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Interview with Sandy from ‘You Gotta Read This!’

I have recently found Sandy’s blog You’ve Gotta Read This!, and I love it! We seem to have a similar taste in books, and I visit her blog daily. We decided to interview each other, to find out a bit more about the person behind the blog.

You can see her interview of me here.

1. How long have you been blogging for, and what inspired you to start?

I started blogging late last October, so I still consider myself to be a novice.  I can tell you that last September, I would NEVER have imagined that I would have a blog…I was way too intimidated.  My sister has one (mainly on indie and Asian film) and I’ve always been so impressed with her.  In mid-October I mentioned to her that I wanted to belong to a book club, but I couldn’t find any good ones here close to where I live, and I was frustrated with the online ones I had run across.  So she said “I would be so excited if you would start your own book blog, San.  What do you have to lose?  Even if mom and I are the only ones to read it, who cares?”  I swear, I thought about it for a day, and I was seized by something that would be described as a religious fervor.  My sister gave me a few tips, and off I went.  And as I’m sure you can guess, I did care if only my sister and mom read it!  It has become an obsession of sorts!
2. Which have been your favourite reads in your blogging history?

The Post-Birthday World – Lionel Shriver – I am obnoxious about this book. I tell everyone to read it, it made such an impression on me. Not only is Shriver an amazing author, the topic, a story about a woman who is faced with making a decision that would change her life and the delight in seeing how each option plays out, is something I know everyone has thought about at least once in their life.

Into That Darkness– Gitta Sereny – Another one that I’ve talked about no less than four or five times on my blog. I scribble the name down on slips of paper and shove them in people’s hands. It is dark, almost to the point you have to read it in small doses, but should be required reading for all mankind. Sereny, a journalist, interviews the commandant of the Treblinka death camp, and seeks to understand the why’s. The facts are ruthlessly checked and double-checked, and the truths revealed are disturbing.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – This most definitely will be one of my favorite reads for 2009. It was delightfully written, and I did not want it to end.

3. I have read some really interesting snippets about the Holocaust on your blog. Please could you let me know why this subject interests you?


The Holocaust is one of those events in history that many of us, as human beings, are naturally drawn to.  It almost defies imagination how one charismatic person could lead so many otherwise normal people to commit such horrible acts, en masse, and inspire the rest to turn their heads.  Adversely, stories of the strength of will and heroism under such dire circumstances are inspirational beyond words.  That being said, I’ve always felt just a bit more connected to the Holocaust for a couple of reasons.  First, my husband was born and raised in Poland…he immigrated to the US in the late seventies when the country was still communist, sponsored by a cousin that lived in Indiana.  His family encouraged him to leave and make something of himself, to get away from the controlling grasp of communism.  He has told me stories about his youth in a communistic country, his father’s leadership role in Solidarity and his grandfather that fought in WWI.  But some of the most harrowing tales are of his mother’s experience in WWII, where her entire village was forced into a ghetto by the Germans (FYI, they were not Jewish).  At one point, his mother, who was still very young, fell off the back of the wagon on the way to the ghetto, and was nearly shot until a neighbor pleaded for her life.  At the end of the war, every single Jewish person had been killed that had lived in his mother’s village.  This really hits close to home, you know?  Also, because my husband’s parents and sister still live in Poland, we visit often, and have had the opportunity to visit Hitler’s bunker (the one in Valkyrie that was the location of the assassination attempt), memorials to the Warsaw uprising, and of course Auschwitz, just to name a few.  There are literally hundreds of memorials of the Holocaust, abandoned bunkers, etc. strewn out all over the country.  There is nothing quite as sobering as seeing all of these things in real life.  The Holocaust haunts the Polish people to this day.  My husband carries it around with him as well.  I wouldn’t even want to try to count how many documentaries and WWII-based movies we have seen (some of them are even Polish ones that have been translated)!!


4. I often find it really hard to read about the human suffering, the Holocaust in particular. Do you think it is harder for you, as it is your husband’s ancestors who were affected?

After you read enough books and watch enough movies, it does tend to drain your energy. I have to stop after awhile! However, I would hate to claim that it affects me more than others. If anything, I just feel blessed that nothing did happen to my mother-in-law, and that I was able to eventually meet my husband. I also feel very lucky that I am able to better understand history through his eyes.

5. Can you recommend a Polish book which has a lighter subject matter?

Hmmm…well, that is a good question! I cannot speak or read fluent Polish (despite hours of beating my head against the desk trying to become one with my Rosetta Stone!) so I’ve not had many opportunities to read Polish literature. I tried once, at my husband’s suggestion, to read “Fire in the Steppe” by Henryk Sienkiewicz. It was about 17thcentury Polish swordsmen, and it bored me to death and I couldn’t finish it.

I have just finished an excellent book called “Death in Breslau” by Marek Krajewski…have a look at my review here. I wouldn’t call it light, but is the only Polish book I have finished!

Thank you for answering my questions! It has been really interesting, and I look forward to reading your blog for many years to come!


Books in the news!

There was an interesting article in The Guardian, discussing whether e-books are failing to take off because there isn’t enough piracy. I’m not convinced, I think it is probably due to the fact that reading books is much more pleasurable, and the e-book readers are so expensive.

The Telegraph tells the story of an author that flies 600 miles to deliver a book on Christmas Day – well that’s one way to gain publicity!

Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to a mad new law that that been brought into operation in America. The Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act It is supposed to protect children from being poisoned by lead in toys and games, but I don’t think anyone has thought it through properly. It is being retrospectively applied to everything that has ever been produced for children, leading to large numbers of toys, games and books being destroyed.

It is also a minefield for people like me who sell books to America. What am I supposed to do if someone in America orders a children’s book from me? Do I have to have it tested for lead? Should I refuse the order? Or do I risk a fine, or other penalty for importing dangerous children’s books into the US. If anyone has any children’s books that need destroying, then I’d like to offer to rescue them for you -just let me know, and I’ll give them a good home!

This story is also discussed on Semicolon’s blog here.

2000 - 2007 Booker Prize

Fasting, Feasting – Anita Desai

Fasting, Feasting was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1999.

The book begins in India, telling the story of Uma, the eldest daughter of a close-knit family. Uma struggles to find a suitable husband, and becomes trapped at home, effectively a slave to her oppressive parents. Although set in a different continent, it reminded me of Purple Hibiscus. The character development was excellent, and all the sights and sounds of an Indian village came to life.

The second part of the book follows Uma’s brother, Arun, as he crosses the world to begin life with a middle-class family in America. Arun observes many of problems associated with the developed world, including materialism and eating disorders. I found this section of the book disappointing in comparison to the parts set in India. The characters failed to come to life, and I began to lose interest as this section progressed.

Many important issues were raised in this book, including arranged marriage and the effective imprisonment of women in a household. Comparisons between lives in the two different cultures were made, but no real conclusions were ever drawn.

Overall, the writing was simple, but beautiful. The book began well, but failed to develop to it’s full potential. It was OK, but nothing special.

Blog Improvement Project Other

Ten Blogs with Great Layout Ideas

In the spirit of Blog Improvement Project, I thought I’d highlight the best book blogs I’ve come across in terms of layout. The followings blogs each have something special, and I thought I’d highlight the things I love about each of them.

Listed in alphabetical order.

1. 1 More Chapter

I love the bookcases round the edges, it is so atmospheric! This site is also really well organised. The tabs along the top for each year are really useful, and the sidebars are packed with everything else you need to know.

2. Beth Fish Reads

Beth has done lots to improve the layout of her blog recently, and I think it looks great. I love the little touches, like a blog roll that displays the most recently updated blogs, and the slide show of her awards. Some clever little ideas!

3. Cornflower Books

This site is so clean and fresh looking. I also like the way that the book reviews are kept on a separate site to free things up a bit.

4. It’s Dark in the Dark

I was impressed by how many extras there are on this blog. There is a book store, and several other items for sale in the sidebar. It also has updates of his Twitter status  – I really should look into signing up to Twitter some time soon.

5. Ex Libris

I love the way this blog is organised. Everything seems to fit perfectly into it’s space. It looks really professional, and the posts are always really well thought out too!

6. Farm Lane Books

I know this is really cheeky, but I’d love you to have a look at my ‘About Me’ page. I found this great widget that displays where visitors have come from on a revolving globe. I think it is beautiful! I found that it slowed down the loading of the page quite a lot, so I moved it to my ‘About Me’ page, so that it didn’t interfere with normal blogging, but I thought everyone should have a look at least once!

7. Fizzy Thoughts

This site is clean and well organised too. I particularly like the ‘now reading’ slide show. A clear indication of which books I’m currently reading is missing from my blog at the moment, so I’m going to try to change this as soon as possible.

8. Papercuts

An example of how the professionals do it. This looks great, but I’m not sure I’d like all the adverts on my blog. I like the way this site feels as though it is just another page in a much larger site. There are so many different things to go and look at from this one page alone.

9. Poodle Rat

I spotted the header for this blog, and just had to share it! It is really clever the way photo is split into three sections – so beautiful!

10. Tripping Towards Lucidity

I like the way this blog makes full use of both sidebars. It is really easy to see which books have been read recently, or are coming up soon. Everything you’d ever want to search for is easy to see straight away.


There are lots of other great blogs out there, but I didn’t want to carry on listing them for ever!

Writing this post has given me some great ideas for improving my own blog, and I hope to slowly add some of these over the coming weeks.

Have you seen a blog with a really great layout? If so, leave a comment, and tell me which features of it you really love.


Have you heard of a blook before?

I’ve just come across a great new word!


The word was originally used in the 1990s to describe imitation books – things that look like a book, but contain no text. These were often used for advertising, packaging, toys or displays, and examples can be found as far back as the 16th century. The word was formed by shortening the two words: BOOK and LOOK, ie. looks like a book.

Do you think this counts as a blook?

More recently the word has taken on new meanings. It is often used to refer to books which are serialized on blogs. Increasingly people are self-publishing their own books, a chapter at a time on the internet. Readers can then subscribe to the book using their RSS feed.

It can also refer to the reverse of this situation; where people are payed to write books about their blogs.

Blook was short – listed for the Guardian ‘Word of the Year’ Award in 2006.

I’m sure that there will be lots more blooks in years to come, and one day I may get round to reading one!


Have you ever found anything interesting in a book?

I’ve just found £35 inside the dust jacket of a second hand book I bought. They are old notes, not in circulation any more, but hopefully I’ll be able to swap them for useable notes at a bank.

Have you ever found anything interesting inside a book you’ve bought?