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updating the blog, part 1 (or: the honour of receiving and the joy of passing on awards)

Alright. Today is the day. The day I have been putting off for weeks: the day when I work through a whole list of things to do on and for and about this blog.

But because there’s so much all at once, I’ll split it up into three parts. Part one is all about awards. Part two is introducing and reviewing and adding a number of wonderful blog links. Part three will ask a serious and important question to which I need your answers.

So, first things first:

the awards

Kate at read wear write kindly passed The Booker Award on to me – back in June, but I don’t believe there’s a best-by date on awards, is there? Kate has interesting book reviews on her blog, funny photos of Al, her traveling alpaca (yep, I knew that’d interest you – here you have the direct link!) and she’s a fellow writer and always has interesting links to share! Go and have a wander around her blog!

There are some rules to this one:

This award is for book bloggers only. To receive this award the blog must be at least 50% about books, which includes reading or writing. Along with receiving this award, you must also share your top five favorite books you have ever read. Listing more than five books is still within the rules. You must give this award to 5-10 other lucky book blogs you adore.

And then there’s the One Lovely Blog Award, to which I have been nominated twice by Patricia, from Patricia Awapara. Patricia is a writer who plunged fearlessly into the adventure of self-publication and writes in English, even though it’s not her first language (like me! do we get extra-glittery bonus points for that?) and she’s also a really great artist – go have a look at her paintings – I love the colours!

And also some rules for this one:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post.
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Nominate 15 bloggers you admire
4. Leave a comment on each of these blogs letting them know they’ve been nominated.

the conditions (or, books I LOVE)

So how to do this… I’m going to combine, alright? Here are seven books I love and why I love them (which is also saying something about myself, so that’s within the rules, right? Not that I care too much… 🙂 )

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I love Austen’s characterizations. The people in this book are alive every time I open it again (and I’ve read it upwards of a hundred times). I feel the embarrassment that Mrs. Bennet inflicts on her daughters, I get outraged at Wickham’s duplicty, I get all tingly from the tension between Darcy and Elizabeth… *sigh* I guess it’s something that Helen Fielding let her character Bridget Jones say about those two: in the same way that men choose football teams as representatives and feel the team’s successes and failures as their own personal successes and failures, so she, Bridget Jones, chose Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet as her own representatives of love, celebrating and enjoying their relationship as her own success.

I’m not particularly romantic, but I love it for the same reason.

2. all the Tortall books by Tamora Pierce

I’m talking the Song of the Lionness quartet, the Immortals quartet, the Protector of the Small quartet, the two books around Aly Cooper, the trilogy of Beka Cooper… all these books, I love with a fierce and reckless abandon. I’ve read each one … oh, I don’t know how many times, but it’s most definitely upwards of twenty, for each. I want to be all of her girl heroes at once, I want to live in Tortall, I want to travel around its world and I want to meet all of the people who inhabit this world. I think every girl should read these books. And all boys, too. Actually, everyone should. For me, Tortall feels like another country somewhere in the world, it’s that real. Much more real than some countries I don’t know much about. I become completely submerged in this world and in the people every time. No matter how often I’ve read them, once I open any one of them, I can’t stop reading till the end.

I love these books for how real the people feel to me.

3. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

One of the books that made me cry. Also one of the books that opened my eyes to my own ignorance. Also the book that made me fall in love with Hemingway’s writing. There is so much in there, and it’s so human. The human condition, I guess. It tells of gut-wrenching fear, of superhuman bravery, of deep and passionate love, of selfless compassion and of the cruelest kind of greed for power and revenge, and all the time without once using any of these words. He’s so serious, yet so unobtrusive about it all, so deep and important without once being obvious, instructive or philosophical. It’s most of all a story, an exciting story of a the struggles of a group of guerrilla fighters to sabotage a bridge and also a love story. Yet at the same time, between the lines, it tells of everything – the best and the worst that humanity is capable of.

I love this book for how it gets under your skin and stays there and never lets you go again and makes you feel as if you’ve held the world in your hands while you read it and when it’s done, how you have become a better, more compassionate, more empathetic person. And all of it just through the style of writing.

4. Bluebells on the Hill by Barbara McMahon

This is a romance. I used to read lots of romance, I don’t so much any more. This book, however, I love very much, mostly for the vivid and wonderful description of the area it’s set in, namely California’s Sierra Nevada. I read the book before ever being there and loved it and once I’d been there (years ago now, but still fresh in my memory), I loved it even more, because every time I read it, I can just see the tall pines, smell the tree-sap-saturated heat, listen to the creaks and groans of the wood expanding in the heat… It’s a daydream come alive. I also like the heroine, because I can relate to her on quite some levels – her love of solitude, her independence, her adventurous side.

I love this book because it brings to life a beautiful landscape and because it provides me, again and again, with wonderful daydreaming material.

5. The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas

One of a series of novels chronicling the cases of Commissaire Adamsberg, a highly unusual policeman living and working in Paris (I don’t know the corresponding title in English – chief inspector?). I like all of the series, but this one was the first I read and I have a special soft spot for it because it has a very romantic vein running through it. I just like the way these books are written – they read much more like literary novels than like crime, even though they are plainly crime stories. This one is especially creepy, with blue chalk circles appearing all over Paris, painted around seemingly unimportant objects to be found on any city pavement, and Adamsberg is the only one who can feel the cruelty and the threat of violence running through them, of course he turns out to be right. He also makes friends with a formidable and beautiful lady who has an exotic job, a strange hobby and the weirdest tenants possible. It just feels so real, so gritty and yet so magical. It’s a book I can read again and again, without becoming tired of it.

I love this book for the dreamy, beautiful way it is written and for the loving and sharp attention to details that makes it feel so alive.

6. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

This is one of the most intense books I have ever read. Apart from the first chapter, which is a kind of introduction, the whole story takes place in one day and it takes the reader on a wild, painful, joyful, beautiful and horrible ride through the life of one man. Like Hemingway, Lowry is unobtrusive in descriptions of emotions or states of mind, but he manages, in a masterly and utterly breathtaking fashion, to put the interior into the exterior, meaning: everything going on inside is reflected in the landscape, both natural and man-made. Two volcanoes, of whom legend says they are lovers, tower over the whole area and the whole story, and plants can be as fleshy, glistening, threatening and dark as any man’s soul and the ravine running throughout the town takes on a significance and almost a life of its own. This books is disturbing and grandiose and  and sweeping and detailed and it contains the most intense, the most heart-breaking, the most touching love letter I have ever read.

I love this book for its combination of the most gentle and passionate love and the most depressing, disheartening, desperate failure and loss and the way both are written into the very fabric of the setting.

7. The Unseen by Katherine Webb, The End of Everything by Megan Abbott, Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice

These three are books I’ve read in the past months and that have impressed me and touched me so much that despite having only read them once, I still think about them a lot and can still get caught up in their stories. The Unseen is a heartbreaking story of a girl’s desire to be free and independent, set at a time when women were anything but, and despite the desperate end being inevitable from the start, there are still surprises left. The End of Everything touched me quite a lot, and I wrote about it on here, how this book was eating me alive, and I haven’t changed my mind since. Orange Mint and Honey is a story that taught me quite a bit about music, even though I know quite a bit about music already anyway, and it also impressed me with the very unobvious way the story and the characters developed.

I loved all three of these books for themselves and for how they taught me about things I didn’t know before and for how they enriched my life.

And finally… the nominations!

Because a lot of the (personal) blogs I read are reading- or writing-related anyways, I’ll combine both awards, because these blogs are all about books and they are lovely. The nominees may choose to accept one or both or none. Fair deal?

So, in no particular order, I give you:   *cue drumroll*

1. Emily from Emily’s Tea Leaves – I’m not sure if she has received either of them yet, because she’s not telling! 🙂 Emily writes about writing, has a romantic novel in the works, and has interesting author interviews and book reviews on her blog.

2. tsena from succumbing – She writes poetry. Poetry that keeps me going back to her blog. Poetry full of wonderful and direct images. And she has a great feeling for language.

3. Peggy from Peggy Isaacs – She makes me laugh. I envy her talent to capture really great pictures of really cool stuff like dragonflies and lizards. She’s a writer.

4. Zen from Zen Scribbles – I’ve lost track of which awards she has or hasn’t got yet, so I’m just putting her on this list and crossing my fingers that the one or the other might be new to her. She is a published author of a book I’m just about to start reading, she loves chocolate, and she writes about writing, reading, books and anything to do with literature or chocolate in the most engaging way (I almost always feel compelled to comment – I challenge you to read her posts and not want to comment!).

5. Arlene from Science and Story –  Her blog is full of clever, insightful posts that I always enjoy reading. She’s a writer by profession and she has an extra side-blog, Wednesdy Book Review, just for book reviews – how devoted to reading is that?

6. Mieke at The Author-in-Training – I like her blog mainly for being inspirational and upbeat. The Sunday Inspiration photos are always worth a watch and a thought (or two or three) and the ‘note to self’ posts are special as well.

A big thank you to all these women – you make my days more colourful!

awards are being awarded

(note to self: must never ever again use the expression of an award being awarded! also, must give urgent warning about way-beyond-reasonable-length of this blog post)

*warning: very long blog post!* (but read it nontheless!!!)

Blogging. It’s fun. It’s even more fun when you get feedback and you know that people are reading something you wrote. That something is read and maybe even appreciated that is basically your brain chewing up inpressions and thoughts and spitting them out in chunks of letters that form words and sentences and hopefully convey some meaning.

Two people have, in the last days, told me that they appreciate what I write by passing the honour of the “Versatile Blogging Award” on to me. This is a sort of informal award that is more or less a way for new bloggers to connect and to learn about/from each other.

********** the award and the first rule ********** 

However, when I heard from one of the two kind people passing this on to me, I thought it was spam. Really! (I’m sorry!) It was just that it came out of the blue, that I wasn’t even aware that the person had ever seen my blog before (and since it hasn’t been around that long, I think the chances for that are pretty high). Anyway. I couldn’t believe it. That’s why I will accept it, but I’m going to alter the rules a little. More about that further down. But first things first: the accepting of the award. Here we go:

*applause*

 Thank you, thank you, thank you! *blushing and bowing* First, to the kind person running A Story Every Day, whose name unfortunately I don’t know and whose blog features short stories, non-fiction, all kinds of other writings by a wide array of writers. Then to Iris B, who is a romance author who posts some very intriguing glimpses into her work and whose blog you should definitely check out.  These two very kindly gave me this award.

With this, apart from being polite and expressing my gratefulness at being seen and being appreciated, I have also fulfilled the first ‘rule’ of the award. Although I think they are more like guidelines.  🙂

********** the second rule **********

The second ‘rule’ is to post seven facts about myself. Aha. Instead of telling you seven things about me, which would probably bore you to death, I will save your life by giving you seven causes that I feel passionate about and that are more important to know about:

1. In Thailand, bloggers and other users of social media, are being held responsible and put in prison for comments made on their blogs or websites by others, even by anonymous users. I believe that everyone who uses social media has to stand up against this injustice. (information with Asian Human Rights Commission;  access has more information and a petition that can be signed)

2. In Botswana, the San are being denied access to water on their traditional land, where they have the legal right to live, but cannot, because of said lack of water. Instead they live on the outskirts of the preserve and some have returned, living in extremely harsh conditions and having to rely on water handed out to them. Meanwhile, there are luxury hotels on the preserve with swimming pools and bars. (more information at Survival International  and the BBC)

3. Slavery is alive and kicking even now in the 21st century. About 21 million people world-wide are affected. Children that are abducted to work on cocoa plantations, bonded labourers in cotton-producing countries, tomato pickers in Florida, USA, domestic workers all over the world, … it’s  everywhere. Do something. There’s plenty that everyone can do. (more information and campaigns at Anti-Slavery)

4. People of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) community are being marginalized, threatened, abused and even killed in many parts of the world. It is unbearable that in this day and age someone has to die for something as his or her gender identity or sexual orientation. The not-so-obvious things like bullying, ill-treatment and discrimination are maybe even worse. (more information at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International)

5. This is closely related to point 3, but as a chocolate lover I find this particularly jarring: more than 100,000 children work in horrible conditions in the cocoa industry, and at least 10% of them have been trafficked. This cocoa is destined for chocolate factories that produce the sweets that we eat in the western world. This is totally unacceptable. (more information at the BBC and the International Labor Rights Forum and on information about fairtrade chocolate, see Fairtrade Foundation)

6. Closely related as well: the right to education. Worldwide, there are 75 million children that do not have access to basic education and 150 million children currently enrolled will drop out before completing primary education – at least two-thirds of these are girls. Education is the key to counteract so many other abuses and to improve the circumstances of the individual’s life. Everyone has to have this chance. (more information at UNESCO and the Right to Education Project; information on action you can undertake can be found with the Global Campaign for Education)

7. No big words needed for this: GREEN ENERGY!!! We all need it and I want it, I support it, I’m all the way for it. (Find information with Greenpeace and  Explore Green Energy; also check with your local energy provider what green options they have – most of them have them by now! Let’s increase the demand!)

********** the third rule and the amendment ********** 

What a lot of information on extremely important topics in a very condensed space… On we go, to the third and last, you’ll be relived to hear, ‘rule’ and the one I really want to change/amend: pass this award on to other newly-discovered blogs (up to fifteen). What I want to add is: and give a reason for your choice! And one that is personal and not generic. Otherwise, the whole idea of connecting really looses value, I think. 🙂

note: the following are in no order or ranking whatsoever!

Fitri Adi Anugrah – Fitri is a funny and clever advocate for multiculturalism, with a passion for food, photography and witty writing. Check out her post on dreams, it’s very inspiring. And I’ve been thinking about her post on escaping consumerism all day today. Some very thought-provoking questions, all with a good helping of humour and self-criticism.

Bursts of Brilliance – I only discovered this blog some hours ago, but I LOVE the voice of this woman, who is, apparently, a displaced Alaskan. She’s into writing and she confesses to being shatterbrained, she’s a fellow adventurer in the upcoming NaNoWriMo challenge and she made me laugh. Out loud. Very much recommended.

All the pieces fit –  Juan is a writer of inspirational poetry. Her prose, however, is not any less inspirational. The post on decluttering your life really hit home with me. She’s smart, she can express herself extremely well and she has a very warm and embracing writing voice. This blog comes with all the attributes of a comfortable chat with a good friend over a delicious cup of hot chocolate.

Catherine Noble – Catherine is very new to blogging, something you wouldn’t know from just looking at her website – it’s highly professional and very pretty in pale pink with grey flowers. Which leads one to think that this woman must be a perfectionist. And this would be right, as she admits herself. Like me, Catherine is a first-timer in the NaNo-challenge. She also runs a food blog, which I haven’t checked out yet, but which looks good enough to eat!

That’s it guys. Or rather, girls. (no, it’s not intentional that my winners are only girls! maybe girls write more?) CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Remember to: 1. link back to me (although I’m giving you permission to neglect this point…) 2. write seven facts about yourself (original version)/write seven causes or facts you feel passionate about (amended version) and 3. pass this award on to other newly-discovered bloggers (original version) PLUS tell us what is great about them, why you give them this award, what you like about their blog (amended version).

Oh and girls, don’t forget to go to those blogs and tell them they got this award from you! 😉

********** the last sentence ********** 

 Thanks for reading through till the end – if you’re reading this right now, you ROCK!!!