A blog by Nikki Dudley about the gaps in everyday life...


Friday, 5 December 2014

Prison book ban ruled unlawful by High Court

I'm very happy to hear that prisoners will still be able to receive books in parcels.

Here is the BBC story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30344867

I think books have a real ability to teach and enlighten, not only entertain, and not allowing prisoners and their families to share this priviledge seemed ridiculous to me. As Philip Pullman said, "The ban on sending prisoners books seemed to me strikingly unjust and inhumane. Reading should be a right not a privilege to be withheld or allowed graciously by Her Majesty's government, or anyone else."

In Brazil, some inmates were even offered a "Redemption through Reading" programme which allowed inmates to cut four days off their sentence for every book they read. The maximum they could get off in a year was 48 days and they were required to write an essay on the books, which were judged by a panel. Interesting idea. Could reading programmes like this be used in other countries and certain prison settings or is that a step too far?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Big Green Bookshop (Wood Green) now stock Ellipsis and other books by small presses!

Hi everyone,

The lovely people over at Big Green Bookshop are now stocking books published by small presses. They are a lovely independent bookshop who are prolific on social networking and seem like a generally lovely bunch. They have started a new initiative to give small presses a bit more exposure so have opened up a whole shelf just for this purpose.

In other good news, one of those books they are now selling is Ellipsis! If you have a look in the below photo, you can see Ellipsis on the second to top shelf, looking all shiny and lovely.

So, if you like independent books and independent bookshops, I suggest you get yourself down there! And if you still haven't bought Ellipsis yet, all the more reason!

Seriously though, small presses have a hard time getting their books on the shelves at most bookshops so Big Green Bookshop are offering some great exposure and support for the little people. Please do the same if you can.

Thanks as always. Read well, my friends.

Latest poem - Stop the bus

Stop the bus

stopping the bus, don’t ask me
to lose you like the light in autumn, steadily and slowly
feeling each tone. Then. /a curtain/
The bus is going on and on and oh, don’t…
1947 will never be the same without you if you
swallow our love because nothing else sticks
in your throat.

“No, no,” you said. I laughed.

But the bus screeched at me when the phone rang rang / I ran
echoes of what we were, then, then and
the lies are coming to get us, a net that only one of us
escapes – “colours lie to me” – colours lie.

Don’t ask me to stop, the bus will run over
everything (did I love you hard? Don’t ask
Questions, question Answers, keep the ghosts
under love and key. Love me under
lonely keys [will keep them out].

Throw yourself out of my scene? Throw your shell out to
the fishes, to the fixes but/// the bug/// has wiped
Us clean, like polished nails, like polished nails we pierce
your skin. NO MORE.

The bus stopping but I
said no. I said keep your papery hand where I can see / keep your
papery heart where I can be. If my heart beats it beats me up, stop
the bus, stop the bus. Stop. The. Bus. Stop.

Doors open and chest caves. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood) - 4/5

I was given this book as a birthday present in July. It's a book I've wanted to read for many years but every time I've picked it up in the bookshop, the first chapter didn't grab me. Upon opening it again after my birthday, I can't say it grabbed me again, which is why I'm glad it was a present and I had an obligation to keep reading! I would never refuse a birthday book!

I'm so glad I persevered. The Handmaid's Tale isn't an easy book. The world takes a while to make sense and even when you think you understand it, you're still left hanging in a strange limbo between what life is like now and how the future is portrayed in the book. The gap between then and now is so vast but at the same time, completely believable. In fact, this book scared me. It scared me that it wouldn't take much to bring down our society now and for something like this to happen.

The Handmaid's Tale (with some spoilers now so don't read this if you want to read the book later) focuses on a woman called Offred. The names comes from the person she is assigned to, a commander, therefore she is 'Of Fred'. Women in the book have assigned roles; some of them are wives with apparent power, some of them are basically maids or cooks, some of them (like Offred) are there for reproduction. What was interesting about Offred was that she remembered what life was like before the new system was put in place, she even had a husband and a child, and this part of her torments her. If she hadn't known any better, she would accept the system. The brainwashing she has been put through works on many levels but with her past, she can't leave it all behind that easily.

Offred does her job and acts as she should for a large portion of the book. There are disturbing parts where Atwood describes the reproduction ritual, basically the commander having sex with Offred while she lies on top of his wife, Serena Joy. It is kind of like a very unerotic threesome and it's not that nice to read or think about. But again, the whole concept isn't that far-fetched in some ways. The system is functional and geared towards creating a better future. Anyone who stands in it's way is hunted, tried publicly, and executed by various means.

What's interesting in this book too is the rebellion. It sneaks up on you in various characters, characters you wouldn't expect sometimes, and other times the most rebellious characters are somehow caged despite of it.

My favourite characters were Offred of course, but also Nick. He seemed to have some compassion which felt sincere, whereas I always thought that the commander was kind of patronising and fake, despite apparently wanting to educate Offred and offer her things she wouldn't usually be allowed. However, there is ambiguity at the end, including over Nick, and although I have my suspicions, I'm still not quite sure what to believe.

A quick note on the writing: I found Atwood's style sparser than I thought I would. The descriptions were good though and I liked how she dealt with the jumps in time and conversations from the past with key characters. 

One thing I do know is that this book deserves a read, even if it doesn't draw you in immediately. It's a scary and realistic novel, with a narrator who makes you feel sad and hopeful all at once. I just hope for all of our sakes that Atwood's vision never becomes a reality!

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Unwind Tetralogy by Neal Shusterman

 Last year, I discovered a trilogy, soon to be a tetralogy, which kept me turning the pages thick and fast. On the cover, it stated 'Before The Hunger Games, there was... Unwind' and on the two subsequent books, 'More chilling than The Hunger Games'. This is not what made me read the books. However, I have to agree that I enjoyed these books more than The Hunger Games. I thought the characters were more gripping and the books written better in general, although this is no slight against Suzanne Collins, who has done very well for herself and written a successful series. I just prefer this one!

Unwind is a fascinating premise. Dubbed as 'science fiction', I think the series are also thrillers, adventure and drama books all wrapped into one. The basic premise is this: in the future, after after a civil war (known as the Second Civil War or the Heartland War), fought over abortion, a compromise was reached. This compromise allows parents to sign an order to have their children aged between 13-18 'unwound', in other words taken to 'harvest camps' and their body parts harvested for the use of others. In this sense, nearly 100% of the body is 'used' and lived on in others, therefore the children don't technically 'die'. Children under 13 can also be 'storked', which means that they can be left outside someone's house if they're unwanted and if no one sees the person dumping the baby, the family who find the baby must take care of it.

Still with me? Okay, it takes a little a few pages and perhaps a few chapters to really immerse yourself in the idea fully. I kept thinking, why would parents choose to do that, no matter how bad their kids are? Although, Shusterman managed to convince me with his characters and the situations they found themselves in. Connor was the hardest for me to understand as his parents signed the order voluntarily, mainly due to his bad behaviour, which he unwittingly discovers before he's to be collected (then harvested) and decides to go AWOL. Risa, an orphan who is to be unwound because of cuts in funding and a lack of a 'worth' in the eyes of the state, was easier to understand. Lev, the youngest character, is a 'tithe', someone born to be sacrificed because of religious reasons. Lev is a true believer in his fate, whereas the others want to fight against it.

What follows is an intriguing clash of personalities and beliefs, all trying to find the best solution for themselves. What it develops into throughout the trilogy is an examination of the morals in society, a fight between 'good and evil' with the goalposts always moving, deep bonds being formed and lost, and a whole lot of questions. What is so gripping about it is that the premise only becomes more and more believeable as time goes on, and you find yourself worrying that this could be reality in thirty plus year's time! The reason I also liked this series so much (and the reason I'm really excited about the final part) is that I loved the characters with their imperfections, insecurities, pasts, indecision etc...

I recommend this series to everyone who enjoys an exciting story with a good dose of moral questions and surprises. I just hope the ending is just as good as the rest, hopefully released this year!

You can visit Neal Shusterman's site for more information about him and his books.

This tetralogy isn't set in the UK but this is a post linked to #UKYA's April Extravaganza!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

UKYA April Extravaganza!

Hi all,

In April, the website UKYA, who promote young adult books set in the UK, are doing a special event! Details are yet to be revealed but it's being called April Extravaganza!

As part of this event, myself and other bloggers are being asked to post a blog on April 19th. In preparation for this, I'm going to be writing about my favourite YA books and my thoughts about YA in the build up to this day.

To start things off, I'm going to list my top twelve favourite YA books or series (if it's too hard to choose one of the series!) Let me know if you agree or if you can recommend others for me!

1) Noughts and Crosses trilogy by Malorie Blackman
2) Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness
3) Unwind trilogy by Neal Shusterman
4) The Fault in our Stars by John Green
5) Entangled by Cat Clarke
6) The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
7) I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
8) Berserk by Ally Kennen
9) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
10) Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
11) Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
12) I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Okay, that was tough, and I have a lot more I could add! In the coming month or so, I'll put up some reviews and more thoughts about YA. For now, join the conversation! And support YA, some of the best writing out there today!

Find out more about UKYA at: http://projectukya.blogspot.co.uk/

Join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook with hashtags #AprilExtravaganza and #UKYADay

Saturday, 1 March 2014

One of my reviews featured on Morgen Bailey's website

Hi all,

my review of 'He Died with His Eyes Open' (Factory 1) by Derek Raymond can be viewed on the Morgen Bailey website: http://wp.me/p18Ztn-8uE

Great book - check it out!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Hundred Book Challenge

Recently, David Rain, a lecturer and writer, said that he always asked his students three questions. 1) Why do you want to be a writer? 2) How often do you write? 3) What do you read?

His original post can be viewed here: http://davidrain.net/the-hundred-book-challenge/

Although I don't agree with all of his thoughts, I found his challenge interesting. He proposed that he though his students, and all wannabe writers, should have a list of 100 books that they love. His only criteria was that you could only list one book by each author.

I decided to make my list of 100 books. I did try to keep to David's criteria, but on a few occasions, I decided to bend the rules with a few books/authors I absolutely love! My main criteria for the rest of the list was 1) books I have read more than once, 2) books that have stuck in my mind and, 3) books that have changed my thinking in some way.

So, with no further ado, here's my list! (By no means definitive and I may have forgotten a few - I have read a lot of books!)

1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
2. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
3. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
5. Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago
6. Now You're One of Us by Asa Nonami
7. Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
8. The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall
9. The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe
10. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
11. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
12. Regeneration by Pat Barker
13. Howl and other poems by Allen Ginsberg
14. Selected poems by John Keats
15. Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov
16. More Beer by Jakob Arjouni
17. Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith
18. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
19. The House of Sleep by Jonathon Coe
20. Zygal: A book of mysteries and translations by bp nichol
21. Mean Time by Carol Ann Duffy
22. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
23. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
24. Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
25. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
26. Strangers by Taichi Yamada
27. Out of Everywhere: Linguistically Innovative Poetry by Women in North America & the UK
28. John Dies at the End by David Wong
29. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
30. Matilda by Roald Dahl
31. Oi! Get off our train by John Burningham
32. The Sad Book by Michael Rosen
33. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
34. Othello by William Shakespeare
35. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
36. If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by John McGregor
38. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
39. Before I go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
40. Veronica Decides to Die by Paolo Coelho
41. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
42. The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe
43. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
44. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
45. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
46. The Midnight Club by Christopher Pike
47. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
48. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
49. Beloved by Toni Morrison
50. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
51. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
52. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
53. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
54. The 3:15 Experiment by Lee Ann Brown, Danika Dinsmore, Jen Hofer, and Bernadette Mayer
55. Selected poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
56. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sherlock Holmes
57. Seven Pages Missing by Steve McCaffery
58. The Fluxus Experience by Hannah Higgins
59. Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolfe
60. He Died with his Eyes Open by Derek Raymond
61. Hunting Unicorns by Bella Pollen
62. The Collector by John Fowles
63. Once by Morris Gleitzman
64. Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
65. The Ferris Wheel by Frederick Morel
66. The Good Thief’s Guide to Berlin by Chris Ewan
67. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
68. Every Day by David Levithan
69. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
70. Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
71. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
72. Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
73. Vox by Nicholson Baker
74. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
75.  The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
76. The Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend
77. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
78. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
79. Divergent by Veronica Roth
80. Legend by Marie Lu
81. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg
82. Paradise Lost by John Milton
83. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
84. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
85. No and Me by Delphine de Vegan
86. Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa
87. Crossfire by Miyuki Miyabe
88. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
89. Junk by Melvin Burgess
90. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
91. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
92. Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos
93. The Nothing Man by Jim Thompson
94. Naoko by Keigo Higashino
95. Transgressions by Sarah Dunant
96. Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein
97. A Matter of Death and Life by Andrey Kurkov
98. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
99. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
100. Someone’s in the House by Samuel Bonner


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