Month: May 2014

ArmchairBEA 2014: Wrap Up

Posted May 31, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 2 Comments

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 The Book Expo of America ends today, which means this is the end for Armchair BEA.I hope everyone had a fun time and have filled your twitter and RSS feed with new blogs to follow (I really miss Google Reader). As always, I went into Armchair BEA with an opportunity to find more male book bloggers and while I found some, I’m still a little sad at how many there are out there. I have neglected some of my book reviews this week and I’m hoping none of my readers are too upset with this fact; I’ve got plenty of good ones coming up next month. Please be sure to check out my other ArmchairBEA posts, thanks for great event.

Other ArmchairBEA 2014 posts

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Monthly Review – May 2014

Posted May 31, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 2 Comments

2998May has been a big month. Firstly, I participated in a 24-hour read-a-thon at the end of April, which put my very behind in my reviewing. I think I went into May with eleven reviews I still needed to write; I know the 24-hour read-a-thon was not the sole reason to be so far behind. I get on a roll with my reading and it is much more fun reading than writing reviews. Also in this month I wrote my book blogging manifesto, which resulted in big changes for myself. I have since started writing every day and this has caused an increase in blog posts. Finally there was Armchair BEA, which I participated in for the third year. All in all, a great month for blogging.

Looking at the Literary Exploration book club, we tackled children’s literature and read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden. I loved this book, not because it was children’s literature but what it did with the Gothic, the psychological and The Romantic. I’m glad we finally took on children’s literature and look forward to when I do it again. As a reminder next month we are moving onto young adult literature and reading Divergent by Veronica Roth and I’m not looking forward to it but will be reading.

This month has not only been a good month for blogging but also a decent month for reading. I completed 12 books this month and highlights include, not only The Secret Garden but also Young Romantics by Daisy Hay, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman and The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh. However, the book that stuck with me the most was How To Talk To A Widower by Jonathan Tropper, however my review won’t be out for another few days.

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ArmchairBEA 2014: Topic of Choice & Middle Grade/Young Adult

Posted May 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 35 Comments

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 Armchair BEA is starting to come to an end; it has been a fun experience and I hope you enjoyed visiting all the blogs. Today’s topic is Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction, plus a free choice. I’m not actually sure what to say about Young Adult fiction, it seems like a popular choice and I think the book blogging community have a strong handle on this genre. I’m old and cranky, so I would say there are too many blogs about young adult fiction. However Middle Grade literature doesn’t seem to get the same amount of attention. I am trying to read more children’s classics, I think my blog only has Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and now The Secret Garden on it. I know it is a genre I should put a little more focus on, so I’m hoping people will leave me recommendations in the comments below.

For the free topic, I had to think about what to talk about, the concept of ‘honest’ reviews. As a book blogger we are often sent books in exchange for an honest review but I very rarely see negative reviews. As book bloggers, are we giving honest reviews if we only share the books we like? I know we tend to abandon books that were not working but do we talk about these books on our blogs as well? I’m not accusing people of anything here; I just want the book blogging community to think about the topic. I enjoy negative reviews, I think they are fun to read and write but I still think we need to be constructive and non-aggressive about them.

If there is nothing else, consider this; your book blog is a reflection of your taste in books. How can people truly understand what your tastes are really like if they don’t know why a book doesn’t work for you. I’m hoping to get plenty of response from people telling me they do write negative reviews. I hope we all do, we can’t love every book and we sometimes need to discuss why we don’t like a book. If you don’t write negative reviews, try it, it can be fun. If you still don’t like to write them, let me know why.

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Button by Sarah of Puss Reboots


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Posted May 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Childrens, Classic / 10 Comments

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettTitle: The Secret Garden (Goodreads)
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1911
Pages: 210
Genres: Childrens, Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

“Mistress Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And marigolds all in a row.”

I admit that when it comes to children’s literature, I’ve been a little slack. So much for the literary explorer, this blog only has two books review that would fit the genre. One being the wonderful Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which I read a long time ago and absolutely loved, the second was The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe. I’ve only read two children’s books for this blog. I was happy to see that the Literary Exploration Book Club on Goodreads (it’s a great group, join it if you want to try different genres) decided that it was about time we did a children’s book. There were some great nominations for this poll, including Charlotte’s Web, Pinocchio, Wonder but it all came down to a battle between The Wind in the Willows and The Secret Garden. I have very vague memories of The Secret Garden; I know it had adventure, a secret garden and it was centred on a young girl.

What I got when I started reading this novel was something truly amazing. It has a nice blend of the Gothic and Romantic ideology and, you know me, that is the type of novel that I crave. The story follows a young girl who is sent to live with her mysterious uncle when her parents died from cholera. It was established from the very first line that “everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen”. We get a sense from that line that no one likes her and add the fact that she grow up in India with servants we know she was an over privileged brat of a child. This is all from the first chapter, so I knew from the start that I was reading a children’s novel that was going to be very different to the ones of its time. The whole idea of the Victorian girl, the girl that is always well behaved and helpful in the kitchen and is spending her time getting educated and prepared for marriage was not going to play any part in The Secret Garden, in fact it was more likely to be similar to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island in the sense that we have a child out for adventure.

Now, I’ve stated that there are elements of the Gothic and the Romantic in this novel so let me just expand on that real briefly. Mary was a sickly child when she came to Misselthwaite manor; in fact she was described in the first paragraph to have “a little thin face and a little thin body, thin light hair and a sour expression. Her hair was yellow, and her face was yellow because she had been born in India and had always been ill in one way or another.” Then when you get to chapter 11 you hear her say “’I’m growing fatter,’ said Mary, ‘and I’m growing stronger. I used always to be tired. When I dig I’m not tired at all. I like to smell the earth when it’s turned up.’” All this has been a result of communing with nature, the very essence of the Romantic Movement.

Now when it comes to the Gothic you obviously have the big manor on the moors with all the secrets housed within it. You can see the typical gothic tropes through out The Secret Garden, Mary often hearing mysterious cries in the house and has been told it is just the wind. The whole house and even the garden has secrets and it is this that makes up the architecture for the gothic within this novel. However you can take it one step further, I viewed Misselthwaite manor as a symbol of Mary’s psyche. All those locked rooms hiding the secrets are representative of the psychological damage Mary has been through and slowly has to deal with.

There are so many little elements you can study within this novel. I kept looking at the similarities between characters and tried to understand what would Frances Hodgson Burnett wanted to say. Look at the similarities between Mary and the robin; both orphans, both find refuge in the secret gardens and seeking friendship. Then you can compare the similarities between Mary and Colin; both ten years old, sickly, neglected and over privileged, spoiled little children. I spent a lot of time wondering the importance behind the parallel lives but in the end have just decided that Burnett did this to emphasise the themes throughout this classic children’s novel.

The major theme that I believe comes through The Secret Garden is the importance between friendship and companionship (with Mary and Colin or even the robin). The Christian Scientist idea of disease not being a product of the body but of negative thinking seems to come to mind when I think about this theme. Frances Hodgson Burnett had a keen interest in the Christian Science movement (as well as Spiritualism and Theosophy in general) which developed before she began writing The Secret Garden.

You also have the theme that suggests an importance of being outdoors; the notion of getting out of the house and exercising being healthy for young children runs throughout the novel. This could also been accredited to a Christian Scientist ideology or more a product from the changing times where fresh air and exercise for children have been promoted. There is the Romantic Movement that suggests the importance of communing with nature, which was a backlash against an emphasis on the enlightenment and scientific. The movement wanted to highlight the glory, beauty and power of the natural world. Both Christian Scientists and The Romantics believe the natural world to be a source of healthy thinking, emotions and ideas.

In the end, this book is great and a joy to read, I was wondering how so many people enjoyed the book when I feel like too many people get put off by unlikeable characters. Both Mary and Colin where the most disagreeable children (not entirely true but close) and I’m perplexed, I feel like people only hate a book with unlikeable characters when it suits them and looking for an excuse. Anyway I’m not going to go into that. Analysing The Secret Garden closely, I did wonder if this novel came off too preachy but I enjoyed it none the less. It has inspired me to read some more children’s classics but I’m not sure which one I’ll read next.


ArmchairBEA 2014: Giveaways & Beyond the Borders

Posted May 29, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 43 Comments

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Day four and I hope everyone is having a lot of fun with Armchair BEA; today’s topics are Beyond the Borders and Giveaways. I’m excited to talk about going beyond the borders. I think we all need to step out of our comfort zone and experience books from different genres, countries and cultures. Literature opens new worlds from the comfort of our bed (or wherever you like to read). I’m a big believer of trying out translated fiction and books from different countries, but I will admit that sometimes I’m not doing this as often as I like. We can experience different lives and situations thanks to literature, we learn about other cultures and hopefully what mistakes not to make. The power of literature is amazing and I’m so glad I discovered reading.

However for the giveaway I thought I would do something slightly different. I’m going to give away a book that is not just powerful and moving but also one that will take people out of their comfort zones. This is not only a translated piece from another country (Germany), but it is also one that was written in the 18th century. This book influenced the Romantic Movement; it is a highly emotional love triangle that is also semi-autobiographical. If you hadn’t guessed it by now, I’m talking about Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s classic novella The Sorrows of Young Werther. If you are interested, check out my review here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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ArmchairBEA 2014: Expanding Blogging Horizons & Novellas/Short Stories

Posted May 28, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 24 Comments

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 We are back for day three and today’s topic is Expanding Blogging Horizons and Novellas/Short Stories. So, let’s kick off with Expanding Blogging Horizons. This is a topic I think a lot about; what will I be doing in the future? I would like to think that my blog will still be going but I’m always looking for ways to evolve and improve. I want to be seen as a book critic and to do that, I need to work towards improving myself; see my book blogging manifesto for information about how I plan to do this.

I also need to think about how blogging is changing and what I can do to continue to make my own blog interesting and exciting. I’m not sure if I’m ever going to be involved in a podcast, but I love the idea. I think a good podcast needs two or more people that interact well (I’m too introverted) and has differing opinions (I have that). There is also vlogging or the terrible name ‘book tube’, I’m not bubbly or interesting enough to ever consider that option, but I hope to see more vloggers out there that do something other than YA.

I’m not sure what the future holds, but I like to think there will always be a place for book bloggers; I would love to see more male book bloggers and some diversity. I tend to worry when everyone is reading the same books, almost makes me not want to read that book. I understand new books are always appealing and we all get excited when we receive a book in the mail that looks great. I guess I worry about all the books that get missed. Life is short and we all have too many books to read, better get back to it.

As for novellas and short stories, I’m trying to make an effort to read more short story collections but I’m often not too sure how to review them. If all the stories are a little different then writing a very general view can be difficult.  Novellas are easier and I love novellas, there are so many great ones out there that come to mind.

Great novella examples

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Button by Sarah of Puss Reboots


ArmchairBEA 2014: Author Interaction & More Than Just Words

Posted May 27, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 29 Comments

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Day two here at Armchair BEA and we are talking author interaction & more than just words. Where I live we tend not to get many authors up, but when we do, I often try and catch their readings, book signings or talks. It can be difficult when they are authors that you’ve never read or have no interest in reading; I want to be supportive of the authors that do come to this city but I also don’t want to be stuck buying books I don’t plan to read.

I’ve had some great experiences with authors, from hanging out with them at a cocktail party (Trudi Canavan, Rachel Caine and Felicia Day), to having great conversations them on Twitter (I still get excited when Megan Abbott replies to a tweet or Gary Shteyngart favourites a tweet) to awkward book signings (I’m thinking about the time Nick Earls signed a book ‘My apologises for not being Russian and long dead’). Some authors know how to interact to the public and I have to respect them.

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However there is the other side of the pendulum, the authors that should just get off social networking or take a leaf from J.D. Salinger’s book and avoid all people. Authors need to remember and accept the fact that not all readers are going to enjoy their books. I write negative reviews and I do try to be constructive when I do so but authors can get so defensive and venomous towards negative feedback that they should stop reading their reviews. I’m not just talking about personal experience, I’m talking about comments you see on Twitter or the bullying on Goodreads. I do understand this can be an issue for reviewers as well but I tend to think if you can’t handle negative feedback (this goes for reviewers too) then stay away from the internet.  I’ll end my rant there.

Moving on to the topic of more than just words, where I want to discuss a few things. Firstly audiobooks (as long as they are unabridged) counts as reading. Just because you are getting a book read to you doesn’t mean you are not experiencing it. Sure an audiobook is a completely different experience but I think it does not matter that the listener has not read the book. Our brains are wonderful and complex things, I think to read the book aloud in my head and an audio book is similar but someone else reading it. I still process it in similar ways and retention levels tend to be the same (for me anyway). I listen to a lot of audiobooks; mainly become I work on a computer all day with headphones in. Sometimes music is good, but I find audiobooks (especially when it comes to non-fiction and hard novels) can be a great way to experience a book while working.

Now there is the concept of graphic novels, I’ve seen people really take them on board and others avoid them at all cost. For those who do avoid graphic novels I’d love to know why. I worry people get the wrong idea about graphic novels and think they are all about superheroes with powers, but there are some great ones out there. If you want some recommendations check out my post where I suggest five different graphic novels to try that don’t feature super heroes.

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Button by Sarah of Puss Reboots


Ten Books I Read to be more Pretentious

Posted May 27, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top Ten Tuesday / 16 Comments

toptentuesdayIt’s Tuesday again which means time for another round of Top Ten Tuesday; I like joining in on this meme because I have a set topic to work with. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: A free choice, which means I can pick my own topic. I love books and I have to admit that sometimes I pick up a book to make more of a book snob. I like to think it as increasing my pretentious levels, however dispite picking on books for this reason, I found that I enjoyed most of them; once I spent a lot of time working these novels out. I thought I might post ten book I picked up to increase my pretentious levels.


ArmchairBEA 2014: Introduction and Literature

Posted May 26, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 30 Comments

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This is my third year participating in the Armchair BEA event. While I am not an American I do like the opportunity to join with book bloggers around the world and talk about our favourite subject, books. I am sure most people know already but just in case; BEA is the Book Expo of America, held in New York, where people in the book industry of America get to be enticed with new books from publishers. There is an event now known as BookCon where book lovers can experience the same enticement, however they won’t get any diversity. Putting aside the problems with BookCon, I’m pleased to join all the fun with Armchair BEA. This is a virtual conference for the book bloggers that can’t make it to BEA. Over the next few days I will be joining in with this event and their daily blog post topic suggestions.

For the past two years I’ve been enjoying this event, it is a great way to meet new bloggers and show off your own book blog. As this is the first day of Armchair BEA I probably should move on to the topics for the day. Today we are introducing ourselves and talking about my favourite topic…literature. As a way of introduction Armchair BEA has provided ten questions and asks everyone to pick their favourite five and answer them.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from?

My name is Michael, I hail from North Queensland in Australia and I only became a reader in 2009. I started blogging not long after that over at Knowledge Lost as a way to sort my thoughts and explain what I had learnt along the way. I know I need to spend more time on that blog and I’m hoping to get back into it now that I’m forcing myself to write every day. I started Literary Exploration as a way to document my book journey and soon discovered I’m very passionate about books and book blogging. There is one thing I hate about book blogging but for the most part I really enjoy the whole experience.

Describe your blog in just one sentence. Then, list your social details — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. — so we can connect more online.

Literary Exploration is documentation of my bookish journey as I explore literature in all its forms.

You can normally find me on twitter: @knowledgelost or my blog @litexploration as well as Facebook, Instagram, sometimes Tumblr and Pinterest. I’m also very active on Goodreads (also check out the Literary Exploration Book Club), Literally and Booklikes.

What was your favourite book read last year? What’s your favourite book so far this year?

Highlights of 2013 include;

For more books check out my best of 2013 post

Highlights of 2014 (so far) include;

What is your favourite blogging resource?

One of the best investments I’ve made for my blog is the Ultimate Book Blogging Plugin. This one plugin has saved me a lot of time and makes my life so much easier. I can collect a lot of relevant information thanks to this plugin and it automatically updates my review index. It has a lot of cool features and I highly recommend it to all book bloggers. Of course you’ll all have to move to a self-hosted WordPress platform but that is a good idea anyway.

Spread the love by naming your favourite book blogs:

I’m always happy to recommend some great book blogs; here are some that I’m always happy to see updates from;

Time now to look at that all important topic of Literature: I’m a bit of a pretentious reader, so I’m always interested in reading books that are considered high literature. I’ve even set myself a life goal of reading the entire 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die List, I might even try to review them all too. I find myself drawn to literary more as I become a better reader; there is something about the prose and structure that stands out. As a literary explorer I try not to entrench myself in just one genre, but luckily there is plenty of great literary genre novels out there. I don’t have to sacrifice quality in order to read genre fiction.

However there are so many classics out there that I still have to read and I feel bad for not having read books like Middlemarch, The Brothers Karamazov, The Woman in White, The House of Mirth and so on. I want to catch up on all these great novels and I think classics are an essential part of the reading journey. I recommend every reader try to read more classics and to help you along, I suggest joining something like The Classics Club is a great way to challenge yourself to more classics. I want to take to the conversation to the comments but I’d like to ask some questions of the readers to help the conversation along;

  • What is your favourite literary novel (in any genre)?
  • Which classic would you like to read but are dreading?
  • What genre do you spend most of you time reading?
  • What genres tend to scare you?
  • Finally, are there classics that just seem too hard and why?

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Button by Sarah of Puss Reboots


My Next Reading Project – Middlemarch

Posted May 25, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 8 Comments

I’ve often said that big books scare me and I still think that is true but there are exceptions. I’ve found that if I have a reading project and slowly work through a big novel, I not only finish the novel but also tend to enjoy the experience. I’ve done a few reading projects in the past, including making my way through Infinite Jest, which took a few months and increased my pretentious level. More recently I completed War and Peace; I think that took about five months to complete but well worth it.

When I finish university for the semester I’m planning another reading project, this time for novel that isn’t as big as Infinite Jest and War and Peace. This time I’m going to tackle Middlemarch by George Eliot beginning in June. Middlemarch is a social critique so I’m going to have to get understand the historical and cultural context. To do this I’m going to try using a reading guide; I’ve never used one before but I think it is time I put them to the test. After asking around, I’ve settled on the reading guide Eliot’s Middlemarch by Josie Billington, which is part of the Continuum Reader’s Guides series.

I’m not sure what to expect but I’m looking forward to reading Middlemarch; I’ve heard some great things about this novel and I’m sure I’ll be a very proud man when I complete it. I am not entirely sure what to expect but I’m excited for the ride. Have people had as much success with reading projects as I have? I think they can be very useful for those big bricks. I like to slowly take my time and spend months chipping away at a novel like this; it allows me time to process in between. Like War and Peace, Middlemarch was originally published as a serial, so I suspect that I’ll get some repeated information, which is useful when reading a novel so slowly. I’m looking forward to this project and I hope the reading guide helps.