Keep Calm and Quote

A good book is a successful recipe composed of many ingredients; likable characters, a gripping story line, beautiful prose, but often what really makes a book stand out for me are its quotes.  Some can be as short as just a few words, some can be paragraphs long but those few simple words can be funny, touching or wise and can remain with us for a lifetime.  A good quote has the ability to guide and inspire, convey our emotions or pick us up when we are feeling down.  A good quote will transcend distance and time, will unite people whatever their wealth, nationality or social class and will become our words when we are not able to find our own.

My favourite quotes will have me going back to a book time and time again, just to look at them and remember what they  have taught me.  Below are some of my favourite quotes, please feel free to share yours in the comments section so they can inspire others.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view….until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”  (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird)

There are so many wonderful quotes in this novel by Harper Lee that I hardly know where to start, I have selected this one as an example as it is a lesson of which I try and remind myself and adhere to.  Lawyer, Attius Finch departs this piece of wisdom to his six year old daughter Scout.  Atticus is explaining to his daughter how we should never judge people from the outside looking in, how we don’t know how another person feels and cannot understand their actions until we have looked at everything from their point of view and reminds us to live with sympathy and understanding for others.  This quote exemplifies the beautiful relationship between Scout and her father, Scout learns more from her father than she does from any other character in this book and so did I, he is able to explain complex matters in a way that a child will understand.  Atticus Finch is one of my favourite literary characters, he is a moral guide to whom we should all aspire to learn from.  Atticus is a character of great integrity who is not afraid of speaking honestly to his children and most importantly, he practices what he preaches.  This is a beautiful passage, one that I have reminded myself of many times in my dealings with all kinds of people on a personal and a professional level.

“One time, when I was very little, I climbed a tree and ate these green, sour apples. My stomach swelled and became hard like a drum, it hurt a lot. Mother said that if I’d just waited for the apples to ripen, I wouldn’t have become sick. So now, whenever I really want something, I try to remember what she said about the apples.” (Khalid Hosseini, The Kite Runner)

Amir is explaining to Sohrab that their move to America may take some time and that it is like “sour apples”.  Patience is a virtue, if we wait, good things will come.  I have always believed that we should never rush into things in life and that the longer we wait for something, the sweeter it is when we get it.

“Eyes are blind, you have to look with the heart” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince)

The Little Prince was one of the first books I owned, it was a beautiful hardback edition of which I was very proud, I still have it and very much look forward to introducing it to my son.  Like all good parables, this book can be enjoyed on many different levels.  Young children will love it as essentially it is a silly, entertaining story but as the reader matures the story becomes much deeper – it is about finding something, losing it and letting go.  It reminds us to never lose sight of what is really important in life.  This particular quote reminds me of a lesson of which I already know but often forget, that which is essential is invisible to the eye.  The things that make a person special cannot be seen merely by the eyes, when you love something or someone that person may appear ordinary to the rest of the world but you know in your heart what it is that makes them special to you.

“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”   (Roald Dahl, The Twits)

This quote is quite possibly my absolute favourite of all time.  Roald Dahl has such a special and unique way of engaging with his readers, young and old alike.  This book is hilariously entertaining. The Twits are horrible, dirty, nasty characters who enjoy torturing animals and children until eventually the animals strike back and exact their revenge.  Mr and Mrs Twit are ugly because of their thoughts, explains the narrator, and they become more and more hideous by the day because of their bad thoughts and behaviour.  About the importance of inner beauty, this particular quote is self-explanatory and is an important life lesson. Be happy and kind and think only good thoughts and that happiness will show on your face.

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Booking Through Thursday – Ideal

I want you to think about your ideal reading experience. Think about the location. (Your bed? Favorite chair? The beach? Indoors or outdoors?). Think about the sounds. (Is there music playing? Happy children playing in the background? Utter silence?) Is there a snack or beverage nearby? Are you alone or with friends/family (presumably being quiet enough for you to read in peace)? What kind of lighting is there? Are you dressed in something ultra-comfy? What’s your position? Curled up? Stretched out?

Now … describe it so that we can all feel exactly how perfect it is … and why

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I’ve just come across the above blog post from another Book Blogger – Booking Through Thursday, and thought it was such a great idea I wanted to share it with you guys, and tell you about my perfect reading experience.

“It’s strange to describe reading a book as a really great experience, but that’s kind of how it felt.”

Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Reading is such a personal experience you know, everyone likes to do it just a little differently!  Me, I can do it anywhere!  In bed, in the bath, even on the toilet – there have been a number of occasions when I have been reading a book that is so good, I’ve taken it with me to the loo, just to read a few more lines!  And being mum to a lively, excitable 2 year old it is often the only place I get any peace!!  But my ideal reading place?  Where would I end up if I could be anywhere in the world right now, reading anything I want?  For me, the answer is quite simple.  I am an al fresco reader and my perfect place to read would be in my own back garden on a hot summers day.  Now, living in England we don’t get too many of those so when they come, they must be savoured.  As soon as the sun starts to peek from behind the clouds all plans are dropped, shopping is cancelled, housework is forgotten, even school and work become obsolete as we all scramble outside in our long forgotten shorts and t-shirts, desperate to feel the warm caress of golden sunshine against our Vitamin D deprived complexions.  I always head to my favourite place in the world, my garden.

My garden is nothing special, it’s not acres and acres of lush green lawns, I don’t have an orchard, or a vineyard or a swimming pool and tennis courts.  It’s rather a humble little space but it is one of which we are very proud.  We have transformed our little patch from a jungle overgrown with poison ivy, weeds and the tangled webs of spiders into an oasis of humble loveliness where flowers gently sway in the breeze and love and beauty flow from every corner.

Today, I am dressed comfortably in shorts, flip flops and a t-shirt, most likely depicting the name of some race or other in which I have proudly participated, my hair is long and I wear it loose and flowing down my back.  I pull out my favourite sun lounger and lie on my front, propped up on my elbows and open my book.  As time goes by, I feel my skin start to prickle slightly with the heat when a gentle breeze rustles through the farmers golden field of corn and creeps up on me causing the hairs on my arms to momentarily stand on end, it whips my hair and causes a pleasant tickle on the back of my neck when just as quickly as it arrived, it is gone and everything is still again,

I glance up intermittently at the peaceful blue sky and watch the luminous, fluffy white clouds float like boats bobbing gently across a glistening blue lake.  Perhaps a butterfly will happen by, drifting on the breeze majestic and beautiful like a floating work of art. I will reach my hand out in the hope that she will land and allow me a closer look at her delicate beauty, but she is elusive and I watch as she glides gracefully over the fence, across the fields and away into the horizon.  Every now and again, I will reach up my hand and wipe away a droplet of cold water that has splashed onto my face as it runs down my cheek, my sons gleeful laughter tinkles like music to my ears as he splashes around his paddling pool. In the distance I hear a bird calling to her mate when the peaceful solitude is broken by the low hum of a lawnmower and the slam of a car door.

As day turns to night the sweet, smoky smell of barbecue reaches my nostrils, I hear the clink of glasses and the chatter and laughter of friends and relatives greeting one another when my stomach growls reminding me it is empty.  My husband has dusted the spider webs off our grill and as the meat spits and sizzles it is time for me to close the pages on my adventure for another day.

Why not share your own perfect reading experience?  Leave a link to your blog in the replies and keep the chain going! xxx

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Around The World In Books – 1. Australia

Summer is the perfect time for a holiday but don’t fret if you haven’t the means to escape to blue skies and golden sands, your imagination can take you just as far as any plane or boat.  One of  the things I love about reading is that you can travel all over the world, without ever having to pack a suitcase and you will never be disappointed with where you end up.  Every town, city, country and continent has a story to tell, a good book can pick you up and place you right in the middle of another place or time.  I have been everywhere with my books, from Germany to China, Japan and beyond.  Most recently, I visited the Australian Outback with Lucy Christopher.

Outback Australia

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

“You saw me, before I saw you”

Sounds intriguing, right?   From the opening line of this stunning, gritty, emotionally gripping novel, I was hooked.

Gemma is 16 when she is kidnapped from Bangkok Airport and taken to the Australian Outback.  Her captor, Ty, has been planning this “trip” for years and when he finally takes his opportunity to snatch Gemma and spirit her away to the wilderness, it is in the hope that he can make her love him, as he loves her.  Written in the form of a letter from Gemma to Ty, this wholly absorbing novel reflects on the months they have spent together under the glare of the brutal, unforgiving Australian sun as Gemma struggles against her stubborn, hot tempered but strangely alluring, captor.

Whilst this novel is marketed as the YA (Young Adult) genre, Gemma is not your stereotypical angst-ridden, whiny, teenage protagonist.  She is strong willed, determined and, even after numerous futile attempts at escape, she never stops trying to survive. Given that the book is written in the form of a letter from Gemma to Ty, you really get to know and understand this character and experience every one of her emotions with her.  I experienced her anger, her panic and her anxiety.  The fear is palpable.  Gemma is quite possibly one of the only literary characters I have felt complete and utter empathy for.  It is her powerful, compelling narrative which pulls you into the story and renders you completely incapable of letting go.

Essentially, Stolen is an investigation into the psychological phenomena that is Stockholm Syndrome.  Lucy Christopher writes in such a way that you as the reader begin to experience symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome yourself.  I found myself sympathising with Ty, trying to understand him and even feeling sorry for him.  Ty is a complex character, a master of emotional manipulation he is damaged having been forcibly removed from his family as a child, and has decided to go back to basics and live off the land according to the teachings of the Aboriginals who helped to raise him.  Ty is a fascinating character, he is not intrinsically evil but without a doubt he is a troubled soul trying to find a place in life where he belongs.  The desert is his “safe place”, a place where he feels at one with the world around him.  Ty is a man on the outside, but on the inside he is a child, lost and lonely in the vast expanse of the desert, and life.

“You told me once of the plants that lie dormant through the drought, that wait, half-dead, deep in the earth. The plants that wait for the rain. You said they’d wait for years, if they had to; that they’d almost kill themselves before they grew again. But as soon as those first drops of water fall, those plants begin to stretch and spread their roots. They travel up through the soil and sand to reach the surface. There’s a chance for them again.” 

Lucy Christopher’s narrative is so descriptive and real, the wild and desolate landscape of The Outback it is almost a character within itself.  So vividly is it described, I could almost feel the unforgiving, intrusive heat of the sun beating down upon me.  The plants are alive, real and breathing underneath Ty and Gemma’s feet.  This is not a book which is filled with edge of your seat action and suspense but for me, the emotional intensity was enough to keep me hooked until the very last page.

The question Lucy Christopher wanted her readers to be asking is did Gemma have Stockholm Syndrome or where her feelings for Ty real?  Did we as the reader, experience symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome or are we seeing the character for how he really is?  Well, you will have to read and decide for yourself.

“Lets face it, you did steal me. But you saved my life too. And somewhere in the middle, you showed me a place so different and beautiful, I can never get it out of my mind. And I can’t get you out of there either. You’re stuck in my brain like my own blood vessels.” 

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