Review: Crow Country by Mark Cocker

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Crow Country is a collection of anecdotes and reminiscences through which naturalist Mark Cocker takes us on a guided tour of some of the most beautiful parts of the English countryside – which, of course, are abundant with rooks, crows and jackdaws!

As someone who dwells in the depths of the English countryside, I’m not unfamiliar with rooks; in fact, there’s a fairly sizeable rookery just down the road from me – admittedly it’s nothing compared with the enormous rookeries described in this book, but it’s big enough that I’m routinely woken up at 5am by the 70-odd birds perched on the telegraph lines outside my house, greeting the dawn with their raucous cawing!

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Top 5 Wednesday – Children’s Books

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We’re back for Top 5 Wednesday. Fashionably late as always but still in time for the end of Wednesday! This week the Happy Homo Book Club brings you Children’s books and we’ve included some of our most loved and well-read books from when we were children. It was incredibly hard to narrow our choices down – even to 5 choices each – as we were all little bookworms as children. There are of course so many more books we would love to include, but here are 20 recommendations for now 😉


TOM

1) A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett

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All of the Tiffany Aching books have a special place in my heart, more so than any other work by Pratchett. The hilarious yet homely characters really remind me of my home in Yorkshire. Of course the magic kind of helps to make fun, but the ordinariness of Tiffany is truly heartwarming and grounding in such an unusual and often dangerous universe. It’s a book I pick up every time I need to be reminded of home and that it’s okay to feel lost in the big wild world.

2) Oxford Atlas of the World

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I wasn’t that much of a fiction reader as a child aside from a small number of books I would read over and over again. Instead, I poured hours into staring at and trying to understand how these maps represented the shape and size of the world, as well as pouring over the planetary and geological diagrams marvelling at the thought that this is what the world really is. It’s because of this book that my love of non-fiction endures and that I never gave up my habit of asking questions.

3) Les Oublies de Vulcain by Danielle Martingol

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I was allocated this book in school (in France) and although I only understood about 80-90% of it the themes and feel of this book have really with me. It kick-started a life-long love of science fiction. The story is about a boy who finds out he was genetically engineered in a lab on earth and in his rage stows away on a garbage ship to the impoverished and desolate land-fill planet Vulcan that also serves as a refugee camp that has developed its own unique culture. The story touches on themes of environmentalism, the excesses of corporate power, and scientific ethics.

4) Usborne History of the World

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This was my second most looked at book after the Atlas and on at least one occasion I read it cover to cover. Most nights I would pick a random page and read about the fascinating people, events and ideas that happened in the unimaginably distant past to a 10-year-old.

5) Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

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So, I’ll be honest this isn’t a very light-hearted book and I’m not sure I should even have been reading it when I was 11 but I found it hidden among the dusty tomes in my step-fathers library and something about her face made me want to read it. Her story with its authenticity and relatability to me as a girl of a similar age instilled in me an enduring sense of justice and a heightened awareness of tyranny that still serves me till this day. Although I cried for a very long time after reading it and felt very angry at the world for some time I’m very grateful that this book even exists.


SOCKET

1) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

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I have read and re-read these books so many times. They’re fun, sometimes a touch surreal, and thoroughly unpatronising to their readers – something oddly rare in a children’s book. Little kid me appreciated a book where often the adults in the characters’ lives were flawed, and frustratingly wrong and mistaken, and the protagonists had to solve the mystery and protect themselves in the face of the….well, series of unfortunate events befalling them.
Handler-as-Snicket’s idiosyncratic writing style is delightful, with those pages full of ‘very’s, wild tangents that manage to somehow relate back to the story at hand, and occasionally misleading word definitions…I love it a lot.

2) The Wee Free Men (and the entire Tiffany Aching series) by Terry Pratchett

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“Zoology, eh? That’s a big word, isn’t it.“
“No, actually it isn’t,” said Tiffany. “Patronising is a big word. Zoology is really quite short.”
I refer to my above comment about how much I loved – and still love – children’s books that don’t dumb down because they’re for kids. The Tiffany Aching books are a shining example of books of that variety! I could talk for a long time about how much I love the themes (the power of critical thought! and of compassion! and of a well-wielded iron frying pan!) covered in these books but…I’m meant to be keeping these short?
So, uh, for brevity: I just really adore and appreciate these books.

3) The Edge Chronicles – The Twig Trilogy by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

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I recently reread these books with Wyrm, and I love them as much now as I did when I first read them. While they’re not without their flaws, the worldbuilding of the Edge is so vibrant and fantastical! Twig’s journeys through the beautiful and perilous Deepwoods are populated with such varied and creative monsters and characters, only improved by the gorgeous illustrations by Chris Riddell. The creatures of the Edgeworld are a huge inspiration for the kind of monsters I draw today!
…Also, uh, I think I might have been a little gay for the Stone Pilot? Kid me had a fixation, a little bit.

4) The Wind on Fire Trilogy by William Nicholson

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These books absolutely have their flaws, they are weird weird books, but when little me was frustrated and disillusioned with the education system feeling so stifling, reading as Kestrel Hath climbed up to the top of the Wind Singer and screamed down about how the city’s obsession with tests and ratings determining people’s place in society is garbage and she’s done with it… Well! I was super down with that.
And also there’s weird magic, giant eagles, and weirdly tasty sounding mud fruit.

5) Matilda by Roald Dahl

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Matilda was a book that I guess really resonated with me, as a kid who loved books! That, and I am and always will be a sucker for any variation of ‘found family’ stories – characters finding ways out of toxic environments to be around people who love and support them? So good. My favourite. Also, is there even a kid who loves reading and wishes they could make pancakes by telekinesis who doesn’t love Matilda?


AVERY

1) The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson

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As a child, my room was covered in Jacqueline Wilson books. It was really hard choosing just one of these for this challenge, but I decided to go with the Illustrated Mum as it was one of my most well-worn and loved books. I think I must have read it dozens of times alongside a bunch of the other Jacqueline Wilson books, and think that no childhood would have been complete without these books.

2) The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

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To this day, I still have a great love for the Princess Diaries series (which I’m sure will be hilarious and surprising to some of my friends!) Being an awkward young girl really made me appreciate Mia and her friends as characters, and I would often turn to these books to comfort myself that it was okay to be a bit nerdy and awkward! A series that is full of humorous and heart-warming moments that I continued to read well into my late teens.

3) Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay

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I *almost* completely forgot to include Saffy’s Angel, and I’m so glad it popped up on a Goodreads list while I was trying to jog my memory. I was entirely enamoured with the Saffy’s Angel trilogy (which included Indigo’s Star and Permanent Rose at the time), and with McKay’s other series ‘The Exiles‘. Growing up as a single child, I was often very sad that I didn’t have any siblings so had to content myself with reading these books with their weird & wonderful families.

4) The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

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I knooowwwwww that Socket included Beyond the Deepwoods, but it is literally one of my most treasured books as a child and I just couldn’t leave it out of my list! Although a little bit more gruesome than I remember, I would highly recommend the Edge Chronicles to any and every child. It’s one of the most fantastic universes I’ve ever come across, with such rich characters and amazing stories. This was one of those series where I would stay up late into the night, reading under my covers with a torch because I couldn’t get enough of them. Also THE ILLUSTRATIONS THOUGH.

5) Animal Ark by ‘Lucy Daniels’

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I recently found an Animal Ark book on the side of the road and was so grateful to be reminded of such a great series. I loved these to pieces as a child and had a massive collection of all of the different variations (In Danger!, in Africa, Season specials, etc). I adored animals as a child (still do) and I think reading such books not only encouraged that love but educated me on a lot of issues to do with conservation, animal husbandry, and animal rights!


INCHWYRM

1) The Cat Mummy by Jacqueline Wilson

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This was one of the first books that seriously got me into reading. Also possibly the first book to make me cry? I had a lot of feels about The Cat Mummy, okay??

2) Horrible Histories by Terry Deary

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These books taught me that history could be fun, and also introduced me to the world of non-fiction! I still love them to this day.

3) Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

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This book had a big impact on me as a child because of its rich story and vibrant characters. It was also possibly the second book to make me cry? Roger… 😥

4) George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

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One of the most memorable books of my childhood, and a huge inspiration to me. I never would have created so many “potions” were it not for this book.

5) Merry Mister Meddle by Enid Blyton

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There is one story in this book that always really stood out to me; it concerns a treacle pudding made with glue, and honestly, four-year-old me thought this was the funniest thing in the entire world.


Happy Homo Book Club (5)

The Radium Girls Review

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Star Rating


Ever heard of Catherine Donohue, Grace Fryer or Katherine Schaub? No? And yet these women have likely saved you from enduring the same bone-splintering fate from radium poisoning.

Kate Moore’s “Radium Girls” gives us a very personal and up-front account of the labouring women of the early 20th century whose bodies literally crumbled in front of their loved ones, while the denial of radium poisoning by greedy businessmen continued to cost more women’s lives.

Definitely a must-read for everyone but of particular interest to anyone interested in Feminist and Marxist histories.


Most of us have come across the name radium at one point or another, whether it be in a school science lesson or through one of the many pop culture references to it. Before reading this book the only things I knew about radium were from the Fallout game franchise, in which you live in a world destroyed by nuclear fallout and try to survive attacks from “horribly irradiated” creatures such as feral ghouls. However, like many others, I knew almost nothing of the real world ‘Radium Fever’ that swept across the world during the early 20th century; a time which saw radium used in almost all everyday items such as a chocolate, water, toothpaste, cosmetics, and in clocks and watches.

dial-paintersEnter Kate Moore‘s “Radium Girls”, a richly woven historical account of America’s ‘shining women’ who worked in the dial-painting factories during the radium boom the early 20th century. Thought of as the luckiest girls on earth for getting to work with the ‘health miracle‘, hundreds of girls sat down to work every day at the factories where they diligently painted clock and watch faces in the very way in which they were shown to. Lip, Dip, Paint. Who would have thought that such a short and simple phrase could cast such a chill down one’s spine?

As a self-proclaimed “story-teller and non-academic”, Moore takes us on an illuminating historical journey into the horrifying consequences of such a simple act of putting a paintbrush to one’s lips and the diabolical cover-ups of their bone-cracking suffering by the very radium corporations that they ended up giving their lives to. As a student of History, I have read many dry historical accounts and have found that these often focus more on historical events than the lives of the very people who were involved in the making of those events. Frustrated with such an approach to a sensitive, emotive and hard-hitting injustice, Moore used her strengths as a storyteller to really focus on the experiences of the girl’s themselves. Following a number of women from the United States Radium Corporation and Radium Dial Corporation factories, we don’t just get to know these women but come to develop a surprising closeness with them as we watch them, literally, begin to disintegrate before the very eyes of their loved ones.

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Stacking the Shelves #2

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga for the book community to share what we’ve added to our TBR lists or bought this week. Go here to find out more!

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, but of course we’re never too busy to add more books to our ever-growing reading lists! Here’s a few of our recent discoveries, as well as what we’re currently reading and plans for future reads!

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T5W – Books for your Hogwarts House

T5WWe’re back for another T5W (on Thursday, but shush) and this week we have done a little bit of a cheeky diversion as we weren’t really feeling the topic this week; Hate to Love Ships. Buuuut, as seeing as we coincidently belong to all four houses, we thought it was well worth going back and doing the books which best represent our houses. In order to throw in something a little bit different, we also took some creative licence with what books we have chosen. It’s all too easy to pick the “defining” traits of the houses, such as bravery for Gryffindor or intelligence for Ravenclaw, so we thought we would do a mix of serious books and a couple of tongue in cheek ones. See if you can tell which is which!


Socket

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The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien ♥ The Flavour Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg ♥  The Complete Marquis de Sade ♥ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander ♥ Holes by Louis Sachar

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Review: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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“Children of Time” tells the tale of the end of the human race, the point at which we have stripped the Earth of the last of its resources and sought out a new home amongst the stars. The last dregs of humanity have been shuttled to their shiny new planet, the one prepared for them by their forebears, only to discover that it is not, uh, vacant. In fact, it is being overseen by the last of those very same forebears (Dr Avrana Kern, now nothing more than an artificial intelligence hosted in a satellite) and populated by her… “monkeys.” What follows is a deftly-woven story that grapples with such subjects as war, peace, love, grief, religion, the value of human life, megalomaniacal AIs and, oh yeah, giant super-evolved jumping spiders!

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Stacking the Shelves #1

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga for the book community to share what we’ve added to our TBR lists or bought this week. Go here to find out more!

Look at us with our regular posts this week! We’re back (already) with our first ever edition of Stacking the Shelves. We thought this would be a great meme to join in with so we can share our, sometimes out of control, TBR adds, as well as what we’re all currently reading and what we plan to read next!

 


Inchwyrm

New Addition(s) – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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Currently Reading – Crow Country by Mark Cocker

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What’s Next – The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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Avery

New addition(s) – The Foundation Trilogy  by Isaac Asimov, Notes on a Thesis by Tiphaine Riviere, and If We Were Villains by M.L Rio

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Currently Reading – The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore (Netgalley) and The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton

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What’s Next – True Sex: The Lives of Trans Men at the Turn of the 20th Century by Emily Skidmore (Netgalley)

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Socket

New Addition(s) – No new additions right now, oops!

Currently Reading – The Lost Barkscrolls by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

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What’s Next – House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

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Tom

New Addition(s) – Prejudice and Pride: LGBT Activist Stories from Manchester and Beyond

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Currently reading – Globalization and Its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz

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What’s Next – Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber

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What have you added to your TBR shelves this week or any cheeky purchases you have made? We just can’t seem to stop accumulating books and adding to our ever increasing piles which haunt the corners of every room.

Happy Homo Book Club (5)