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Getting to know you

Here's a well known fact: it is only a very lucky, hard working few that get to make their blog their business. Most of us simply try very hard, every day, to attain that dream, while arranging our time around working in "regular" jobs and other life demands.

So, I would like to dedicate a post to those who have enviable time management, tonnes of commitment and a LOT of good stuff to say!

If you are a blogger with more than just a blog on your plate - perhaps you work, have kids, care for a demanding pet... - I want to hear from you! Let's celebrate the joy of blogging, but also recognize that we are more than our blogs. Because, as much as we love the little bit of the web we occupy, we also offer a lot to the world outside of our online communities too.

So I want to know: Where you blog and what you do when you're not blogging, and whether what you do helps your blog, or whether your blog helps you do more!

I'll kick things off, but I want to hear from you, lovely readers! Who are you when you aren't blogging?



More Than Mab
Obviously, I write for this here blog: Mabismab.com, and for that, a lot of my spare time is spent reading in order to have some content for it! But did you know I am also a marketing designer? I have worked in design since leaving college (didn't go to Uni - *gasp*) and in the last 2 years I have focused my skills towards marketing; designing emails, graphically supporting campaigns, providing online content, website design and branding skills.
 All of this, it turns out, has also gone a long way to supporting my blog, and I am now able to offer blog design services to help others. So a lot of my time is also spent creating pretty things for people, too!
I love my blog, but I also love having a job that allows me to be visually creative whereas blogging is more about verbal expression.

So, what about you? Tell me where you blog, and what you do away from it in the comments below. I can't wait to know more about you!
5

Geek Girl - review

“Nobody hopped into a wardrobe to find Narnia; they hopped in, thinking it was just a wardrobe. They didn't climb up the Faraway Tree, knowing it was a Faraway Tree; they thought it was just a really big tree. Harry Potter thought he was a normal boy; Mary Poppins was supposed to be a regular nanny. It's the first and only rule. Magic comes when you're not looking for it.”

Title: Geek Girl
Author: Holly Smale

Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Source: Purchased from Kindle Store
Buy it: Here  

Synopsis

Harriet is a geek. She likes to watch documentaries about whale migration, she knows - and uses - the Latin name for ants and, besides, "GEEK" is scrawled across her school bag in red ink for all to see. She has one friend: her Best Friend Nat, one stalker: Fellow geek, Toby, and a whole lot of people who hate her. She knows, because she keeps a record on a list in her pocket at all times.
When Harriet is dragged to The Clothes Show Live by aspiring model Nat, she expects it to be a disaster, and that's exactly what it is. Until Harriet is spotted by a prolific modelling agency. As Harriet tries to transform her image, her life begins spiraling out of control. And that's not to mention the super-hot "lion boy" she met under a table.

Review

Ok, I'll get this out of the way from the start: I have to admit I felt a little bit divided in my opinion about Geek Girl for a lot of the book. I wanted so much to love it. So many people I respect love it, surely I would love it too? Unfortunately I can't admit to "love" but I did end up liking it. It just took a while to get there...

I instantly liked the main characters - they had such endearing qualities: Nat's loyalty, Toby's unabashed devotion, Harriet's obliviousness to her effect on people... their dialogue was funny and very true to life. It took me back to when I was 15! It was easy to align myself with the group of "misfits" as they reminded me a lot of my own time at school. I think everyone will find that in one of these three characters. All of them, although very stereotyped, are very relatable.
I was initially a little reserved about my affection for Toby's character. A teenage stalker isn't really a thing that should be enjoyed - but his comedic value is perfect towards the end. I found that when I stopped taking things so seriously, I enjoyed Geek Girl a lot more.

However, as much as I loved the teenage characters, I cannot say the same about the adults. I found them quite over-bearing, their character traits forced and, well, annoying. I was skipping entire paragraphs of Wilbur's dialogue - one more sickly-sweet nickname and I was going to flip - I found myself thinking "seriously?" more often than not in relation to Harriet's dad, having never encountered a real adult so absolutely childlike as he, and the portrayal of Annabel as a PMT b****-monster from Hell had me grinding my teeth.
But, having said that, it was nice to see a positive and loving relationship between Harriet and her step mother... For all the stereotypes and cliches this book makes use of for it's humour, I'm glad to see the "evil step-mum" was left out.

The story itself is not complex or fast paced, which was a tiny bit disappointing, but it does set a nice platform on which to explore a few teenage concerns: friendship, loyalty, honesty, standing up to bullies, acceptance and identity. And with all that going on, who needs a lot of action? The emotions are centre stage in this book and when you are positioned so well with the protagonist, the feelings are affecting and give a nice warming sensation of happiness at their resolution.


It isn't until the end of the book, however - after the narrative, in fact - that my opinion of Geek Girl found a settling place. I read the Author Profile and instantly felt like I "understood" Geek Girl more. Holly Smale it seems, has written from experience. So perhaps Wilburs do exist, in some form? Perhaps there are parents out there having more tantrums than their own children in the modelling world? Maybe Holly is, in some way, Harriet. Of course, I don't know any of this for sure, but I am glad the author profile was included, and that it was written in a way just as readable as the story itself. I feel it really added something more to the experience of the book.

Overall

Although I personally found Geek Girl a bit too "light reading" for me (I like inner turmoil, anguish and dark places!), I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone around the ages of 11-18 looking for a quick and easy read. It has some great characters, a nice message and a really enjoyable and humourous style. I think a lot of my friends would have loved this book when we were in school!

Score 
★★★

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Feature and Follow Friday: Favourite childhood picture books



Feature and Follow is a meme hosted by Parajunkie and Alison Can Read - Go have a look at their blogs! Each week there is a new bookish questions to answer. This week's question is:

What were some of your favourite picture books as a kid? If you have kids, what are your favourites to read to them?

I can tell this is going to lead to some very cute answers :) Some of my favourite picture books as a kid were actually poetry books, but here are a few of my fave stories:

Percy the Park Keeper. If you didn't have the Nick Butterworth audio book to accompany it, I pity you ;)


The Jolly Pocket Postman. Because you got to use a magnifying glass across the images to find secret messages!


What were your favourite picture books? Have you read any of the the above?

PS. Please follow via Bloglovin' or email if you are hopping and subscribing :) Thanks! 
14

Divergent - review

“Becoming fearless isn't the point. That's impossible. It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: Harper Collins
Buy it: On Amazon


 


Synopsis

Beatrice (Tris) Prior lives in a world divided by virtues. Factions are communities created to overcome the traits of humanity that destroyed previous society and so Candor exists to overcome lies, Abnegation to overcome selfishness, Dauntless to overcome cowardice, Amity to overcome unrest, and Erudite to overcome ignorance. On her sixteenth birthday, Beatrice chooses to become Dauntless; leaving her family behind in Abnegation. As she goes through the brutal initiation she discovers where her strengths lie, where others' strengths falter, a scheme to overthrow the government, and, of course, a little bit of YA love. She also realises what it means to be Divergent.

The Good

Tris is one helluva character! I wouldn't go as far as to say she is unlikeable because, well, I love her, but she probably challenges the reader's allegiance (apt wording there for book 3!) She is quite hypocritical; She is cold-hearted and at the same time compassionate, she is violent but weak, she cries a lot but hates being seen to struggle... I never knew where I was with her and I have to say it kept me turning the pages. I liked that, ultimately, Tris is just as confused as we are. I dont need a heroine with strong morals or the propensity for good, I just want one with conviction, and no matter which way Tris turned in her actions and choices, she stuck by the decision. Her personality, it seems, is the ultimate in Divergence. A swinging pendulum between Dauntless and Abnegation.

I also need to give a shout out to Tris's parents. I always love to see parental figures used in YA as characters, and not just "the people who stop kids following their dreams" and this is a book that characterises, utilities and polarises the meaning of "parent" really well.

I couldn't close of on characters without mentioning Four. Despite the dodgy name (anyone else start thinking of I Am Number Four when he was mentioned?) he is the first male YA character I have had any love for since Will in His Dark Materials. They're quite similar actually, except Four gets to be more about the feelings than Will. But hey, it's YA. Really looking forward to see where his character goes in upcoming books in the series.

So, aside from the great characters, Divergent has a nice little narrative about the meaning of fear, mastering control of weakness, the meaning of strength and selflessness etc etc. It's a bit of an inner monologue but it has some quite poignant points for teen fiction. Not as deep as say, The Fault In Our Stars, but deep enough to get a bit of self-evaluation going. It was nicely balanced with the action of the initiation process, which may have seemed a bit gratuitous in it's violence if not broken up a bit.

Any Not-So-Good Bits?

Well, you may have noticed there is a lot of YA dystopian fiction on the bookshelves these days ;) I think it's hard for any novel of the sort written currently to avoid comparisons and, unfortunately, Divergent is victim to this. You will see echoes from other big titles throughout the book. I think it's something that just needs to be accepted in order to search for other merits above and beyond the tropes.

I also felt that there was a lot of background information left out of the narrative. We are given enough to be going on with, but a bit of faction history would have been nice. When did they come about? Who decided on it? WHY WAS THAT LOCK ON THE OUTSIDE?! That being said, it's going to make me want to read book two.

Overall

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Divergent. Although it wasn't perfect, I loved the characters and especially the instability of Tris's personality. Yes it has a little bit of The Hunger Games and yes, it has a little bit of other YA dystopian novels... but I honestly feel that Tris stands alone as a character, and that is what makes Divergent so enjoyable. I will be reading Insurgent (book 2) very soon, before Allegiant's release in October!

Score 
9/10 

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Books Are My Bag

If you ambled past a bookshop last weekend, you may have found your eyes gravitating towards an almost-luminous display of orange. Looking around you, you may have noticed people leaving the shop also sporting the same colour, in the form of bags. What's going on? You might think... and venturing inside you may have discovered a bit of a buzz. Perhaps you'd get caught up in a bit of bunting. Maybe kids were fighting over a green crayon in the corner while their older brothers and sisters fought over the merits of werewolves vs robots.

What you will have alighted upon was the Books Are My Bag launch weekend; a celebration of your local bookshop.

My bookshop purchases

Book Are My Bag is a long-term, national campaign to encourage people to buy books, to visit their independent booksellers and live the welcoming experience of a bookshop. The launch weekend saw every book purchase rewarded with a brilliant slogan-tote that any book lover would wear with pride, along with activities and talks for all. However, as fun as it was, bookshops are not for one weekend - we want them for life! So please continue to show your support for your local booksellers and pop in every now and then.

The campaign cards that were slipped into my books had a great quote from Caitlin Moran:


Let's make it a truth "universally acknowledged" (thanks, Austen!) rather than a pretty sentiment, eh?

I'll see you in the YA aisle!

What is the last book you bought? Did you buy it online? Was it an ebook or a paper book? How often do you visit and make use of your local bookshop?
4

Bellman & Black - review

Title: Bellman and Black
Author: Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Atria Books
Buy it: Here







Synopsis

William Bellman kills a rook without really meaning to, while playing with catapults with his friends one day. This event stays with William as a young man, and then as he enters into the world of business during the industrial era of Victorian Britain; wherein he enters into a mysterious business venture with a stranger to deal in mourning goods... from this deal, William Bellman, and his sleeping partner, Black, build an emporium of death: Bellman and Black. But just who is Black?!

Review

The second novel from Diane Setterfield was one of my most hotly anticipated books of 2013. Her first book, The Thirteenth Tale (soon to be a BBC TV series), was so good that I grasped the opportunity to review Bellman and Black with both hands, and dived right in.

The Thirteenth tale took Jane Eyre and echoed, warped and homaged it in so many ways, and so well, that the fact the story was in essence "copied" had no effect upon feeling towards the author. You could tell that Setterfield was a fan of the gothic ghost story as much as her reader - and the same is true here for Bellman and Black. It is only a personal interpretation, but I feel that Bellman and Black homages Charles Dickens in the way The Thirteenth Tale homages Charlotte Bronte. There are echoes of the "serial" format, there is more than a whisper of "Ebenezer" about William's character. Victorian England is given the same sepia toned description which couples so well with mill-houses and churchyards. Whether this was intentional, I don't know, but I certainly took that from it, and enjoyed it a lot.

There was most definitely a "darkness" to the story, and I felt through all of the pages like a dark cloud of disaster was hovering, waiting to happen. I loved the feeling that I should perhaps be reading this book while rain lashes a window pane, pages lit by candlelight, a mug of hot chocolate clouding my vision with it's steam. It's that kind of book-y atmosphere, and it's a good one! I also enjoyed the insight into Rook Lore. It's something I had never considered before - despite the symbology of ravens, rooks and crows in many of my favourite things! -and I felt it gave the "mystery" part of the narrative a nice depth. I especially liked how it was signified with the ominous ampersand! It is from this Lore that the ghost of the novel is introduced: Thought and Memory. It was very clever.

My favorite cover design
 The grit of the story is quite slow to kick in, but the mystery of it is set from the first few pages when Will kills a rook and immediately sees an ominous black figure which has disappeared at his next glance. Questions are set, interest is piqued, and so we head through the rest of Will's life. We witness his calculating proficiency and business acumen. We mourn his family when Will fails to do so himself. We feel for the others trying so hard to break the stone wall that is Mr Bellman, and we wonder, constantly, just who is Black?! Why can he never be fully recalled? Why does he only show up at funerals?!

I will admit that Book One seemed a bit like a document of events rather than a story (more on that below) but Book Two came and swept me up. The wonderful setting and the theme of Victorian death is particularly interesting - they mourned with such elegance! - and I felt the historical aspects were deep, involving and well researched. I could wholly envision the construction of Bellman and Black, it was, perhaps, the one piece of real description the book provided. Which leads me to my next point...

I found the writing style in Bellman and Black to be less prose-y than the style we were introduced to in The Thirteenth Tale. There is a strange lack of detail to the writing and a noted lack of emotive adjectives. It made it hard to really feel for Will and I never felt that I had got inside his head or knew who he was. I thought it may have been a device used in order to give a surprise at the ending, but I had assumed wrongly. William says all the right things and does all the necessary actions. Literally. We are told no more than that. In fact, we are told, not shown, a great deal in this book, and I have to say it is a shame considering how well built the narrative is. I really wish I had more of an alignment with the main character.

I was also frustrated to find the story finished with a lot of loose ends. For so many chapters to be dedicated to Bellman's daughter, and for the "miracle" of her never to be explained - it was perplexing. I also wanted to know why Lizzie knew Black! Perhaps on a re-read I will figure it all out for myself. Because if there is one thing I can say about Bellman and Black, it's that at the end, I felt compelled to read it all over again. Slower, and with more appreciation of it's style - knowing now what it is - and more alert for something that might give me answers.

Overall

I found Bellman and Black to be a strikingly dark read which, although it didn't have a strong character force behind it, had enough mystery and sense of place to keep it fuelled. Setterfield has given us a ghost story which has us questioning the meaning of "ghost".

7/10

2

Guest post: Claireabellemakes crochet web bookends

Hi everyone - today I have a real treat for you; the wonderful Claire from Claireabellemakes is sharing how to make a genre inspired set of bookends! I just love the spider web effect and will definitely be making a few for myself - two months before Halloween should give me enough time to learn the stitch too! So please give Claire a very warm welcome to the blog and be sure to check out the other gorgeous makes on her site :)

DIY Horror Themed Bookends Claireabellemakes 0

I'm Claire from the craft blog Claireabellemakes and I'm here today to share a book themed DIY with you all! I figured as you are all followers of Mab Is Mab you must like to read, so will hopefully enjoy some crafting inspiration today.

So where to start for these DIY Horror Themed Bookends? Gather your scariest books....

DIY Horror Themed Bookends Claireabellemakes 1

You will need 4 pieces of square craft wood (I got mine from this eBay seller) and a glue gun or wood glue.

DIY Horror Themed Bookends Claireabellemakes 2

A hammer (pink if you are a girl of course!) and some nails.

DIY Horror Themed Bookends Claireabellemakes 3

Black yarn and a crochet hook (or lace if you can't crochet).

DIY Horror Themed Bookends Claireabellemakes 4

Begin by gluing the square blocks together so they form bookends - simple! A glue gun will dry very quickly, but wood glue may take slightly longer.

DIY Horror Themed Bookends Claireabellemakes 5

Crochet a spider web! How you say? I followed a YouTube tutorial which showed a simple pattern. You do need to know how to crochet a UK treble stitch (Australian/US Double) for this pattern, but do not worry if you can't do it. There are further suggestions for alternative spooky decorations below!

DIY Horror Themed Bookends Claireabellemakes 6

DIY Horror Themed Bookends Claireabellemakes 7

Hammer a few nails on each outward facing side of your bookend - enough to stretch your spider web across.

DIY Horror Themed Bookends Claireabellemakes 8

DIY Horror Themed Bookends Claireabellemakes 9

Hook your crochet spider web across the nails. If you haven't crocheted, you could add more nails and just hook the yarn across the nails creating a spider web effect.

DIY Horror Themed Bookends Claireabellemakes 10

For those of you who cannot crochet - why not try a black lace decoration? I just nailed mine across the bookend, but you could twist it into a spider web shape or similar.

DIY Horror Themed Bookends Claireabellemakes 13

Stack up your scary books and you're done!

DIY Horror Themed Bookends Claireabellemakes 0

I hope you enjoyed my book themed DIY today! Thanks so much for having me Mab.

Toodles!
 Claire

Once again, thanks SO much to Claire. And if you have a book inspired post you would like to share on the blog, get in touch!

The Fault in Our Stars - review

"Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green

Publisher: Penguin
Buy it: On Amazon


 
Synopsis


Hazel is a 17 year old girl suffering from "thyroid cancer with mets in the lungs". When she is forced to attend a support group for children with cancer by her parents, it is everything she expected it to be; full of Hollywood hope and buzzword cancer phrases "fight", "strong" and the like. Fully accepting of her remaining time, Hazel just wants to curl up in her bed and re-read her favourite book over and over: An Imperial Affliction.

However, the support group gives her more than just a reason to "get out of the house" one day when she meets Augustus. As they share their worlds and embark on a journey to discover the true ending of An Imperial Affliction together, they make an unbreakable bond that is star-crossed from the start.

The Good

The Fault in Our Stars is an almost-perfect YA story. I know that if I had read this book when I was 15, I would have simply adored it. John Green has taken the teenage psyche and given it exactly what it needs: ballsy characters, pull-quotes aplenty, the constant quest for meaning, the feeling of not being understood - all of it. And, even better, he presents it in a brilliantly written style.

This is the first John Green book I have read, but it certainly wont be the last. He has the wonderful ability to plant a character deep into your head. Hazel, Augustus and Isaac, Augustus' best friend who has lost his sight to cancer, were brilliantly individual and each had their own distinct traits. The three of them together gave some brilliant moments in the book as they bounced off of each other - in particular, during Isaacs "meltdown".
I also adored the adult characters in the book. It always pleases me to see parent characters included in a YA novel, and for them not to be lazily added in as "the oppressing overseers of teenage existence". I really felt for Hazel's mum, and the way Hazel herself felt about her parents heightened the presence of their characters further. Peter Van Houten was also a delight to read, no matter the fact he was a - to quote the book - "Douchebag". He was the perfect counter to the "cancer kid" perception, and although it was a shock to them both, he was exactly what Hazel and Augustus were searching for. He was the true embodiment of the metaphor they had idealised.

The narrative was expertly paced, and the fact that a novel lies at the heart of the action was very reminiscent of The Shadow of the Wind for me. In all the good ways!

The Bad

I truely feel that a teenage reader would have nothing bad to say about this book. There is laughter, tears and greatly paced plotting. I have seen comments online that the teenage characters don't speak in the way teenagers would in real life - but I would disagree. These characters are ones with a lot of time on their hands. They are the characters who can do nothing but wait for an end and perhaps stop to notice what others with destinations fail to see. They are avid readers caught up in their own frail existences. They are existential in the truest form. When faced with this, and the opportunity of exploration only available to you in the realms of thought, would you too not explore language, theory, philosophy and literature? They speak in the way their experiences allow. I had absolutely no problem with it, and as a teenager, I would have taken some of their beautiful sentences and copied them out into my own diary ;)

Overall

The Fault in Our Stars is a wonderful, heartfelt portrayal of kids caught in a terrible situation and living an infinity of happiness within it. Truly inspiring - though, I feel the characters would hate me saying that ;)

Score 
9/10 

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