhumane immigration removal system and we can only imagine how isolated and frightened they must feel.  There are some proper horror stories coming out of those dreadful places and looking at the curly barb-wired walls and the plastic cutlery, you’d be forgiven for comparing the immigration removal centres to concentration camps.

Gordon Brown and his PFI partners at Serco want us to believe that Yarls Wood is a cosy, safe haven for child refugees.  Dear old Gordy told us that every child matters.  If like me, you thought that when he said every child, he meant erm, every child, you’d be wrong.  Clearly, he only means every British child.

Children’s Commissioner, Professor Al Aynsley-Green has made it clear that the detention centres are not good for the welfare and well-being of the children detained there.  From the moment of arrest, during the harrowing journey to the centres and throughout their stay there, the children face extreme distress and trauma.  He acknowledged that some improvements have been made but ultimately, his message is that the place sucks.  And some of the recent reports that are emerging from Yarl’s Wood are frankly disturbing.   Security staff employed by profit-seeking Serco are allegedly using aggression and racism to dehumanise the detainees.  Women who were on hunger strike to protest the conditions (and the system), were denied medical aid and the Serco bully-boys have been trapping them in corridors for up to eight hours without access to water and toilet facilities.

This is supposed to be a decent and fair country folks.  These children aren’t criminals.  They didn’t ask to be brought here.  They are here because their families are fleeing from danger.  We’re supposed to be a good and decent civilised country that respects and upholds international laws on human rights and we shouldn’t be allowing our government to sweep these disturbing reports under the carpet.

Coincidentally, I’m currently reading Chris Cleave’s The Other Hand.  In short, the book is a fictional account of an asylum seeker known as Little Bee.  I’m only a third of the way through so no comment as yet but I expect there will be some tears.

“Better with Friends”

I’ve just finished reading Helen‘s wonderful poetry book entitled Better With Friends.  Poetry is subjective but even the toughest person couldn’t fail to be moved by such a collection of moving and thought-provoking poems.

Helen writes beautifully and has an ability to interpret the world in a lyrical and compassionate way and although her Christian spirituality often comes through in through her writing, it’s not preachy or self-righteous.  It’s gentle, tender and unintrusive.

Having a ballet-dancing daughter, one of my favourite poems is Rookie at the Barre but all the poems included in the book stir my emotions in one way or another and it’s hard to choose a favourite.  Another one that stands out is Eulogising Rosa, a poem about Rosa Parks – the woman who dared to defy racism.  There’s also Then I Wander and Charmed by the Music, both wonderful.  Then there’s Where the Reverie is Apt to Lead which is in my view, quite simply stunning.

A wonderful book.  I am cherishing my signed copy.  Thanks Helen.

Green Living Guide – a review

Green Living Guide

The title is pretty much self-explanatory but in short it’s a magbook bursting with information and guidance on how to achieve a greener lifestyle, the emphasis being on individual responsibility rather than action from the politicians.  In other words, what we can do as individuals while our world leaders huff, puff and procrastinate.

I can’t recommend this magbook enough.  It’s an excellent and well-presented guide for anyone new to green living but it’s a handy source for anyone, even the seasoned greens (sorry).  I like to think of myself as being green-aware but I found it informative and enlightening.  For instance, I didn’t know that by law, councils have to provide an allotment to any group of six or more adults if they request one.  They just have to be registered on the electoral roll.  So, tomorrow I have a quest.  I’m going to coerce some of my friends, get an allotment gang going and then I’m going to knock on the doors of one or two of my friendly local councilors.

Anyway, the magbook – it’s not pushy and it’s not gimmicky.  But it is inspiring, encouraging and very user-friendly.  Each chapter contains useful advice on how we can achieve a more Earth-friendly and sustainable lifestyle.  And for those of us on a tight budget (and let’s face it, who isn’t on a budget these days?), it’s full of money-saving tips and advice.  In fact, it makes economic sense to go green.

An important aspect of Green Living Guide for me is the compassion.  Folks, you know me – anyone quietly fighting in the corner of social justice, animal rights and such-like gets my approval and this mag-book has all that.  There’s a section on shopping with a responsible social conscience and it lists the CIWF Compassionate Supermarket Award winners.  It talks about animal welfare with advice on how to buy food ethically and be aware of where and how it’s sourced etc.  It also talks about the advantages of eating less meat and provides some cheap and easy recipes.  And . . . it gets better.  Having a life-long ambition to grow my own vegetables, I loved the section entitled Grow Your Own.  Oh, and the Eco-Chic bit is rather brilliant too.

The great thing about this mag-book is that the writers have done the research for us so it really couldn’t be easier:

  • Chapter 1 – Home & Garden
  • Chapter 2 – Family & Children
  • Chapter 3 – Food & Drink
  • Chapter 4 – Work & Office
  • Chapter 5 – Transport & Motoring
  • Chapter 6 – Fashion & Beauty

I can’t think of an area of our lives that it hasn’t covered.  With its many features and products/services advice, Green Living Guide is an invaluable resource book that should be kept to hand as a constant source of reference.  From a personal perspective, it’s certainly made it easier for me to manage my own environmental footprint.

Retailing at £7.99, the initial cost seems a touch pricey but when you consider how much you could save by implementing just some of the ideas, it could turn out to be a worthwhile investment.  You can buy it online at magbooks.com and it’s also available on the magazine stands in WH Smith.

This and that . . .

Lordy me!  Where’s this year gone folks?  Is it really December already? I’ve missed so much.  I’ve tried to keep up-to-date with the news, politics etc. as much as my mind, body and spirit would allow but most things have passed me by and I’ve remained blissfully ignorant of all things politico-worldly.  I can’t even find enough emotional will to rant about COP15.  I’m just not optimistic about it and that’s in spite of all the now-or-never declarations that are being cried out.  In terms of a global consensus being reached, last chance saloon and other such metaphors are pretty accurate but still, can’t see it happening folks.  Despondent?  Probably.  And even if agreements are reached, I can’t help thinking it’s too little, too late.  I should take heed of Ben Harper‘s words . . .

What good is a man
Who won’t take a stand
What good is a cynic
With no better plan

And those climategate emails depressed me.  A lot.  But not as much as the reaction from the septic sceptics.  The hoax of the century!  Denialists accusing anti-denialists of being in denial about a conspiracy!  Makes my head hurt.  For gods sake, it’s NOT a huge conspiracy.  Get a grip.  I’d love it if climate change wasn’t happening.  I’d love to be able to indulge, guilt-free, in all the carbon-emitting activities that make our lives easier without agonising over the consequences.  But regardless of the number of people who have already become victims of climate change, the denialists will continue to deny climate change until they’re directly affected by it.

In any case, the green movement in my view is not just about carbon footprints. . . or climate change.  I mean let’s face it.  With or without anthropogenic climate change, no-one can deny that we’re trashing the Earth and there can be little doubt that our lifestyles are both destructive and unsustainable.  Top and bottom is, we know full well, our Western lifestyles and consumerist demands are negatively impacting on other people, other species and the world around us on a daily basis and it’ll all come crumbling down around us.  Sounds preachy I know but am I wrong?

And now for a more lighthearted opinions.

Books: Some more books have made their way onto my ‘still to read’ bookshelf – God’s Elephants and The Plague Dogs.  A coincidence that both book titles have the name of an animal in them, but needless to say they are about elephants and dogs respectively and I’m eager to get stuck in.  I recently read Helen‘s poetry book entitled Better with Friends but it deserves a review on it’s own so that’s my next job.  Also received a mag-book called Green Living Guide on the promise that I would post a review on my blog.  And needless to say, that’s still awaiting my attention too.  I’m pretty rubbish really, all things considered.

Movies: Being a huge movie fan, I’ve seen a couple of great films this Autumn – Up and Nativity! I loved Up.  It’s probably the first time I’ve cried at the beginning of a film rather than at the end.  I loved Nativity even more.  Those kids steal the show. They really do.  And they don’t make you want to throw up the way child actors often do.  They inspire you and they make you laugh.  Utterly adorable.

Music: Well after several years of  mindless X Factors, throwaway pop songs and rampant auto-tune, I was beginning to lament the passing of exciting and innovative music then I watched the very super wonderful Later with Jools Holland and I can now confirm that I love, LOVE  The Big Pink.  No sniggering now folks.  Show me the law that puts an age limit on fan eligibility.  Sure, I probably am too old to be into this kind of music but ask me if I care.  You’ll be saying I’m too old to be a groupie next.  Sigh.  Well, their music has a definite eighties indie feel to it and what with me being an eighties gal, I guess we can put it down in part to nostalgia.  The music is very arty and a bit trance-like.  Or perhaps that should be trippy.  Well some of their videos look like they’ve been helped along by Mister E or some similar banned substance.  Not that I’m criticising the artwork. No.  I’m broad-minded me.  And anyway, there’s nothing unusual about musicians being inspired to produce brilliant work while stoned out of their faces on the current drug of the day.

Anyhoo,  edging closer (slightly!) to my own era, I’ve got Wonderful Land on my iPod and it has to be one of my all-time favourite songs, ever. Mike Oldfield’s version, not The Shadows.  This song lifts my heart and fills my whole body with love.  Cringe all you like.  I mean it.  My son likes it too and is determined to learn it on the fantastic electric guitar that he got for his birthday.  And he’s doing very well indeed.  I’m fair impressed so I am.

So anyway.  That, my dearies, is pretty much that.

Ta ra for now.

One of the best things I’ve read in a long time

It’s actually a speech written and delivered by Written by Paul Hawken earlier this year.

The Commencement Address by Paul Hawken to the Class of 2009, University of Portland.

I have read it three times in a row.  It’s utterly inspiring.

On the Beach

Well it seems like a lifetime ago that I was lying on a white sandy beach under a burning sun but in fact it was just three weeks ago.  And while I idled away the hours in the shade of the swaying palm trees, I managed to get through five books from my reading list.  Well four and a quarter if you want specifics.  As you may know, I love talking about the books that I’ve read so, true to task, I shall endeavour to bore fill you in.  Feel free to move on.

First book: this was the quarter of a book that I mentioned.  Before we left for our hol, I’d been reading a hardback version of A Most Wanted Man by John Le Carre and although I was three-quarters of the way through the book, I thought that it’s almighty hardbackedness might just tip the balance on my dangerously close 20 kilo baggage limit so I decided  not to take it with me.  But would you believe it, upon checking out the hotel’s delightful little library (two wooden shelves around the corner from the towel shack), lo and beholdeth! a paper back version of said book was sitting there, patiently waiting for me to arrive.  So I got to finish the book and I must say it was very good.  It’s an intelligent novel and the coming together of the final chapter is bleakly reflective of some of the many consequences of America/Britain’s blinkered and racist War on Terror.

Next book: For Tibet, With Love: A Beginners Guide to Changing the World by Isabel Losada.  I love this woman!!  I really do.  I read her first book (Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment) three years ago – the last time I took a holiday – and I loved it with a passion.  The Tibet book is equally witty and amusing, insightful and inspiring.  I am now ten times more aware and informed about the plight of Tibetans and the exiled Dalai Lama and Isabel provides an excellent bibliography of relevant books, articles and even dvd’s should you want to learn/do more.  And you probably will want to.  I did.  The writer is so endearingly sweet, caring and compassionate and clearly a very brave woman – and she’s so heartwarmingly optimistic.  Read her.  You won’t regret it.

Third book: The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and What we Eat by Charles Clover.  This book will make you very angry.  Devastating and Crucially Important.  The three words that say everything.   All I can say other than that is just read the book.  It’s almost compulsory.  I mean it.

Fourth book: Blackbird by Jennifer Lauck.  I was reluctant to read this book  because I thought it was just another Miz Lit memoir about another child-abuse survivor.  Well, who isn’t a bit tired of this new genre of novels where the authors write about their pitiful childhoods in order to produce a story that will shock us and break our hearts. I mean sure, if life has thrown you a crap deal, if society has failed you and your childhood has been denied, tell your story.  Make money on it too. You deserve it.  Who am I to judge?  But everybody seems to be jumping on the train and what I don’t like is people who grossly exaggerate or even fabricate their experiences to produce their book.  I mean when we’re tackling such a sensitive issue as child-abuse, is it still ok to claim writer’s license?  Maybe it is.  I just find it a bit distasteful.  But then, is it distasteful to want to read about other people’s misery?  Basically, we all like to have our emotions stirred but when it’s a true story that is being presented without total honesty, I can’t help feeling I’m being made a fool of.  Lordy, I’m rambling now.  This is when I start to contradict myself.

Anyway, a friend of mine gave me the book so, duty-bound, I forced myself to read it, if only so that I could give honest answers when she asked me what I thought.   It wasn’t as dreary as I’d expected. It’s really quite tender and sad but it certainly isn’t flawless.  For instance, the little girl’s voice is often dubiously mature and deep-thinking, which evoked some scepticism but it didn’t spoil what was undoubtedly a movingly sad childhood plight.

Book five: The Shack by William P. Young.  A very dear born again Christian friend of mine gave me this book for my birthday and after reading the adulatory reviews on the cover, I really was expecting to be converted in a life-changing, Road to Damascus kind of way.  Needless to say, I wasn’t.  I was expecting the book to contain the answers to all the questions I’ve ever asked about God and the trinity and why bad stuff happens.  Needless to say, it didn’t.  The only answers I got were the same answers I’ve ever got from the stewards of Christianity ie just have faith, it’s all in the mystery.

The first half of the book was quite a page-turner if only because I was expecting an enlighteningly spiritual explanation of the universe.  The second half moved into theological/philosophical territory so pages weren’t turned quite so fast rather than read over and over until my lame brain comprehended the words.  It wasn’t over-heavy though so don’t let that put you off.

In it’s favour, the book was thought-provoking at times.  It had it’s tender moments and in all honesty, I quite enjoyed it.  But ultimately, the timeless question, “where is God and why does he allow such suffering?” remains unanswered.

There you go, end of book report.  If you’re still here, thanks a million.

ttfn.