Thursday, March 28

A Stellar Shortlist

Retrieved from

The Stella Prize is a brand new literary award that celebrates Australian women's writing.  With a whopping prize value of $50,000, the award "raises the profile of women’s writing through the Stella Prize longlists and shortlists, encourages a future generation of women writers, and brings readers to the work of Australian women."  

Geordie Williamson, Stella Prize ambassador, states that “The Stella Prize is a necessary and urgently needed award. Australia’s women writers need a space where their achievements may be seen in splendid isolation – only then will we appreciate what riches we have to hand.”

The Stella Prize website has recently released the award's first ever shortlist.  The shortlisted titles are:
  • The Burial by Courtney Collins
  • Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser
  • The Sunlit Zone by Lisa Jacobson
  • Like a House on Fire by Cate Kennedy
  • Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan
If you would like to know more about these books, follow the link to read the blurbs and author bios.  If you like, you can also read an excerpt from each novel!    

Show your support of Australia's writing women through a donation to the Stella Prize, which will go towards running the award for years to come.  

The winner of the first Stella Prize will be announced on the 18th of April.  So stay tuned!

Also, don't forget that I am after 5 comments, follows, or 'responses' on my post Are You Up For A Challenge? so that we can hold our very own challenge and prize here at Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils!  

Monday, March 25

Are you Up for a Challenge?

I want to do a challenge!  A challenge with a prize!  Have your ears pricked up yet?

One of my hopes for this year is to be able to hold regular challenges and give out prizes, knowing that people will get involved!   

I've seen the statistics for this blog's page views.  It's clear that Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils is being read anonymously by hundreds of book-lovers around the world, so it would be amazing to start seeing some hard evidence.  

Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils has readers
from all over the world

I guess what I'm asking for is an expression of interest.  

Comment, 'follow', or select any of the 'reactions' (beneath this post), to let me know that you're keen.  

If I get five responses by Monday 1st April, we'll have our first challenge the following week.  

You don't need a Blogger or Google account to comment.  Just select 'Name' or 'Anonymous' to leave one quickly and easily.  

Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils was always intended as a place for book-lovers to voice their passions, so imagine how great it will be if more people spoke up and shared their feelings.  

I already have a lovely challenge (plus a great prize) in mind.  

Oh, and before I forget, thankyou to everyone who has read this blog, anonymously or not, your page views are valued.  

Sunday, March 24

The Perks of Branching Out a Bit

It may be a generalisation, but Young Adult fiction is a genre notorious for being pitifully-written and very low in literary value, consisting mainly of romances between teenaged girls and vampires.  Now, that sort of thing does have a time and a place, and, of course, a huge female following, but I've always avoided it.  The little that I was exposed to prejudiced me against the genre as a whole.  

But there's more to it than that.  It has been a great experience to branch out from my narrow-minded stereotype to explore a different side to Young Adult fiction - a very memorable experience indeed.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky has found fame as a coming-of-age classic in the universe of Young Adult fiction.  

Picture retrieved from
In the past year, I have heard this title mentioned dozens of time.  I never thought anything of it.  To me, it was just another teen bestseller - something to be raved about by a devoted young fan-base for a few months before fading into the background.  

I didn't give it much thought until one of my best friends recommended it to me - a fellow lover of classics and good literature recommending me a book that I had deemed to be a passing fad.  

That was enough.  I ordered it through the library and was immediately added to a wait-list of 97 people.  It took close to four months for a copy to arrive, but once I finally borrowed it, I started reading straight away.  

I devoured the first three quarters in one sitting.  It was inexplicably gripping.  


Budding writer, Charlie, is starting his first year of high school.  Being very quiet yet observant, Charlie eventually makes two close friends in senior student, Patrick and his step-sister, Sam.  The story covers the events of his first year, told through a series of Charlie's letters, chronicling his initiation into a world of sex, drugs, friendship, and love.  Not only does Charlie need to make sense of the strange and painful workings of life around him, but he is forced to search for his true identity, and his place within this life.  


This book is instantly relatable.  I'm positive that every teenager who reads this book will immediately claim it as their own - a reflection of their secret feelings and observations.  And because of that, I feel that no review could do justice to it - it is too primally personal to describe to a stranger.  

The whole book feels like one long quote.  I don't mean that it's sentimental and cliched.  What I mean by that is it feels like every sentence relates to your life, and you want to be able to remember every little bit for later, so you can quote it when you need to.  Probably the only remedy is to buy a copy and read it over and over, easily done, as it's short and seems to end too quickly.  Alas, life waits for nobody, as the book itself explains.  

But something I especially treasured is the fact that while you're reading it, you experience the exact feeling that the book is based upon - infinity.  That feeling that 'now' is perfect.  Time should stop.  This moment should last forever because right here everything makes sense.  While reading, everything felt so true and real and honest, and I was swept up in a windy, electrical, midnight sensation of infinity. 

If nothing else, this book allows for self-reflection by posing questions and giving words to use as you search through yourself for answers.  

I would love to come back and read this again.  It already feels like a lifetime since I finished it, even though it was only a day ago.  It is a perfect moment that I never wanted to end.  

Thursday, March 21

Books in Life or Death

Paper books are just like us - slowly declining.  They mirror our vulnerabilities and our humanity.  It is easy to share moments of deep personal connection with a paper book, because, really, we are the same, equally human in that sacred space for reading.    

Prepare to be transported to a magical place.  I saw these pictures and fell to a new depth of hopeless love with books.  Feast your eyes on the ravishing works of Guy Laramee.  

Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramee

Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramee

Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramee 

Guy Laramee has done two series, Biblios and The Great Wall, both of which are awe-inspiringly beautiful.  Follow the links to explore them.  


Speaking to an interviewer from art site, Colossal: Art and Ingenuity, Guy Laramee describes the motive behind these gorgeous series:
So I carve landscapes out of books and I paint Romantic landscapes. Mountains of disused knowledge return to what they really are: mountains. They erode a bit more and they become hills. Then they flatten and become fields where apparently nothing is happening. Piles of obsolete encyclopedias return to that which does not need to say anything, that which simply IS. Fogs and clouds erase everything we know, everything we think we are.
His words deeply inspired me.  They serve to remind us of the beauty of mortality, challenge us with the inevitability of death and decay, and invoke hope that we will have a legacy.  

For me, these art pieces embody the superiority of paper books over e-books.  Paper books are just like us - slowly declining.  They mirror our vulnerabilities and our humanity.  It is easy to share moments of deep personal connection with a paper book, because, really, we are the same, equally human in that sacred space for reading.    

No e-book can be so beautiful, in life or death.  

Tuesday, March 19

The Chaos of Correct Pronunciation

"The Chaos" - what a fitting name for a poem about the weird and wonderful complexities of English spelling and pronunciation.  We take it for granted that English is one of the most difficult languages to learn.  

Take it as a personal challenge to read this poem aloud.  You may be astounded by just how confusing it really is!  

I expect that: 
1) you will regain an appreciation for the marvellous wackiness of the English language, and 
2) you'll end up with a terribly twisted tongue!

"The Chaos" - Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870-1946)Dearest creature in creation, 
Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough --
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!
Retrieved from

Monday, March 18

Baking Cakes with Etgar Keret

In my creative writing unit, we read the short story, Shoes, by Israeli author, Etgar Keret.  The child of two holocaust survivors, he uses his great talent for the mingling of metaphor and realism to bring to life his short stories, children's books, graphic novels and now a novel, all of which acknowledge the complications of being human.  
He has a list of ten rules (or ideas) for writers to consider.  Have a read.  They are genuinely cool, often startlingly hilarious, and overall very thought-provoking.  This is the sort of advice that I look forward to taking onboard.  

1. Make sure you enjoy writing.
Writers always like to say how hard the writing process is and how much suffering it causes. They’re lying. People don’t like to admit they make a living from something they genuinely enjoy. 
Writing is a way to live another life. Many other lives. The lives of countless people whom you’ve never been, but who are completely you. Every time you sit down and face a page and try—even if you don’t succeed—be grateful for the opportunity to expand the scope of your life. It’s fun. It’s groovy. It’s dandy. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 
2. Love your characters.
For a character to be real, there has to be at least one person in this world capable of loving it and understanding it, whether they like what the character does or not. You’re the mother and the father of the characters you create. If you can’t love them, nobody can.
3. When you’re writing, you don’t owe anything to anyone.
In real life, if you don’t behave yourself, you’ll wind up in jail or in an institution, but in writing, anything goes. If there’s a character in your story who appeals to you, kiss it. If there’s a carpet in your story that you hate, set fire to it right in the middle of the living room. When it comes to writing, you can destroy entire planets and eradicate whole civilizations with the click of a key, and an hour later, when the old lady from the floor below sees you in the hallway, she’ll still say hello.
4. Always start from the middle.
The beginning is like the scorched edge of a cake that’s touched the cake pan. You may need it just to get going, but it isn’t really edible. 
5. Try not to know how it ends.
Curiosity is a powerful force. Don’t let go of it. When you’re about to write a story or a chapter, take control of the situation and of your characters’ motives, but always let yourself be surprised by the twists in the plot. 
6. Don’t use anything just because “that’s how it always is.”
Paragraphing, quotation marks, characters that still go by the same name even though you’ve turned the page: all those are just conventions that exist to serve you. If they don’t work, forget about them. The fact that a particular rule applies in every book you’ve ever read doesn’t mean it has to apply in your book too. 
7. Write like yourself.
If you try to write like Nabokov, there will always be at least one person (whose name is Nabokov) who’ll do it better than you. But when it comes to writing the way you do, you’ll always be the world champion at being yourself
8. Make sure you’re all alone in the room when you write.
Even if writing in cafés sounds romantic, having other people around you is likely to make you conform, whether you realize it or not. When there’s nobody around, you can talk to yourself or pick your nose without even being aware of it. Writing can be a kind of nose-picking, and when there are people around, the task may become less natural. 
9. Let people who like what you write encourage you.
And try to ignore all the others. Whatever you’ve written is simply not for them. Never mind. There are plenty of other writers in the world. If they look hard enough, they’re bound to find one who meets their expectations. 
10. Hear what everyone has to say but don’t listen to anyone (except me).
Writing is the most private territory in the world. Just as nobody can really teach you how you like your coffee, so nobody can really teach you how to write. If someone gives you a piece of advice that sounds right and feels right, use it. If someone gives you a piece of advice that sounds right and feels wrong, don’t waste so much as a single second on it. It may be fine for someone else, but not for you. ♦ 
Translated by Miriam Shlesinger

This quote from Etgar Kerek was copied from Rookie: Books and Comics.

Etgar Keret

Thursday, March 14

The Library of Unborrowed Books

I'd like to make a quick visit to the Library of Unborrowed Books.  'Art in General' collaborated with The Center for Fiction in New York to present this eye-opening project by Stockholm-based artist, Meriç Algün Ringborg.  

The project consists of a selection of books that have never been borrowed from The Center for Fiction library, (a non-profit US organisation celebrating fiction), with an aim to stimulate reflection in the reading population and bring their attention to books that have been unjustly overlooked.  

Meriç Algün Ringborg describes the project:

“The Library of Unborrowed Books bases itself on the concept of the library as an institution manifesting language and knowledge, of the passing of awareness and the openness to all types of people and literature. This work, however, comprises books from a selected library that have never been borrowed. The framework in this instance hints at what has been disregarded, knowledge essentially unconsumed, and puts on display what has eluded us.
Why these books aren’t ‘chosen,’ why they are overlooked, will never be clear but whatever each book contains, en masse they become representative of the gaps and cracks of history, or the cataloging of the world and the ambivalent relationship between absence and presence. In this library their existence is validated simply by being borrowed, underlining their being as well as their content and form by putting them on display in an autonomous library dedicated to the books yet to have been revealed.”

I love this explanation.  He makes a wonderful observation by stating that the library's existence is validated by the simple act of being borrowed.  It is almost like a book's personal existentialism: "I am read, therefore I am".  

One would expect that the library would consist only of rare and obscure books that nobody's ever heard of.  But listen to some of these names: Blood and Gold by Anne Rice, Running Dog by Don DeLillo, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, The Habit of Being by Flannery O'Connor, and Edith Wharton's short stories.  Well known titles and authors are revealed to have been swept aside over time.    This library shines a spotlight on them in the hope that we will learn to re-discover them and appreciate them anew as their stories and messages become relevant again.  

Wednesday, March 13

Hemingway Punches Writer's Block in the Face

In my Creative Writing unit, we've spent a fair amount of time looking at Hemingway, in particular his short stories and his approach to writing.  It's evident that the world sees Hemingway as a blunt, dust-dry man of few words and firm opinions.  
For all intents and  purposes, he's the Chuck Norris of the literary world.  
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)

Whenever I've tried, I've found it nearly impossible to enjoy his writing, even though, upon reflection, I can appreciate the deliberate method behind his distinctive style.  I've always thought that it was because I loved words and metaphors, and he was much to minimalistic.  But, as with everything, upon taking a closer look, I found that this wasn't the case at all.  Even though he is blunt and dry and ridiculously plain, (I'm using his short story, Hills Like White Elephants, as my example and reference), he is also in love with words and metaphor.  The difference is, though, that he prefers to use as few words and possible, and then exploit these for their ability to create powerful meaning.  

I was reading through an online article listing seven writing tips from Ernest Hemingway,  and I particularly liked the perfect Hemingway-flavoured grit that went into this one.  It's his own personal way of busting through writer's block:
Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.
It's almost hilarious what huge ideals and grandeur he refers to, but there's definitely something romantic and thrilling about his savage honesty and perspectives.  I very much look forward to growing to appreciate his work in time.  
Oh, and if you'd like to read the other six tips, follow the link to the Openculture page.  

Tuesday, March 12

Punctuation Prototypes

The site, College Humor, often has a lot of unique and hilarious perspectives.  One thing that I particularly love is their list of 8 New and Necessary Punctuation Marks.  

This new font offers a brilliant solution to the universal dilemma of how to convey tone through text.  (Bear in mind that this is completely facetious!)  

Retrieved from
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The Andorpersand is my favourite.  All the images were retrieved from here.  You can also download this font from here.  

Monday, March 11

So Long and Thanks for all the Fish

"Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all."

If you have seen today's 'Google Doodle', you'll now that it is Douglas Adam's 61st birthday.

'Google Doodle' celebrating Douglas Adam's 61st Birthday

It is completely unnecessary to drawl on for ages about how brilliant Douglas Adams is.  If you've read any of the books in his ingenious Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, you already know, and you will never forget it, what's more.  He is a master of doing your head in, shocking you with perfectly weird wording, and making you slide backwards through your own navel.  (A phrase of his that made me crawl with heebie-jeebies!)

He gave us timeless advice, such as "don't panic!" and "always carry a towel".  (Don't forget to celebrate Towel Day with me on the 25th of May!!!)  He even enlightened us as to the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything: "42" of course.  

This great man tragically passed away in May, 2001, at the age of 49.  A short life, maybe, but an unforgettable legacy.  To honour his memory, I would like to quote some of his wise quips.  

"The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move." 
"The Guide says there is an art to flying", said Ford, "or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss."  
"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."  
"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." 
"Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws." 
"If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now." 
"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't." 
"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."  

So, to the great and glorious Douglas Adams... so long, and thanks for all the fish!

Douglas Adams (1952 - 2001)

And for your listening pleasure...

Saturday, March 9

The Monster in the Mirror

I have often enthused about the writer's immense power to make a great point.  This point is frequently hidden inside allegory, which allows the writer's message to be heard by a huge audience without being repulsed by readers, or seen as socially unacceptable.  

Bram Stoker's Dracula is an astonishingly profound allegory for the strict sexual codes of the Victorian era.  

The exceptional poignancy and power of Stoker's metaphor really blew me away.  It was only through further research that I learned the story and purpose behind this Gothic novel.  

Unknowingly, I was doing the same thing as the Victorians had done - I was reading and enjoying it for its entertainment, without seeing the underlying message.  Now that I know what is really going on, I am astounded.  I can hardly believe how Stoker got away with this brazenly controversial statement!  


I am going to delve into the metaphor presently, trying my best to explain it succinctly so that you can glean the benefit from it without reading dozens of articles like me (unfortunately I have a research essay to write, too!).  But, also, I am obligated to make a quick disclaimer.

Due to the following sexual references, readers under the age of 15 are advised to exercise discretion.  

Alright, so let's begin at the beginning, by taking a quick look at Victorian society.  It was strictly patriarchal (controlled by men), and therefore, men were permitted freedoms and pleasures and given excuses for "natural" carnal instincts.  Women, on the other hand, represented purity, vulnerability, weakness and naive innocence.  A key point to understand is that for women, (or indeed homosexual males), expression of sexual desire was "unnatural".  "Unnatural" was seen, by extension, as "evil" and therefore "Satanic" or "ungodly".  

Another important context to understand is the link Victorians made between semen and blood.  They understood that both could pass disease, i.e. "bad blood" and "STDs".  While it may be a big stretch for our imaginations, Stoker used this link as the basis for his metaphor.  The process of a vampire penetrating another being and sucking their blood was code for sexual intercourse.  

I'm hoping that now you can begin to piece together the idea represented here.


Stoker, a homosexual in a society where 'sexual inversion' was punishable by law, used the concept of vampirism to create three images for readers' consideration:

1.  the potential for women (represented by the three 'weird sisters' who threaten to penetrate and suck the blood of the femininely passive protagonist, Jonathan Harker) to disrupt gender roles and begin to be more sexually aggressive, an idea that terrified the patriarchal Victorian society

2. the potential to see the ordinary heterosexual man (dominant and powerful with untameable carnal urges) as a monster, (Dracula, representing this man, forcefully penetrates an abject female victim - symbolic of rape)

3. the potential for homosexual desires between men, (Dracula is especially excited by the sight of Jonathan Harker's blood).  This image was particularly perverse to Victorian society.


This is an aspect that particularly amazed me.  Throughout the story, Stoker makes comparisons between the supposed villain, Count Dracula, and the supposed hero, Van Helsing.  Both are depicted invasively penetrating female protagonist, Lucy, (one with teeth, the other with hypodermic needles), in acts of arrogance and assertion.  While religion and society condemned those who violated sexual codes (homosexuality, sexually active women, rape, etcetera), those in the medical profession licensed the power to penetrate.

The aim was to make the reader unsure about their perception of good and evil, light and dark.  If that's not enough, have a think about this metaphor.

In the opening chapters, Jonathan Harker is using his mirror to shave when Count Dracula approaches him from behind.  Dracula has no reflection in this mirror.  It can be argued, that his presence in the reflection would be redundant when a monster's presence has already been established.  The monster is no one, "except myself".

House of Dracula - Nosferatu


  • Craft, C. (1984) Kiss Me with those Red Lips: Gender and Inversion in Bram Stoker's Dracula.  Representations 8.  p107 -133.  
  • Podonsky, A. M. (2010).   Bram Stoker’s Dracula: a reflection and rebuke of Victorian Society.  Vol.2 No.2 p1-3.  Retrieved from <>

Friday, March 8

The Original Vampire Thriller


Hello!  In my attempt to channel some more followers to my blog, I have just joined the women's blogging association of Blogher.  I now have a Blogher profile, and Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils has it's own indelible place in the Blogher blog directory.  Hopefully, before long, we'll start to see some new book-lovers getting involved.  


Two weeks ago, I started my first year at university.  I am studying Creative and Professional Writing with two minors in Literature and Drama.  This semester's unit for my Literature minor focuses on the books and culture of the 19th century.  I have a brilliant book list featuring Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Oliver Twist, Tess of the D'Urbavilles, Alice in Wonderland, and Madam Bovary.   

I have just started reading Dracula for the very first time.  Unfortunately, I had to re-read Frankenstein first, which, as you know from my previous attempt, I did not enjoy.  Please understand that I appreciate the views and socio-cultural significance represented by this text, (which is why I have to read it for my course), but as a novel, I've found it hugely drudgerous.  It may have been a chilling Gothic thriller in the 1810s, but there is certainly something about chapter-long descriptions of mountain ranges that lulls the tension to sleep.  

Anyhow, my experience with Frankenstein made me a little reluctant to start Dracula.  It's double the size and, since I hadn't read it before, I wouldn't be able to speed-read it like I did Frankenstein.  So with heavy heart, I began.  

The second page changed my mind.  

This book has not cast back to the past for a thorough history of the protagonist before dashing boldly into the narrative.  In the very first chapter, my heart raced and I did exactly what you should do when you read a scary book - I flinched when I heard quiet noises.  The tension is tight from the very beginning.  This book is a real thriller!

I was actually very surprised by Bram Stoker's first description of Count Dracula, because it was exactly the same as how vampires are depicted nowadays, even in cartoons.  Listen to this:

His face was a strong - very strong - aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere.  His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion.  The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years.  For the rest, his ears were pale and at the tops extremely points; the chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor.  

Stoker, Bram.  (1897)  Dracula.  Chapter Two: Jonathan Harker's Journal continued, p 21.  Harper Press.  London.

I am pleased to report that the description in Dracula is character-building description, and strengthens the tension, as opposed to the seemingly endless, irrelevant descriptions of travel and locations in Frankenstein.  


I can't resist but to share with you a passage that chilled me to the bone.  Protagonist, Jonathan Harker, has been searching the castle for a way to escape, and has stumbled upon the Count lying in an unresponsive stupor, upon a mound of earth:

There lay the Count, but looking as if his youth had been half renewed, for the white hair and moustache were changed to dark iron-gray; the cheeks were fuller, and the white skin seemed ruby-red underneath; the mouth was redder than ever, for on the lips were gouts of fresh blood, which trickled from the corners of the mouth and ran over the chin and neck.  Even the deep, burning eyes seemed set amongst swollen flesh, for the lids and pouches underneath were bloated.  It seemed as if the whole awful creature were simply gorged with blood.  He lay like a filthy leech, exhausted with his repletion.  
Stoker, Bram.  (1897)  Dracula.  Chapter Four: Jonathan Harker's Journal continued, p 61.  Harper Press.  London.  

I have come to the conclusion that this is a book that I must read during daylight!

Thursday, March 7

Bouquets Turns Two!

Today, Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils turns two years old!  In celebration, I am going to relive a couple of highlights from the past year.  It's been amazing to scroll back through the archives and remember what we've been through since the last birthday.  So many great reads, so many epiphanies and perspectives shared, so many ideas and authors to be introduced to.  It has been truly momentous.  

So let's take a moment to reminisce.  This year we have:

It is incredible to realise how much has happened since the last birthday: I've written a children's book, graduated from high school and started university in that time.  It quite nearly blows my mind to imagine the amount of personal and emotional growth that I've experienced since then.  Bouquets has been a vehicle for so much reflection and passion.  I am honoured to have had the opportunity to voice my thoughts and feelings in this way.  


Now that we've had a fond look back, it's time to make a wish for the year to come.  As you can see, I have done a little bit of refurbishing - new Book Florist profile picture and fresh new background picture.  (Copyright The Book Florist [2012]).  

I have also completely rewritten my All About Me page, so make sure to check it out.  

I'm also hoping that this year, we can start to have a little bit more interaction.  I know that enough people view this blog, but if you took the time to respond and share via the comments section of each post, it can open up a whole world of potential for challenges, competitions and conversation.  Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils is for venting thoughts and, of course, our love of books.

As I blow out the candles on Bouquet's birthday cake, I wish for another year of growth and great reads!  Thank you so much for being a part of this blog's life.