Book blog

1000 before 30 #17 White Teeth – Zadie Smith

The best way to start reading Zadie Smith is right at the beginning – at least that’s what critics believe – so I started on her first novel, ‘White Teeth’. What a giant and amazing beast it is. Continue reading

Book blog

1000 before 30 #16: Night and day – by Virginia Woolf

Night and Day does exactly what is says on the tin. Of course, being Woolf you expect some degree of romance, but this Edwardian novel centres on the differences, rather than the similarities, between its two protagonists.

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Book blog

1000 books before 30 – kickstarting a literary marathon

I have to have read 1000 books by the time I turn 30. That is to say, on 8 April 2019, I will have read one thousand (ONE THOUSAND!) significant pieces of literature in my lifetime. At almost 26, my time is running out.

So why the sh*t would I want to do that?

The one thing I’ve learned in my 20s is the importance of making lists. Shopping lists, check lists, wish lists, what-can-you-do lists. Most of these are incomplete or just plain ignored as real life gets in the way –  but the intention is there. It’s calming the persistant niggle that says ‘you ought to be doing something important’ — that feeling that used to be reserved for writing letters and actually posting them in the sodding letterbox even though God knows I never have a stamp for the life of me and oh it’s so inconvenient on the way to work and my handwriting is terrible, cheers Miss!

I digress.

The latest plonker of a list was of things I wanted to accomplish before the age of 30. Sure, I want to go on a roadtrip and learn how to drive (come on already!), visit Australia, go mad in a roller disco and do a maze-a-thon, but I thought I had ages to go. Now I know I’m wrong.

Not just about the time thing, but I have a distinct lack of a silver spoon hanging out of my mouth, leaving next to no funds to traipse to the other end of the Earth for the next four years, to indulge myself in igloo-style hotels or Orient Express-style trips. I’m a Londoner, after all. We can’t stray far on our budgets.

What I can do is start all of my travelling and more in books while I work on physically getting myself to a variety of tropical locations – and catch up on all of the brilliant books I have been missing while on the way.

Until I get my hands on all of the books in my boxes, I won’t know exactly how far along the thousand mark I have gotten, but I have already established some ground rules:

1- Baby books don’t count, even if you pick them up years later and read them again, that’s still zilch and, not even Goodnight Moon even if it is an epic classic bedtime story because we have to be serious and have no fillers here

2- I will review every single book I have read this year (until now and in future months).

3- Comic books are only allowed as part of a series, and have to be categorised as one so as not to bulk up the list unfairly.

4- Series like Game of Thrones and Harry Potter count as individual books, despite being the same overall characters.

5- The order of books read is irrelevant – I will read whatever I get my hands on first. I will construct my list based on recommendations, classics and best sellers from the beginning of the written word until now. Recommendations are always welcome in the comments section!

My calculations are – 500 average read books, with two to three books average read a week is 104 read a year which makes it anywhere between 932 and 1124 books. In the coming weeks, I will publish the list of books that I have read in previous years so that the tally can be calculated more effectively. Let’s see what happens, hey!

Featured image: Creative commons courtesy of Texas State Library


‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ review

‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ was always going to be a difficult story to adapt. Hefty in emotion and in intricate description, the Pulitzer-winning non-fiction novel by Katherine Boo involves several complex characters and a plot tough to crush into just over two hours. Thanks to David Hare, the story has been brought to life on stage at the National Theatre (find out more about timings and tickets here).

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Professional Player – Fashion Pages

This last month I have been working hard as the official Fashion Journalist for football magazine Professional Player! The quarterly magazine, which this month features an exclusive interview with Ryan Giggs, has been an epic production experience — take a look at the final product here:

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This is why Labour will lose the next general election

Yesterday evening, I shook hands with the man who wants to be our next prime minister. It was a limp, lifeless experience – which unfortunately matched the rather lukewarm status of his opposition party. In just one instant, I understood why Cameron probably isn’t as worried as he should be about keeping his seat at Number 10.

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Social media and B2B: the reign of Twitter and the rise of Google+

Want to win in B2B marketing campaigns? Social media is the way to go, as an increasing number of businesses realize the importance of tweets, updates and videos as part of their selling strategy. Although social media platforms are potential minefields for businesses that put their foots in their mouth or fail to connect with who they are trying to talk to, it looks like companies have taken the leap towards the social media stratosphere for good.

This infographic by B2B Marketing shows that there is more awareness surrounding the impact of social media on B2B strategies: 61% of companies asked had a definite social media strategy for their B2B marketing campaigns. The importance of social media as a means to achieve greater impact in campaigns is now apparent to companies, who label social media marketing as part of a campaign as something ‘important’ or ‘very important’, a shift from the unconsciousness or ‘ignore it and it will go away’ attitude of previous years. Twitter is still by far the most popular platform for companies to spread their message, with 85% of businesses betting on that platform for promotion.

One change in the trend will become apparent in the immediate future. The rise of Google +, an unlikely competitor for Twitter, is imminent. By 2014, Google + will be three times as relevant as it is today to B2B strategies online, according to the data in B2B Marketing’s 2013 Social Media Benchmarking Report.



Penguin and Random House merger gets the green light in Europe

booksThe war against Amazon and the dominance in the digital reading age continues. The internet giant had seemingly grown out of proportion in the past, setting up an Author Network that destroyed the filter set in place by more conventional publishing houses and growing in popularity because of price competitiveness.

After the decline of paper copies sold and the dependence on Amazon for e-book sales, Penguin and Random House have begun a united front to fight back the competition that they depended on.

Last year, the two companies proposed a merger, which has now been approved by a EU Regulator. “The new entity Penguin Random House will continue to face competition from several large and numerous small and medium sized publishers,”the commission said in a statement published by the Guardian. “The merged entity will furthermore face a concentrated retail base, such as supermarkets for print books and large online retailers for ebooks, like Amazon.”

This move was expected to be approved, as the green light had already been achieved in Australia and New Zealand last month, and the US in February. This year, Penguin launched Bookish, a new personalized service that would appeal to book lovers everywhere. With the possibility to access interviews, additional content, reviews and simple one-click Amazon style buying, the service hopes to capture those who are looking for extra quality rather than low prices.

Creative commons photo by jm3


Welcome to the BlackBerry Q10

q10_black_leftangleThe BlackBerry Z10 was RIM’s last hope to recover lost customers and lost time against their competitor. The new device broke the silence and brought in a new crowdsourcing operating system, developing opportunities and a new and improved touchscreen. Although the flat, angular design looks like any other smartphone on the market, it looks like the newly named BlackBerry company has hit on a winner with users.

For those who have been wishing for less of a ‘touchscreen’ experience and a gadget more like those characteristic of the BlackBerry family, the company has just announced the upcoming release of the new BlackBerry Q10. The smartphone has the keyboard, look and feel of the BlackBerry smartphones many of us love, as well as all the benefits of the new operating system and technologies.

People in the UK can pre-order the BlackBerry Q10  on O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Three, EE and TalkMobile, according to BlackBerry Insider’s blog post. Plus, the handset will be available for purchase in Carphone Warehouse stores from the end of April.

The BlackBerry Q10, showcased originally on the 30th of January when the company officially launched the BlackBerry 10 platform, includes apps like BlackBerry HubBlackBerry Balance and BlackBerry Remember. The next video shows the best and brightest on the new gadget set to hit homes by the end of this month.


Is street art … art?


Is street art … art?

I’ve often asked myself this question as I’ve strolled the streets of Paris. And now, thanks to an exhibit at Paris’ Musée de La Poste, I can answer with a definitive “YES.”

The exhibit Au-delá du Street Art brought together the work of many well-known urban artists including Miss.Tic, Banksy, Dran, Invader, Swoon and Shepard Fairey.

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I loved Dran’s droll take on TinTin’s adventures in France. “Because of a strike, no trains will run today,” reads the sign.

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I also loved seeing Invader’s mosaics up close, along with a video of him working.

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I was stunned by the quality of some of the works …

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… amused by their subversive humor  …

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… and charmed or moved by a few others.

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I enjoyed seeing the next generation of street-artists-in-the-making, huddled here for a lecture about Dran’s methods and message.

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But most…

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Brace yourself: the Facebook Phone takeover is here

facebookOn Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally let everyone out of the dark. After months of speculation, rumors and heavy-handed hints about a possible Facebook Phone that would ‘rule them all’ (very Lord-of-the-Rings-like), he managed to leave everyone frustrated and slighty bemused.

The final unveiling, an app that would transform any Android OS phone into a ‘Facebook phone’, might have been a disappointment for many after the hype, but it might be the most intelligent move possible for Zuckerberg’s Facebook.

If they had tried to bring out a new gadget with the associated operating system, the production demands and the massive market competition might have sunk them before they even set foot in the stores. After the recent launch of Facebook Graph, a search engine that promises to compete with Google, the rumors of a new gadget sounded like Facebook was biting off more than it could chew.

Facebook might have noted their own dependence on operating systems with their mobile users (and that they would be making some powerful competitors by launching into mobile phone construction territory). An app to transform the operating system to their advantage made a lot more sense. Is it exciting? Not as much as a new smartphone, but the implications should send a shudder through Facebook-haters everywhere, because in strategy, they might have hit the jackpot.

How does ‘Facebook Phone’ work?

The social platform minds worked alongside HTC on this project that (unlike the unfortunate ‘Facebook shortcut buttons’ on handsets, which sold badly), looks set to reach many users in the Android operating system.

Facebook hasn’t come up with a new main home screen to take over devices upon installation; instead it created Facebook Home within the new HTC First, a 4.1 Android OS device which will be released this month in the US and later this year around the world. Although HTC’s new gadget is particularly similar to those of the HTC One and proves to be quite bland, it shows that the new application can adapt to different devices that use the Android OS without any issues. The device also has predetermined apps like Instagram and Chatheads, the new Facebook messaging IM system, at users’ disposal.

As soon as you kick-start the Facebook homepage, the social platform news feed is unveiled in an attractive and easy to use display. The convenience is that Facebook works in the background, notifying uses of news, messages and allowing you to share photos, your location and status updates directly.  It controls your lock screen and also has control over the phone system and WiFi settings, to avoid the need to switch between apps.

Divide and conquer

Facebook’s tactic has been to please everyone. For Facebook users, the convenience of a unified system and easy updates will make their connected lives easier. Advertisers will be delighted if they continue to please with mobile phone advertising, capable of reaching more phone users than ever. Mobile phone makers won’t have to choose sides (for or against Facebook). If their strategy works, it might be translated to other OS and makers might decide to transform their phones into predetermined Facebook-installed gadgets.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee


Is there money in e-books?

ereaderThe rise of digital books means one important thing: an increase in demand for writers that can meet their needs. Is signing an e-book deal the same as signing a regular paper book deal? Can you live off the earnings of an e-book?

This infographic by NowNovel shows the rise in the economy of e-books, and whether authors are truly getting what they bargained for after investing in the world of digital reading. According to their data, e-books now rake in 30% of the market’s profit, making them the most popular form of reading after the traditional adult paperback. By 2016, it is expected that e-books will take over half the book market.


Creative Commons Photo courtesy of


Diving into Windows Blue, the next big Microsoft project

Windows-blue-conceptThis is Microsoft’s next biggest product. Its code name is Windows Blue and it’s an update that will launch this summer under the Windows 8 umbrella; offering a plethora of new personalization options and intuitive tweaks to enhance user experience.

Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate Vice-President of Communications, unveiled the news on their blog. “We’ll tune everyday experiences as well as introduce bold, connected and exciting new scenarios. Our product groups are also taking a unified planning approach so people get what they want – all of their devices, apps and services working together wherever they are and for whatever they are doing,” he said.

The new software is expected to be free or very cheap for those who already have Windows 8, which is good news for those who just want to revamp their user experience. It isn’t, however, just another launch. It’s a change in the way software will be announced and released from now onwards at Microsoft. It looks like Microsoft might have taken a page out of Apple’s book; there’s no need to bet on a completely new OS, you just have to improve the one on offer and cash in on the updates. According to ZDNet, the new operating system will be called Windows 8.1 (rather than Windows 8.5), a strategy that fits in with previous Microsoft launches.

A leaked ‘working’ version of Windows Blue gave a glimpse of what the new operating system would be capable of. One of the biggest nags for users is the lack of display control of tiles in the main screens, which would be solved thanks to the new tile sizes available through the new update; allowing users to create ‘super-tiles’ or thumbnail sized ones depending on their preferences.

Users will be able to personalize the colours and layout of the screen backgrounds and the ‘Start’ menu, as well as having the option to snap app windows side by side (without having to sacrifice the width of one of them). The new Windows software will also have Internet Explorer 11 and it’s been hinted that users might have the possibility of synching their internet tabs within different devices.

Although the new updates are attractive for users that want more from their Windows 8 experience, the price tag will still be the most decisive factor for its success with cash-strapped tech lovers.


The 40th anniversary of the first mobile phone call

nokia-retroThe third of April marks a historical anniversary for one of the most important gadgets of the present and the future: 40 years ago today, a Motorola executive picked up a mobile phone and made the first cellular call.

Although Martin Cooper (the man who made history) might not have known it at the time, the heavy brick-like gadget was the first step in the future of connectivity and communication. Dialing up a rival at AT&T, he wanted to know whether ‘the call sounded OK at their end’.

Recent data from the United Nations’ World Water Day showed that around the world, people have more access to mobile phones than working toilets. There are 6 billion mobile phones, according to the International Telecommunication Union, while 1.2 billion of the planet’s 7 billion people lack clean drinking water and 2.4 billion aren’t connected to wastewater systems.

This doesn’t just show technological advances surpassing geographical boundaries, it’s also a discouraging reality that in areas of India, China or various countries in Africa, the dependence on technology is superior to modern commodities. It’s shocking to find out that the average human has 2.5 gadgets on them at all times (open your bag and take a look!): smartphones, laptops, tablets, e-readers and Mp3 players are weighing down the lives of the ultra-connected.

Although we might use our mobile phones for browsing the internet, answering emails, social media, messaging and SMS more than ever before, phone calls are still an important part of communication. To celebrate the life of the mobile phone call, here’s an infographic by Blog Tactic which analyses the evolution of communication throughout history. Happy birthday mobile phone!


Creative commons photo courtesy of acroamatic