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Do you remember reading when you were a kid. I do, there was someone sitting on a chair a little too small for them out the front reading a big book to the class. The text was okay, but the pictures… they MADE the story.

So what if you’re blind? What if you can’t see those magical pictures? Well that’s where 3D printing comes in. 3D printing allows the child to ‘feel’ an image which is layered rather than two dimensional.

Of course, there are already books that have tactile elements to them, like pop-up books for instance. But this breakthrough in 3D printing allows a parent to snap a photo from their child’s favourite book, send it to a publisher and then receive a 3D copy!

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There’s a lot to do before the idea becomes mainstream. But it’s a step in a good direction and after all, reading is not for the eyes, but for the mind.

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Anyone go the gym here or wake up early and go jogging? Yeah, me neither. BUT – reading is like working out but for your brain, and it’s a whole lot easier and more enjoyable too!

So, without further gossip, here are the 5 reasons why you NEED to be reading a book everyday.

1. It’ll reduce how quickly your brain ages
Most are aware of how debilitating and hurtful mental illness like Alzheimer’s can be, but reading is your solution to slowing down the onset of you losing your wits. For mental health stimulation is key, and the best way to do that is by engrossing yourself in the world of fiction. Sure, you could play chess against friends but that’s even harder than reading.

2. Improves your memory
Okay so this one is my favourite – reading makes your memory much better. Because when you read you get to know more characters, places and events, and you’re constantly ‘recalling’ those things when you read new material that connects with the past. This not only improves your short term memory and your ‘synapses’ (which are your brain pathways), but making these can also improve the stability of your mood. and speaking of mood….

3. Reduce how stressed you feel
Life can be hard sometimes and at other times it can be downright unfair. But when you feel totally overwhelmed if can be beneficial to pick up a book and lose yourself in the world of someone else. And who knows, you might see aspects of your life from a whole new perspective.

4. You learn new words
In the 21st Century we’re all very good at #tagging and ‘lol’ing while really ‘wtf’ing about it all. But something you can’t get from the internet is the vast collection of words that are expressed in books. When you read you’re exposed to new words and more importantly, you’re exposed to those words being used in context – so you understand what they mean and how they can be used. And WHY is this helpful? Well knowing more words makes you better at talking to a wider range of audience. Sure, you’re not going to be talking in high-English to your mates at the pub, but what about your boss? Or your parents?

5. Bolstering your analytic skills
Reading a book can be hard, especially with there are multiple story lines happening concurrently to another. But being able to keep track of these is a skill that transcends the pages of a book. Have you ever read a mystery novel and figured out who or what’s happened before it’s revealed to you? Well that’s your analytic skills being put to work – and these skills apply to all aspects of your life, whether it’s figuring out the best bus to catch or how to deal with a particularly difficult colleague.

So now you know why reading is so important to developing and stimulating your brain. But when it comes down to it the biggest reason to read is that it’s so enjoyable. Whether you love reading or haven’t picked up a book in awhile, I challenge you to read something everyday!

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Story 8

Writing 7.5

Characters 8.5

Readability 9

Anne’s Rice’s second book in The Vampire Chronicles is a much faster and more exhilarating read than book number 1 – Interview with the Vampire. The second book follows the story of Lestat (Louis’ maker from the first book) – his life before vampirism, how he was made, and what is to become of him since.

Lestat is electric and impulsive. He awakes after decades of being asleep deep underground, and he awakes with a damning thirst, not just for blood but for fame. Lestat quickly becomes a famous rockstar, calling all Vampires to him through his music and in doing so, breaking the oldest rule of the Vampire coven… Never reveal yourself to mortals.

If you’ve read the first book you’ll know that it’s quite introspective in that it’s as much about philosophy in morality as it is about adventure and excitement. This second book has a much larger scope, beginning in the Renaissance and ending in the late 20th century.

If book one asked the question “Why do vampires exist?” then book two answers “why should anything exist?”

Why should Death lurk in the shadows? Why should Death wait at thje gate? There is no bedchamber, no ballroom that I cannot enter. Death in the glow of the hearth, Death on tiptoe in the corridor, that is what I am. Speak to me of the Dark Gifts – I use them. I’m Gentleman Death in silk and lace, come to put out the candles. The canker in the heart of the rose.

In the Vampire Lestat, there are older more powerful vampires, there is magic beyond comprehension, and finally there is the history and the mystery of Those Who Must Be Kept. If you liked Interview with a Vampire then you will devour book two: The Vampire Lestat!

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Whether you love the authentic feel and smell of a paperback, or if you like the convenience and and storage of using an electronic library, like a Kindle, you need to know the differences between the two.

and  it’s in your head…

That’s right! Your brain reacts very differently when you read words on paper instead of reading words on a screen. You’ve actually trained your brain to think  based on what device you’re reading on. When you read a book your eyes move down the page in a chronological order – left to right & top to bottom. However, when you read on a screen your eye constantly darts over the page looking for the most ‘important’ piece of information, processing it before it continues scanning – this happens because of the way web pages are laid out, you tend to scout around the ads and instead look for titles and hyperlinks.

This phenomenon is called the bi-literate brain – it means that you use different parts of your brain that do different things. Linear processing occurs on paper and nonlinear processing happens with screens.

But what does all this mean?

Well, as you may have experienced in your own life, there has been a massive shift away from paper to computers – think about how many hours you spend on your laptop, tablet and phone versus the time you spend with a book in your hand. The brain is like many of your muscles and the old saying applies: “use it or lose it”. By neglecting books you are losing the ability to process complex linear text, which makes it much harder for you to understand similarly complex ideas.

You see, linear processing works like building a Jenga tower. If we read something we don’t quite understand, then the foundation for everything else we read will be less stable because we haven’t fully understood the connections between these ideas that are presented in dense chronological order. Have you ever been reading a book and realised you’ve read two paragraphs and are unable to recount what has just happened? If you miss some of the founding blocks, by the time you reach the end the whole tower will come crashing down.

BUT THERE IS A SOLUTION!

That’s right, you can regain your deep reading skills by putting a side time each day to read a book. A PAPER book. and just like that, you’ll pick it right up again. The digital age is dominating our lives, screens everywhere demand our attention with beeps and flashing and fancy scrolling options. But books feel different, they carry memories in the way they smell. And reading a book everyday is going to make you a much better thinker.

Thank you to Oscar Ferrer, from Flickr for this image.

Further Reading.

http://niemanreports.org/articles/our-deep-reading-brain-its-digital-evolution-poses-questions/

http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-09-18/your-paper-brain-and-your-kindle-brain-arent-same-thing?utm_content=bufferf4439&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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Story 7

Writing 7.5

Characters 7.5

Readability 7

I can almost hear you groaning as I tell you I’m reviewing a book about vampires. But please don’t worry, these vampires don’t sparkle in daylight but they do burst into flame and they don’t drink blood for some sort of sexual pleasure, they do it to survive. These are the vampires of old, the ones you love to fear.

And then suddenly I remembered two conflicting things and was torn in agony: I remembered the powerful beating of her heart against mine and i hungered for it, hungered for it so badly I turned my back on her in the bed and would have rushed out of the room had not Lestat held me hast; and I remembered her mother’s face and that moment of horror when I’d dropped the child and he’d come into the room.

Published in 1976, Anne Rice’s novel follows the main character Louis as he is transformed from man to Vampire, by his companion Lestat. This books is less about Vampires killing without remorse, but more about searching for meaning in immortality. How does someone justify living forever at the cost someone’s life everyday?

The story follows Louis, Lestat and later Claudia as they explore America and Europe in search for other Vampires like themselves. The story is given direction as Louis slowly loses his humanity and replacing it with the coldness that defines all other Vampires. But whether he will be able to shed all humanity (as other Vampires before him have done) and therefore find peace of mind will be a hard task.

Another interesting part of this book is that it told in retrospect as Louis is interviewed by a nameless ‘boy’. This means the story is both told in present and past tense giving Louis a chance to reflect on his journey (and we are given that same opportunity through him). it also sets up the feeling that a long period of time passes throughout the telling of the story.

This book is philosophical in its approach to exploring human nature. It forges complex characters who challenge the idea of what it is to be ‘good’ and what it is to be ‘evil’. It’s book one in a long series and definitely worth a read!

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Story 5.5

Writing 6.5

Characters 6

Readability 5

I’m almost hesitant about writing this book review. No, scrap that, I am really nervous. Why? Well Heart of Darkness is a classic. Heart of Darkness is a deconstruction of human nature, it teaches about love and jealousy and life – It’s been compared to Hamlet!

But… I didn’t enjoy reading it…which is odd, because I enjoy reading trashy novels as well as books brimming with life. This is something I want to talk about, later on in this post, but for now I’ll keep to the review.

Conrad narrates this story through the main character who I found to be very difficult to empathize with, or even understand. I think this is because he’s a canvas, of sorts, on which we imprint our own personal experience and values.

The book begins with the main character undertaking a journey into the centre of Africa – the Heart of Darkness. On his way (via steamboat – it’s 1899) he hears about the enigmatic and mysterious Ivory Hunter, Mr Kurtz. By all accounts Mr Kurtz is a enviable man, a gifted hunter, a poet, a dancer, attractive, smart – all the things anyone would want to be. Finding Kurtz takes up a good portion of the book, while suspense and anticipation is built toward this moment. But when we finally meet him and our expectations are totally wrong. We’re left thinking, what’s happened to the great Kurtz?

“He had summed up – he had judged. “The horror!” He was a remarkable man. After all, this was the expression of some sort of belief; it had candour, it had conviction, it had a vibrating note of revolt in its whisper, it had the appalling face of a glimpsed truth – the strange commingling of desire and hate.”

I’m glad I finished this book despite not enjoying the majority of it. I found the language dated and complex, and the characters untenable, but the idea of the book is quite interesting – what happens when you take a great man out of his great place, and put him into another place. Will he still be great?

Has this happened to you? Have you ever been reading a book and wondered if you should still keep reading it? Did you finish it? Do you regret not finishing it?

I’d love to know how you feel about this.

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“Shadow heard himself laugh, over the sound of the music. He was happy. it was if the last 36 hours had never happened, as if the last three years had not happened, as if his life had evaporated into the daydream of a small child, riding the carousel in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, on his first trip back to the States, a marathon journey by ship and by car, his mother standing there, watching him proudly, and himself sucking his metal popsicle, holding on tightly, hoping that the music would never stop, the carousel would never slow, the ride would never end. he was going around and around and around again…

Then the lights went out, and Shadow saw the gods.”

This is a book of mythic proportions, novel ideas and epic battles. In America, historically a penal colony and immigrant-settled, it asks what happens to the gods who are brought with the settlers. What of the leprechauns of the Irish-Americans, and how about Thor and Odin and Loki? Where do these gods go when there people leave their homelands? Perhaps, if you read the book, you might meet some of these American Gods.

We first meet the main character, Shadow, in prison where he’s serving a small sentence for participating in a bank robbery. He’s the kind of guy that drifts through life, not questioning much, trying not to think too much but a pleasant enough fellow. Throughout the book Shadow faces impossible scenarios, heartbreak, betrayal. He’s a middle man that becomes a meddler. Oh and magic – there’s magic too.

Throughout the book Gaiman carefully crafts each of his character as though they were playing poker at the table with the highest stakes. Secrets are kept hidden, intentions played close to the heart. It’s a writing trait that gives the novel a sense of mystery, and leaves you wondering what’s going to happen next. You will be constantly trying to decipher the simultaneously elusive and omnipresent Mr Wednesday and his schemes.

“‘However, that is not my favourite. No, my favourite was one the called The Bishop Game. It had everything: excitement, subterfuge, portability, surprise. Perhaps, i think from time to time, perhaps with a little modification, it might…’ Wednesday thought for a moment then shook his head. ‘No, its time has passed’.”

Another highly satisfying aspect of this book are the back stories that feature throughout the story. They’re not integrated, but dispersed as separate chapters which moderate the pace of the main story. These back stories are narratives in themselves which give colour to the novel, but also give some historical background that feels genuine and authentic.

This only way I can describe this book is as if Alice got lost in the Matrix, or better yet, Neo got lost in Wonderland. It’s an anomaly, a love story, a war and a journey of personal exploration. But mostly, it’s a lot of fun!