C.S Lewis – Space trilogy

If you’re like most people you’ve probably heard of C.S Lewis. His Narnia series has graced the shelves of book lovers over the generations. But that’s not all the author wrote. Lewis was influential writer in his time, and continues today to enchant and inspire us with his many stories.

Today I’ll be reviewing Lewis’s Space trilogy series, specifically the first book Out of the Silent Planet. I decided to read this one as I discovered its existence recently and was intrigued. If you’re a fan of the Sci-fi and fantasy genre you’ll probably enjoy this one. I don’t usually read much sci-fi so I enjoyed branching out and trying something new!

My copy is a compendium of all three books in the series. While I’ve only read the first story, I look forward to getting into the other two, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.

What’s it about?

Dr Ransom, is enjoying his carefree sabbatical from Cambridge university when the unexpected occurs. Abducted and taken away on a spaceship to the planet Malacandra, to him otherwise known as Mars. His captors plan to sacrifice him to the planets inhabitants, and take the planets resources for themselves. Ransom will have to face the unknown danger and explore deep questions of self, race and religion if he’s ever to find his way home.

What I liked least?

This book took me a while to get into. I found it difficult not to compare this novel with the Narnia series, which did not help matters. While Narnia is a children’s series, The Space Trilogy is written for adults. The world building is different and at times confronting. Comparison is often the problem with well-known authors. We experience one of their works, and expect to feel the same things with a totally different book. As a reader, this is something I am conscious of making an effort to minimise.

I found once I dropped my comparisons to Narnia I enjoyed this book much more. Lewis himself described this book as “Theologised science fiction”. It’s good to know that going in. Otherwise you might be expecting a lighter read than what you’re getting. There are often complex intellectual discussions occurring in the midst of a science fiction story.

What I liked most?

As in several of his other stories, Lewis weaves a delicate discussion of theology and ethics of humanity into a broader narrative. You can choose to enjoy the story on the surface level, or engage with the deeper questions it raises. The choice is up to you. I really enjoy books with this underwritten narrative. They leave you thinking long after you stop reading the last page.

I also enjoyed the characters in this book. Ransom is relatable and expressive. As the story is told from his perspective this is important. We relate to him and the emotions he has throughout the progression of the story. That being said, I found my curiosity burning about the other characters in the stories. The villains and the inhabitants of the planet Malacandra (that’s a mouthful!) are fascinating and enjoyable.

Why should I read it?

Published in 1938 Out of the Silent Planet came into a world where space travel was still a dream. Men would not land on the moon for another 31 years after this book was in circulation. It’s fascinating to read stories that are set in space from this time period. We are as readers today privileged with information that did not exist in the time this book was written. It’s a delight therefore to see what men were dreaming Space would be like. What a rocket could be and do. These days, modern sci-fi fiction can somewhat limited by the scientific knowledge of the readers.

You should give this book a look if you want to feel a snippet of the excitement that space-travel inspired in a generation. We don’t really get it as these days, as the possibility of space travel has been realised, but it’s wonderful to have books like this to capture a bit of that essence.

Recommendation?

I found the pacing in this book a bit slow at times. The story and characters were fascinating though, as was the intellectual, moral and spiritual discussions Lewis wove through his writing. I’d recommend this book to any sci-fi fans. If you like to think about the ethical implications of space travel, this book is for you too.

Ever since he awoke on the space-ship Ransom had been thinking about the amazing adventure of going to another planet, and about his chances of returning from it. What he had not thought about was being on it.

C.S Lewis Out of the Silent Planet

If you’d like to read more about the history of this book head to here:

Thanks for reading this weeks blog post! I hope you enjoyed it!

What are you currently reading? Comment below and let me know!

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ebook or Hardcopy? Which is better?

This question is one that people can get pretty passionate about. There are definitely pros and cons to both so today on the blog I’d love to hear what your preference is! What do you prefer, hardcopy or ebook?

I use the Libby app when I do choose to read ebooks. I just finished From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg.

ebooks – some background

It wouldn’t be fair to tackle this subject without a nod to the amazing technological advancements that have made ebooks possible. Here’s a quick history of ebooks if you’re as interested as I was!

The humble ebook has come a long way since the days of 1971 Project Gutenburg. Michael S. Hart is famed with digitalising the U.S declaration of Independence, earning it the spot in history for first ebook. But the idea for the ebook started much earlier, in the 1930s. The advent of the ‘talkies’, films with inbuilt dialogue caused some people such as Robert Brown (an early 20th century writer) to wonder what the equivalent advancement in technology would be for the written word. In his manifesto, ‘The Readies‘ he said this:

“The written word hasn’t kept up with the modern age…To continue reading at today’s speed, I must have a machine. A simple reading machine which I can carry or move around, attach to any old electric light plug and read hundred-thousand-word novels in 10 minutes if I want to, and I want to.”

Robert Carlton Brown, The Readies, 1930

Brown was onto something. It would take several more decades before his vision of the ‘reading machine’ would be realised in any modern capacity. But here we are now in 2019 – with a plethora of digital reading options. From digital copies of books and audiobooks we are spoilt for choice with platforms such as kindle, Nook, Kobo and ibooks (and many more) being household names. The list goes on. If ebooks are your thing, you have so many options for platforms to go to source books easily and affordably.

ebook pros and cons

This section will be my own personal opinion on ebooks, so you don’t have to agree with me! I’d actually love to hear your thoughts, so comment below!

Pros:

  1. Light & Transportable: Being relatively new to using ebooks it was the ease of transport that drew me in. Commuting via public transport for university I already had a bag full of text books, notebooks and a laptop. Adding a novel made my bag even heavier! Add in the standing that happens during peak hour and there are some situations are not easily compatible for traditional book reading (Nobody enjoys you accidentally dropping your book on the toe of your fellow train passenger!). Using an ebook means I can read just about anywhere, with ease, on my phone! I know people that travel regularly for work (or pleasure) love that an e-reader takes us much less space in their baggage.
  2. Choice of platform: As I mentioned earlier, there are many, many ebook platforms available to suit your device and needs. I personally use Libby which is an app that links to your local library and allows you to borrow ebooks and audiobooks all for free! (Link at the bottom of the article for you to check it out). One draw back is that occasionally you will have to place a hold on more popular books and wait for them to become available (usually only a few days, depending on the book).
  3. Affordability: Buying ebooks and audiobooks can be a much cheaper, or even free way alternative to hardcopy books to feed your reading habit!

Cons

  1. Glitches & battery-powered: All technology has its limits and with most apps there will be some limitations. Battery power is one factor that I find makes me prefer hardcopy books, but so long as you’re not straying too far from a powerpoint you should be fine.
  2. Reading on Screen: The blue light that our phones and other devices emit can damage our eyes. Although this can be overcome to a degree these days with technology such as funky ‘blue-light cancelling glasses’, taking a break from screens (including reading ebooks on them) is probably still the best bet for maintaining our eye health overtime.

Hardcopy Books

I recently revamped one of the bookcases in our home – I always find a few books I’d forgotten about!

Pros:

  1. The smell: Old books and new books have their own special smell – I love both) and the feel of them is just something that an ebook can’t compete with for me. I know they’re bulkier, and sometimes just inconvenient to take with you places – but I love a hard copy books.
  2. The feel: I’m a tactile learner, I like the physical sensation of holding a book in my hands and feeling the pages.
  3. Building a personal library: Visually speaking, a shelf full of colourful and beautiful spines is much more appealing to me than a shiny e-reader. Even though I know logically the e-reader has the capacity to hold a vast collection of books, it just isn’t as aesthetically appealing to me.

Cons:

  1. Bulkiness: I mentioned this earlier. There’s just some places and times it’s just not practical to carry a hardcopy book with you.
  2. Expense: Depending on where you shop, and what editions are you prefer (Any one else a leather-bound fan here?) supporting a reading habit can get pricey. It always pays to shop around or look for affordable options if you’re determined to have a hardcopy book.

In conclusion

I used to hate reading on screens for long-periods of time, but the ease of using my phone to read wherever I am has won me around. It’s easy to find new books, download them (or read online) and be ready to read when I find myself with a bit of extra time up my sleeve. That being said…

Hardcopy books will always be my preference. I can’t help it. Sorry, not sorry. Although ebooks and audiobooks are convenient, cheap (or free!) there is something special to me about the hard copy book. I love everything about them. There’s nothing quite like going to a physical bookstore and browsing the shelves to pick me up.

Which do you prefer and why? Hardcopy books or ebooks? Comment below and let me know! I’d love to hear from you. For more pretty book related pictures find me on Instagram @stephhuddlestonwriting

Thanks for reading!

*Special thanks this week to the folks over at Government Book talk blog for their informative history on the ebook: https://govbooktalk.gpo.gov/2014/03/10/the-history-of-ebooks-from-1930s-readies-to-todays-gpo-ebook-services/

**if you want to learn more about ebooks and Robert Brown check out Jennifer Schuessler’s article, it’s a great read! https://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/books/review/Schuessler-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Little Women review: Mothers day celebrations

Mother’s day is this weekend! That got me to thinking about my mother, and mothers in general… and of course books about mums. That led me to Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott, which I decided to review on the blog today in honour of celebrating of mothers!

My edition of Little Women was printed in 1950 by Temple Press. Isn’t the cover lovely?

What’s the history?

When reviewing a classic book I always enjoy giving a little bit of background. Knowing a bit of history about a book makes the reading of it that much richer, at least for me anyway.

Little Women was written by Alcott in 1868. She wrote the book at the request of her publisher who asked her to write a book ‘for little girls’. It was originally published in two volumes – Little Women and Good wives. While modern editions often combine these two volumes into one book, if you find an old edition of Little Women like mine be aware you might only have half the story you expect to find.

Little Women is considered to be semi-autobiographical with events within the book being inspired by Alcott’s own family and experiences.

What’s it about?

Little Women follows the lives of the four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. The girls live with their mother, affectionately called ‘Marmee’, in Massachusetts. The girls father is absent, away on duties as a pastor with the American civil war and the book opens as the family faces their first Christmas with him away. As the book continues we see each of the sisters grow up, and deal with the stresses of life, love and friendship. There is tragedy and strength to be learned from each of their journeys.

What I liked?

I first experienced Little Women when I was around ten years old. It was not the book which I experienced first, but rather the 1994 film with Winona Ryder. Say what you will about the film, but I remember loving the story and wanting to know more about the March sisters. I personally identified with Jo March with her passion for books and writing (clearly a natural choice for me!).

As this post is in honour of Mothers day I wanted to reflect on the role of Marmee in Little Women. She’s often overlooked in discussions about this book, with more attention being spent on her daughters. I wanted to say this: Marmee is amazing!

While her daughters are truly wonderful characters, they are being raised by an equally as wonderful woman. Raising children is difficult work, and this woman does it solo in a time period where her options were limited when it came to getting help. She is real with her children, sharing with them the difficulties they face with their father away. Yet, she still provides for them, and works hard to bring them joy.

“Jo was the first to wake in the grey dawn of Christmas morning. No stockings hung at the fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago when her little sock fell down because it was so crammed with goodies. Then she remembered her mothers promise, and slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson book.”

Little Women – Louisa Allcott

It’s from Marmee that the girls learn their kindness. It’s from Marmee that they learn to work hard. The role of Marmee in this book is vital in recognising the women the girls grow to be.

What I liked least?

Honestly, I found some of the sisters a bit irritating, but that’s personal preference. I found Amy to be a bit vain, and Beth to be a bit boring. But, all the sisters have their flaws and strengths and what likes me dislike those sisters could be what makes them someone’s favourite character. The fact that I feel emotions towards those characters at all is a sign of a good book.

Final thoughts and recommendation

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories about families. If you enjoy Anne of Green Gables and anything by Jane Austen you’ll probably really like Little Women. If you’ve seen the movie, read the book! It’s not necessarily always better – but it always has something different to offer.

If you’re a mother reading the blog today, thank you. You play a significant role in the lives of your children. For those of you that maybe mothers day is a painful time I recognise that this weekend might be hard. I hope you’ve got the right people around you. Please remember a mother doesn’t have to be biological, but could just be a special woman has been there for you. A mother figure. If you have a mother, or mother figure that you know and love, take time this weekend to thank her. Mothers are awesome!

I’d like to thank my mum (I know you’re reading this haha!) especially for always loving me, and helping me become the person I am today. You’re the best. XX

I hope you enjoyed this review! Have you read Little Women? Which character is your favourite and why? Comment below! I’d love to hear from you!

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Happy reading!

Five reasons to buy books second hand

Do you buy most of your books new? For me there’s nothing quite like going into a bookstore and perusing the shelves for your latest read. The neatly organised shelves of bookstores make it easy to track down a specific book that you’re after. Pretty seasonal displays can call your attention to pick up a book you wouldn’t otherwise have considered. Curated lists of what to purchase that ‘bookworm’ in your life on Amazon or book depository makes gift-giving way easier! The classic new bookstore has a special place in my life, but so does the second-hand book buying experience. Maybe you’re an advocate of buying second-hand – maybe you’ve never really thought about it.

In this blog you’ll find five reasons to consider buying second-hand next time you get that urge to go book shopping (happens regularly for me).

1. Good for the planet

We all know reusing and recycling is better for our environment. Books use a lot of paper! While book publishing companies these days are making improvements to their practices with using sustainably sourced paper, the industry still isn’t perfect. Picking up a book second hand you can reduce the impact on the environment. Yes, you could go totally paperless, but for those of us who love a physical copy – second hand is better.

2. Good for the community

One of my favourite places to pick up second-hand books is at my local opportunity shop (thrift shop, or charity shop it might be called depending on where you’re from!). These stores do lots of good for the community. my favourite local is @TheMustardTree op-shop which offers counselling, food bank services and more for the vulnerable in the community. Purchasing your books at an op-shop you can support the great work of these places. No, the books might not be as organised as at your local Dymocks or Barnes and Noble but that leads me to my next point…

3. The Adventure

Second hand stores like op-shops typically do not have their books as well organised, or as large a range of books as at your commercial stores. Some may find this frustrating, but I find it adds to the adventure. It’s so satisfying to come across the next book in the series you’re reading for only a couple of bucks! Or a special edition of one of your favourite stories. I have picked up some beautiful copies of books, you can see the pictures below of an illustrated copy of Blinky Bill that I picked up. It’s like going on a treasure hunt buying second hand – you never know what you’ll find!

I picked up this lovely illustrated copy of Blink Bill recently from The Mustard Tree Op shop.

4. Affordability

Buying everything (including books) can get expensive! Purchasing second-hand books is a great way to save money and still support your reading habit. I know some people who give second-hand books as gifts, and while not everyone might approve of this practice, I think it’s great! While I admit sometimes second-hand books have not been gently used (anyone found children’s scribbles inside the front cover?) generally books are one of those things that age pretty well. You can generally find most books that you are after for just a few dollars, in good condition, if you have the patience to hunt for them. Try checking out your local op shop or a garage sale next time you’re feeling that urge to book shop.

My local op-shop The Mustard Tree has sales on their books regularly!

5. History

I personally love aged books. Old books smell different to new books (yes you’ve probably heard me rave about the smell of books before) there’s something musty and nice about them. Books tell us stories written in ink, but they have untold stories too. Stories they can’t tell. They can’t tell us all the nightstands they’ve graced. All the tears that have been spilled over them. All the bags they’ve ridden in or countries they’ve travelled. When I hold a second hand book I love to imagine these untold stories (granted the ones I make up are probably more exciting than the reality!).

I couldn’t resist sharing more pictures my Blinky Bill find – the illustrations are so charming. This find set me back $3, a bargain!

Thanks for reading! Do you buy books second hand? why or why not?Comment below! I’d love to hear from you. I hope you enjoyed seeing my Blinky Bill find. If you do shop second-hand what’s been your best book find?

You can find me here instagram: https://www.instagram.com/stephhuddlestonwriting/

*Special thanks to The Mustard Tree Op shop – you guys are awesome! Keep up the good work. If you want to see more of what they do, drop in store or follow them on facebook or instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/themustardtree/

Lady Lollipop

What started your love of reading? Is there one book you remember staying up way past your bedtime to read ‘just one more chapter’? As adults, the things we loved as children stay with us for a long time. We remember them because they bring back that sense of joy. Of simplicity. Maybe for you that childhood joy is a favourite toy, or that amazing holiday by the beach.

For me, one of those childhood joys was Lady Lollipop by Dick King Smith. Haven’t heard of it? Well! You’re in for a treat. I won’t give away any *Gasp* spoilers in case you decide to read it. For those of you who remember Lady Lollipop join me in giving this little book some love.

Isn’t the cover lovely?

If you’ve always dreamed of having an unusual pet – this book is and was for you! The stories of spoiled Princess Penelope and her pet pig Lady Lollipop will charm you or any primary aged children you know.

My edition is illustrated by Jill Barton, whose pen sketches perfectly capture the humour and delight of Lady lollipop’s antics. This book has a way of making you smile (and Google your council’s rules on pet keeping!). The story has some moral depth to it. We can expect to enjoy classic behavioural transformation from pretty much all the characters in this read.

What I liked most?

As a child I seemed to be drawn to strong characters with a penchant for getting into Mischief. I owned all the Naughty Miss Amelia Jane books by Enid Blyton. Lady Lollipop certainly falls into a similar category. Perhaps my parents were trying to tell me something about being bossy?… This book also taught me about kindness, which is something everyone needs. It would make a wonderful gift for a little girl (or boy!) who is ready to begin reading short stories and needs a dose of whimsy in their life!

What I liked least?

I still don’t have a pet pig. That makes me sad! After reading this book I’ve wanted a pet pig for many years. Alas, somethings just aren’t meant to be. About the book specifically there isn’t much negative to report back. It’s a delightful and charming example of children’s literature.

My Rating?

It’s challenging rating a children’s book as I am reviewing it for the enjoyment of the child and not an adult. This book would make a little girl very happy, and be a perfect gift. I rate this book 3 and 1/2 stars. As much as I loved this read, this book is primarily aimed at young girls. While there is nothing wrong with that, I’m not sure it has the broad appeal to both genders that other stories do. For little girls it’s a five star book – for children more broadly it’s a bit lower – it is a book about princesses after-all. But, that being said who can resist a cute pig?

This illustration by Jill Barton is very sweet. Lady Lollipop is so cute!

I hope you enjoyed this weeks review! What were your favourite books as a child? Leave a comment below and hit that subscribe button for more bookish content delivered to your inbox each week.

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Happy reading!

Long weekend read

Easter has arrived! What does Easter look like for you? For me, I celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus with family and friends. We attend church and share Hot Cross buns together. I love this holiday for all it represents about humility, sacrifice and love. On Easter Sunday there is usually an Easter egg hunt where the bunny makes his appearance. Great chance to eat copious amounts of chocolate!

Regardless of your religious views, in Australia we get some public holidays around this time of year. You know what that means… Reading time! The long weekend is a great time to get into that ‘To be read’ pile that lives on our nightstands. I know a lot of people head off camping over Easter and there’s nothing quite like reading by the crackling fire to soothe the soul.

What’s on your TBR pile?

One that was on mine from last year was The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s my go to suggestion for anyone going on holidays!

As you can see I’ve fallen in love with the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle… So many beautiful editions to choose from!

Some background

 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels between 1887 and 1927. Originally Doyle wrote these stories when he ran his own medical practice in the South of England in 1882 and found business to be slow. The Sherlock Holmes stories were instrumental in assisting to create the ‘detective mystery novel’ – a new genre at the time. 

Why should I read it?

  1. The book is better. Most people are familiar with the character of Sherlock Holmes, the eccentric detective, even if they haven’t read the book. There are countless film and television adaptations of Sherlock Holmes. If you haven’t happened across one of these, you’re bound be able to create a mental image of a tweed wearing, pipe smoking detective with ease. You may be thinking, I know the story. I’ve seen the film. Well!
  2. . It’s an easy read. I didn’t expect to find as much joy and humour in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes as I did. I think sometimes literature that was written a long time ago gets a bad rap of being ‘stuffy’ or hard to understand. Granted, there are some classic books that use language that is unfamiliar to us now because of its formality. This book is not like those books. The text is easy to get into. Conan Doyle wrote several of his Sherlock Holmes stories to appear in newspapers as serials. They were written for the everyday person and touch on issues that are common across all humanity. The cases that Sherlock solves we can imagine being presented in modern day society – think spurned lovers and treasure hunters. Solving the impossible murder. The stories are told from the perspective of the long suffering Dr Watson who is just as much an enjoyable character in his own right as Sherlock himself. If you’ve always loved the idea of reading more classic books this is the perfect place to start.
  3. It’s very funny. I mentioned it earlier but it’s worth saying again. You’ll be very amused reading this one. Sherlock Holmes has a particular way of speaking and acting that takes you -and the other characters – by surprise. It’s wonderful seeing the complex threads of the mystery being unwound by his marvellous mind.
  4. It’s short. These stories are perfect for a holiday or long weekend because you can knock out a few stories between all the other activities you’ll be taking part in (we can’t spend the whole time reading if we’re away with others unfortunately). I know a friend who read these some of these stories to his kids before bed!

“I had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes in his professional investigations, and in admiring the rapid deductions, as swift as intuitions, and yet always founded on a logical basis, with which he unravelled the problems submitted to him.”

Dr Watson on Sherlock Holmes, The adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

So there you have it! I think this long weekend I’ll be spending some time rereading a few Sherlock Holmes stories. Two of my favourites have got to be: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle and The five orange pips. Check them out!

What will you be reading this long weekend? Comment below or find me on instagram @stephhuddlestonwriting I’d love to hear from you! Wishing you all a happy and safe Easter.

*special thanks to Gerard Cheshire for his Life and Times section in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Collins classic edition (2016). ( Edition Pictured below) A thoughtful and enjoyable read all on its own.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Ever wanted to try something totally new? Me too!

So here I am, about to start out on the journey of freelance writing and starting my own blog. There’s so many quotes about new journeys – here’s one of my favourites:

“The only impossible journey is the one you never begin” – Anthony Robbins

I know this quote has been featured on lots of other blog posts around the internet so you’ve probably heard it or read it before. But it speaks a simple truth.

Begin!

I’ve loved writing and reading for as long as I can remember but it’s only been recently that I decided to pursue my passion. Why? Because I was (and still am to be honest) afraid of failing; of putting myself out there. But I realise now I don’t need to. I am allowed to as a human, fail sometimes. To not do an awesome job. I am not perfect. The real failure would be to not try and do the thing every day that makes me excited.

So what’s it all going to be about?

Here on my blog you will find posts relating to all things bookish! Book reviews, lists and a heap more! As I’m based in beautiful Melbourne, Australia I will also on occasion be showing off the wonderful attractions this area has to offer. (Looking at you cafe scene). 

I encourage you to begin with me! What are you going to take on that you’ve been putting off? It’s okay to be scared. But let’s be brave too.