Category Archives: Musings

What shall I review?


I have a list of books that I am intending to write reviews of, the only thing is I don’t know where to start so I thought I would hand it over to my readers…

This one I’ve been thinking about a lot since I read it, so I want to actually get the review done. Also I’ve watched the film so I want to review the book before I ‘review’ the film (I was going to link to a trailer, but they are all too spoiler-y)

This one I thought I had reviewed, then found out I apparently hadn’t, so I feel it’s overdue, but I’m not sure I can write about it with the same vigor as I would have when I had just finished it.

I’ve done lots of posts about this one, but no one overall review. I don’t feel it’s urgent except that I really want people to read this.

I’m not sure if I have enough to say about this one, I may save it for a set of mini reviews…except by the time I have enough I might have forgotten what I wanted to say.

This was my last bookclub read and I’ve mentioned it a few times. I was ready to review it as soon as I finished, but I wanted to go to my bookclub first, and now it’s one I want to review, and have mentioned, by no necessarily top of my list

If you follow me on instagram you’ve probably noticed this one. Really good book, my latest read.

Are there any you’d like to see a review of?

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All the Things the Witches in Harry Potter Taught Us (Part 1)


It has been 20 years (20 years!) since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone first made it’s quiet little entrance onto our shelves, who would have thought that kid’s book I pulled out my stocking on Christmas day 20 years (20 years!) ago would turn into what it has today. Books, and films, and spin-offs and theme parks. My first home online, with the old DSL connection, on the very basic Bloomsbury message board where you had to type in your username everytime, was because of Harry. I have spoken often before about how much these books have been so important to me, and I don’t want to just be rehashing old ground (I’ll leave some links at the bottom though). but I do need to do something.

So I was thinking, and I thought about those beautiful new house editions which came out yesterday, and I was thinking about how they are a thing to possess and treasure, rather than just a book to read, but it’s not really the books as an object that are the things you treasure. You treasure the memories, and the stories, and the characters.

Then I started thinking about how J.K has been criticised for her books being too white, too middle-class. Maybe it’s not representative of the whole world, maybe it doesn’t have to be because guess what? There are some amazing characters in there. And, at a time when J.K was being told not to put her first name on books because it would put boys off, she wrote some really amazing, strong women. Harry Potter isn’t a feminist novel, but maybe it should be. Let’s see we have to of course start with…

hermione_-_jim_kay_1_

Copyright Jim Kay

Hermione

The ‘Greatest Witch of Her Age’. Hermione I think is so many of us, she was certainly the character I would have said I had most in common with, at least early on. She’s smart, and bookish, and ‘good’, and she doesn’t have many friends. She’s not beautiful, she has big teeth and bushy hair (let’s put to the side the idea that she’s black, imagine her how you always imagine her). I even thought that I looked like Hermione. We can all see why she’s bookish, we are all the readers escaping into another world, and think about it Hermione was actually escaping into another world, she was muggleborn, she’d probably read The Hobbit, and The Secret Garden, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, things like that don’t happen to ‘normal’ people. She must have been so excited.

So with this bond of hers of course Hogwarts was exciting, and of course she wanted to do well, so of course she spent days reading the textbooks and anything else she could lay her hands on, it was a dream. I even imagine that it was disappointing to find how much was the same as a muggle school. No wonder she was upset that ‘nobody liked her’ it stopped the place from being an amazing fairytale she had ended up in. The  Harry and Ron brought that fairytale back (maybe more than she would really have expected!).

She was the clever one, Harry may have thought with his heart, but he really needed Hermione to be his head. And she ended up not being such a goody-two-shoes after all.  In first year she set a teacher on fire. In second year she brewed an advanced potion which required taking a book from the restricted section of the library, stealing potions from the Snape’s  personal supplies, and hiding it in a bathroom. And that was just the first two years!

I guess what I’m saying is that she had a sense of being good, and right. She appreciated the rules, but she was willing to break them for the right reasons, and her friends were top of that list of reasons.

She taught us that it’s ok to be clever, and strong, and to stand-up for people (and house elves). She showed us that women can get high up  politics without having to be ‘bitches’ (even if she did have a slight bossy streak).

We are all Hermione, and that’s awesome.

(ok so I got here and realised I’d basically written a mini essay on Hermione….so stay tuned for part two)

Other places where I rave about Harry Potter:

How to Know You’re Still a Potterhead

If You Could Only Remember 1 Book

Chamber of Secrets Forum- In Memoriam

Looking back, teenage reading

Harry Potter Week

Me and Harry

Me and Books

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Problems with E-books


I love my kindle. It’s small. It fits in my bag perfectly, I can carry thousands of pages without needing a massive bag, and my arms won’t fall off. The books tend to be cheaper, I can even get free books, and it’s easier as a reviewer to get ebooks to review.

Before I got my kindle I really was unsure. I thought you couldn’t replace a real book. The feel of paper in your hands, the smell of the paper and the ink. The idea of snuggling up with what was essentially a computer just seemed impossible. I would say I still prefer the overall experience of reading a paper book, but actually snuggling up with my kindle is sometimes easier, especially when a paper version would be a big tome.

However there are some things which really annoy me about kindle books. I dislike that amazon presumes where you want to start a book, and where you want to finish it. I usually flick back (I say flick but you can’t really flick a kindle book) to the actual beginning, the cover page, because amazon will miss out those little quotes, or the forward, or any other little bit that comes before the first ‘official’ chapter, and sometimes these really add to the book itself. Amazon will also tell you that you’ve finished a book before the afterword, or the appendix, or the thanks, they aren’t always things you read, but again they often add a little something. According to amazon the book I just read (‘Animal’ by Sara Pascoe) starts at 2% and finishes at 98%, and I can tell you that there are actual interesting things to read in that extra 4%.

It’s actually ‘Animal’ which started me off on this whole train of thought.  ‘Animal’ has footnotes. I am yet to find a kindle book with footnotes which work (I’ve mentioned it before in reviews I believe). In ‘Animal’ the footnotes are at the end of the chapter, in a paper book that’s fine because you can flick back and forth (which I still don’t find perfect but it’s easy enough), in a kindle book you can’t flick, you either have to click through each page, or just wait and read all the footnotes when you’ve finished the chapter, by which time you’ve forgotten what most of them refer to. If it’s just references that’s one thing, but in ‘Animal’ it actually adds to the writing as it is written, which means that you do need to know what the footnotes refer to. ‘The Princess Bride’ actually uses footnotes as part of the story, that must be a nightmare on kindle. I don’t know if it’s the publishers who are causing this problem by the way they reformat books for kindle, or if it’s that amazon doesn’t allow formatting which works out better, but either way it really frustrates me.

The other books which don’t really work are the sort of books which are designed to be flicked through rather than read from cover to cover, although those type of books are more for sharing so I wouldn’t personally buy them for kindle so that doesn’t matter so much.

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Year in Review 2016


2016 hasn’t been the best year when it comes to reading, and when it comes to blogging things have been even worse.

I’ve read 27 books, considering that at one point I was averaging two a week this is a big dip, and quite a few of those were short books.

Slowly things are getting back on track, and I’m hoping to read more, and blog more in 2017.

I rated three books as 5 stars in 2016. I’ve only reviewed one so far;

Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline which is really a book you have to read. I put it off because I wasn’t sure if it was my thing, and how I regretted it.

The other two are; a none fiction book about brain disorders, Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole by Allan Ropper and Brian David Burrell, which is really interesting.

And Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova, a story about a man diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, and his children who may also have the disease in their futures.

I’m not going to talk about my disappointing reads this year, mainly because I think that my lack of concentration may have made me less tolerant of harder books.

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What the world needs now is Hygge? | Chrisbookarama


Finding comfort with hygge reading.

Source: What the world needs now is Hygge? | Chrisbookarama

I saw this post earlier today on Chrisbookarama (but for some reason wouldn’t comment, so I hope she doesn’t mind me borrowing her idea).

The post was about comfort reading, which I think a lot of us are in need of right now.

My ultimate comfort read is Harry Potter. There’s an escapism in those books, that whole new world that Rowling has created, I think theirs also the element that I grew up with those books so it sort of takes me back to happy times reading them for the first time. I have many happy memories related to Harry Potter.

If buzzfeed is to be believed I’m not the only one who finds comfort (and even strength) in Potter.

There are other books to escape into, although not a chick-lit fan generally, I do find that chick-lit is pretty easy to sort of ‘dive’ into, and in that sense it’s comforting because I find I don’t need the same concentration to get into a story.

The other thing is ‘issue’ type books (especially Jodi Picoult, not exactly comforting as such, more they wrap you up in someone else’s world and someone else’s problems, somehow your problems don’t seem so bad themselves.

What are some stories you like to escape into?

 

 

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Birmingham Libraries in Trouble


DSCN0837

Library of Birmingham (photo by me)

So what I had feared is happening. Birmingham, yes, cannot really afford its lovely new library. I was concerned from the beginning (well sort of) that the opening of a fancy, new, and- yes- expensive library would effect the libraries in Birmingham as a whole.

First the hours were cut and staff were let go. Now apparently new fiction is not being bought- there’s just no budget. I fact reportedly some Birmingham libraries have been asking for donations for their shelves.

I love the Library of Birmingham. It is a beautiful building, and of course all the books. However I never really saw a problem with the old one at least it terms of it’s purpose as a library. You couldn’t exactly call it beautiful, but it had books, and places to read them, which is the important thing really. It’s nice to have a library which isn’t a concrete monstrosity, but I’d rather have the old old library back based on the pictures I’ve seen, apparently at the time it was too ‘showy’ though, and the knocked it down when the ugly new library (of the time) was built.

Victorian Library (source)

The Library of Birmingham is probably the library I use the most (there are others closer to home, but I travel through town every day. It is certainly a nice library to have as my main library, although the decreased opening hours have meant that it’s often already closed when I am travelling through town on the way home.

That fiction is being cut I think really shows the attitude that libraries and reading are a luxury. Is this true though? Whilst non-fiction may be more intellectually enriching, fiction is, at least generally speaking, more emotionally enriching. Is that the type of society we really want? Where intelligence is rated above compassion or empathy? Plus reading has been shown to have good effects on mental health which is surely a good thing.

Old central library (source)

Again it is the poor that are getting hit. Those for whom the library is their only, or their main source of books. I am lucky. I can afford to buy more books than I really ‘need’. I have a pile of books waiting to be read which could last me a few months, and enough Waterstone’s points to buy three or four books if I’m really desperate.

However I remember a time when I used the library a lot. I did much of my studying for my GCSEs there, and spent a lot of time there during my holidays. I was a frequent visitor at the school library. If it wasn’t for the library- and yes, especially the fiction section I wouldn’t be the reader I am today.

Reading isn’t a luxury. Reading is a way of life, and in a world where there are so many other things to distract potential readers shouldn’t we be putting more into our libraries, not taking away from them. Books create a person, books are a lot of what I am, not just a reader, but my personality too. I hate to think of a world where this access to self is lost.

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How to Know You’re Still a Potterhead


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1) The word “Always” “Always” has quotation marks around it

2) Everything can be linked to Harry Potter

Source

3) You’re still half-convinced Sirius is actually alive

4) It takes you hours to write a simple list post because you get distracted by all the Potter stuff online

5) You never give up hope for ‘The Scottish Book’…

6)…or a prequel

7)…or sequel

8) You have a strange relationship with the films, they aren’t the books, but you still can’t quite resist

9)…and when you watch them you “Always” complain about what was changed or left out

10) New covers aren’t right, but you still covet them

11) They are your comfort read

12) You still want to re-read no matter how many times you’ve read them…

13)…even if you practically know them off by heart

14) There are several copies of the books in your house because nobody wants to get rid of theirs (and they are half fallen apart so you needed new copies)

Source

15) When you re-read Deathly Hallows you still cry at Harry’s death, even though you know it’s not really death

16) Getting a tweet from J.K. is a dream

17)…and if you get one you have a mini panic attack

18)…God know what you’d be like if you actually met her

19) You are disappointed in the lack of book based merchandise

20)…but you still own some sort of Potter merchandise

Source

21) Dumbledore is the wisest person you know

22)…even if he is a bit shady

23) And Snape is still a villain (unless you were a Snape fan already)

24) You still ship non-canon pairings

25) You plan on naming your kids after Harry Potter characters (or have already)

26) You’re still waiting for your Hogwarts letter

27) You write posts about how you are still a Potterhead

28) You miss Harry

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On Cover Art and New Covers


This week there have been a few new covers revealed this week. Both the US and the UK covers of Go Set and Watchman  (the ‘new’ Harper Lee novel) were released this week, and so was the cover of the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I had planned to write this post just about the Go Set A Watchman covers, but when I saw the Harry Potter cover I thought I may as well use that too.

US Cover

The first cover I saw was the US Go Set a Watchman cover. My initial feelings were ‘meh’ it’s ok, but not great. There’s something kind of amateur about it I think. It looks like a good indie ebook cover, not remarkable, but better than a lot of things out there. There’s also a bit of an old fashioned air, which I think is probably to reflect the time when it was written. I can see reflections of the original To Killa Mockingbird cover with the tree. Plus apparently a train journey is apparently important, so I suppose it makes some sense at least.

UK cover


I guessed that the UK cover would somehow link with the To Kill a Mockingbird cover too. I was pretty much right, there’s the tree which reflects the original cover, and the bird which reflects some of the subsequent covers, including the longest standing cover. Plus the orange reflects the orange from the original and later covers. Generally I prefer the UK cover, although I don’t like the text on the cover, it’s silly to read, first time I read it as “Go Set A To Kill A Watchman Mockingbird” which makes no sense. Then I began to wonder if the UK publishers are trying to trick people into thinking they’re buying a double edition, then text for the To Kill a Mockingbird bit is just too big to seem to refer to a by the author of note, which is what it actually is. Really I can’t say I like the UK cover so much either, but it is more instantly likeable.

So onto the illustrated Philosopher’s Stone. We’ve seen a few images from this already (if you look at the pictures on the amazon page you can see what has already been released) and I’ve had mixed feelings about them, I can certainly see the appeal, but I’ve grown up with the original covers, anything else just seems strange. I do like the cover art though. It makes Platform 9 3/4 seem more magical than the original covers. Generally I have to admit the illustrations are good. I especially have liked how Hermione is drawn. I think this is a book I would like to posses when it is released.

What do you think of these new covers?

Pre-order ‘Go Set a Watchman’ (UK cover):

Hardcover (£9.00)

Kindle (£7.47)

Pre-order the illustrated edition of Philosopher’s Stone:

Hardcover (£30.00)

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If You Could Only Remember 1 Book


I just finished reading Fahrenheit 451 (review is still in my head). It got me thinking about what book I would want to remember if I could only remember one book, or read one book for the rest of my life. What book would I ‘be’?

My initial thought was one of the Harry Potters (of course), Half-Blood Prince because it’s my joint favourite, and has more substance than Chamber of Secrets. Then I thought just remembering one book from the middle of a series would probably be pretty pointless without the other books to give it context. So I thought maybe it would be better to remember Philosopher’s Stone instead, even though it’s my least favourite of the series, except then I would want to continue the story, and well if I can only remember one book that would be incredibly disappointing. I remember endlessly looking for Chamber of Secrets after I read Philosopher’s Stone. It would be like that, except it would literally be endless.

So I started thinking of other books which I have loved, or love. I kept coming back to series books, which is strange as I don’t actually read that many series. I thought of Northern Lights, but that so obviously leads on to The Subtle Knife that it wouldn’t work either. Maybe The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts would work. I still haven’t read the next in the series and whilst I want to Don Emmanuel does seem like a fairly good book in of itself. I am still trying to convince myself that it could be the ‘winner’.

Don Emmanuel got me thinking about Captain Correlli’s Mandolin, which I was trying to beat with other de Berniéres books for so long. Maybe it would still hold the same amazement if I hadn’t read Don Emmanuel, and it’s certainly a good book to stand alone.

I got thinking about another of my favourites which I first read at around about the same time as Captain Correlli. The one that stands out is Birdsong, which technically is a series book, but is probably the better of the three (the other two are The Girl at the Lion d’or and Charlotte Gray, if you wondered). I read the Regeneration trilogy around that time too, a series again (see I’ve always had a thing for books set in wartime).

I suppose Life After Life would be a good one. I loved it, there is a companion novel coming out but I think it still counts as a stand-alone novel.

 

If you could only remember one book for the rest of your life what would it be?

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Famous Writers and New Books



I have posts planned to write, reviews, a different musings post, but yesterday the news was revealed that Harper Lee is releasing a new book, after over 50 years.

Technically it’s not a new book, but an old one. It features ‘To Kill a Mockingbird”s Scout as an adult and was actually written before ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, only the manuscript was thought lost.

This got me thinking about authors who are famous for one book releasing new books. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is a modern classic. It has lots of fans who think it’s one of the best books ever written.

So what does this mean for ‘Go Set A Watchman’ (that’s the title of the new book)? Well for one thing it will probably be pretty much required reading. Whether or not it’s any good I should think that it will get plenty of sales (which almost makes one doubt the lost manuscript story).

Then of course there are all the expectations which come with the book. You would expect it to be at least as good as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, so if it isn’t then that would be a great disappointment. You would expect some great moral story, but does it really have to be that, after all authors have worked in different genres before. Although it still featuring Scout suggests that it will at least have some moral standing.

Will it be as good though? It was written before ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ which could suggest that Harper Lee knew less of what publishing wanted (whether or not they know what will make a good, and successful book is a discussion for another day). In fact it was because the editor liked the looking back sections of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was written, and it seems that it was meant as a replacement, rather than a prequel. Does that mean that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is basically the best bits of ‘Go Set a Watchman’?


It reminds me a little of when authors back catalogues are re-released because they have become more popular since the books were first released. The author who springs to mind is Jodi Picoult. I’ve still (generally) enjoyed her older books, but they have been a bit disappointing in comparison to some of her more recent novels.


At the moment I’m reading J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis will know what a big Harry Potter nut I am. So why has it taken me so long to get around to reading The Casual Vacancy. Partly it was that I was worried I would end up being disappointed, or that I would have a bias favourable view just because it’s J.K. I think I might end up the same with ‘Go Set a Watchman’. I certainly want to read it, but I have reservations (not least that Harper Lee may not actually want it to be published). I will probably wait for the paperback.


I’ve always thought that I understand J.K. Rowling wanting to write a novel not as J.K. Rowling, which she did. It means it would be judged for it’s own merit. The Cuckoo’s Calling did get quite good reviews prior to J.K. being unmasked as the real author, but it wasn’t until after then that it got to be a best seller. It’s a shame in a way because it is a pretty good crime story, and so many people read it because it was J.K. rather than because they actually wanted to read it.

So what do you think. Do you want to read the new Harper Lee? Do you think that your reading of books by favourite authors are coloured based on who the author is?

You can already pre-order ‘Go Set a Watchman’ which is set for release on 14th June 2015

Hardback (£18.99)

Kindle (£10.99)

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Circ: Separated by a Common Language.


On Friday when I posted my review of Circ I mentioned that I was planning on attending an event about it today.

Separated by a Common Language was all about the process of writing a collaborative piece and the sorts of barriers that you would have to overcome to do so, including cultural barriers (and the writers  were international). It was designed to be accessible to someone who hadn’t read Circ, so having read Circ is not really a requirement to understand this post either.

It was an interesting session to attend. It was interesting to see how the writers had experienced the process, and got me thinking about sides which I hadn’t considered. Plus it reminded me of parts of the novel that maybe I should have mentioned in my review (just goes to show that maybe I should start writing notes when I finish a book). I am going to add these bits splattered about

I’m going to give a little information about Circ and the process so things can be understood, no spoilers!

Circ was written by ten different authors, each author wrote a different character and characters were gradually voted off ‘X-Factor style’.as such it was a competition, although the contestants did have to work together at least to an extent, because the story had to work and the characters had to interact with each other.

One author in particular spoke about how sometimes these interactions meant that a character getting voted out could be as much of a bother to an author who was still in the process as for the author who had actually been voted out. He gave the example of his own character (which makes sense). His character was a teenager who worked in a shop and didn’t attend school, pretending to be older than school age. Another of the characters was a social worker so the author could see lots of interactions happening between his character and the social worker, which of course couldn’t be fulfilled once the social worker was out of the picture. He still had ways he could take the story, but this was a big chunk of what he could have done.

Another author (the author who won, as it happens) talked about what he had done to guard against this problem. He said that he had tried to make it so that his character had  connections with lots of other characters, so when one character ‘gets lost’ he had plenty of other characters to follow. Plus his character had his own loner related storyline. Not a surprise he won really, he had his finger in lots of pies, plenty of storylines for readers to want to discover the end of.  One of the characters he had an early interaction with was actually a character I wished we could see more of, she seemed to have lots of back story which I really would have liked to find out about. Let’s say she was my type of character, the type I like to read about.

The author who wrote the gangster character had a different approach to staying in the game. He decided to make all his character’s scenes as exciting as he could, in his first scene he killed someone by poking a pencil in their eye. That worked pretty well too. The gangster was one of the last characters to go.

The author who wrote the gangster was also the only person on the panel who didn’t live in the UK (he wasn’t the only author who  didn’t live in the UK but not all the authors were there) so he gave the best varied cultural insight. It seemed that his only real ‘problem’ was that he would use words and phases that British people wouldn’t use, and his character was meant to be British. He had to change other aspects of his character too, to make him more British. He wanted him to have gone to Sandhurst, but he was black, so him having gone to Sandhurst was very unlikely. Him  living in Skegness (where the book is set) was also somewhat unlikely, but that was too major to change. I actually really liked the gangster character, especially his interactions with the clown (the winning character). He was funny. He somehow seemed more funny when the author read an extract.

I feel this post is getting too long, but I wanted to comment on one more thing. I asked about how the writers managed to make things so cohesive, seeing as they all had their own backgrounds and styles. I found it interesting that they could tell the differences in styles, where I couldn’t. Maybe that was just to do with the familiarity with each other’s work. It’s a bit like how I  could tell that The Cuckoo’s Calling was written by J.K Rowling, because I am so familiar with and expected her style. They said they did occasionally need a push in the right direction when writing each other’s characters, because a writer will know more about their characters than what you can read, or what a description can really show. It’s part of the reason that they really needed to work together.

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Goodreads, negative reviews, authors, and reviewers.


Okay, so I don’t get much into the politics in the book blogging world. I’ve heard of people having trouble from authors for negative reviews but have little personal experience of it. However the discussion around Kathleen Hale’s article has interested me.

The article talks about Hale’s reaction to this review. The reviewer posted a negative review which Hale thought was unfair and untruthful, and got more than a little obsessed with it. Her article caused uproar in different parts of the book blogging world, and even division between authors.

So what do I have to add which hasn’t been said? I hope some balance.

I haven’t read the book, I cannot say if the reviewer was truthful about the book, however I can see how wires may have been crossed.

For an author their books can be a little like their children, it’s easy to be upset by negative reviews. Goodreads is probably right to say not to talk back to them. It’s something that people will like or won’t, and they should be free to express either of those feelings. Most bloggers will state that their reviews are truthful regardless of whether they were given free copies of the book or not, and authors shouldn’t expect a good review just because someone has taken something off them for free.

Having said that bloggers should be sensitive about how they approach reviewing a book. I hate writing negative reviews, although I have done it. Usually I try to make them balanced, even if the only good thing I can say about it is that the premise was good, if not the execution. I’m the same with positive reviews, if there is something I didn’t like I say. I’m not one for rave reviews.

So was this review unfair? Maybe, maybe not. It wasn’t a particularly strong review. It’s barely a review at all, more thoughts as they come up. Maybe a fuller review by the reviewer would be more balanced, and have more evidence (quotes, description of events) to back up her feelings.

Hale claims that the main reason she was upset was that she didn’t think there was rape in the book. The reviewer says there is, and that it’s ‘justified’ by the characters, and a whole handful of other things, slut-shaming for example, are used in a throwaway manner. But isn’t that realistic? When people do things like that they aren’t thinking of political correctness. Yes, I think Hale should have found a way to show that wasn’t right. I don’t know if she did. To be honest I don’t know if the reviewer herself knows. She claims in comments that:

“What I’m doing with this book is basically just reading until I find something offensive, but since that’s normally every other page or so, I try to make it through a chapter. But I’ve been busy reading better books lately, so this is not one of my top priorities, ha.”

And later

“Ha, read the above comments and status updates. I finally gave up. I’m going to ask my co-blogger who killed whom and promptly rid this book from my mind.”

Which suggests she could have missed things which make the things she didn’t like be better. She might not have too. (It is worth reading at least a few of the comments by the way, they go into more of a discussion and some people who liked the book show how they read it.)

Hale wanting right of reply isn’t wrong. If she thought the reviewer had read something in her book which she didn’t think was covered then I think Hale did have the right to ask for clarification. I think it’s decent for the reviewer to enter into a discussion, but I don’t think they should have to.

The real problem was the extremes of Hale’s reaction. Wanting to know on one thing. Asking on twitter, okay, asking on goodreads, okay. Trying to pressure a reviewer to interact, especially when acting like they want to talk about something different, not okay. Finding a reviewer’s address and turning up there, not okay. Finding their number and calling them, not okay. Pretending to be someone else not okay. Goading someone online, not okay. (Hale claims the reviewer did this too, which is not right on the reviewer’s side either).

I am ashamed too that The Guardian published the reviewer’s real name (presuming it is the real name). That is not right. Part of writing on the internet is being anonymous. That does mean you can say nasty things without fear of retribution, but it also means you can be truthful without worrying about the consequences, or at least you can supposedly be. It is okay that the reviewer pretended to be someone else, didn’t give her real name or picture. It’s a fairly vital thing for internet safety.

If she however did do the things which Hale accuses her of doing then she does seem to be looking for conflict, and you could even go as far as to call it cyber-bullying, and that is not okay. Whatever you say online you still have to be mindful that real people are reading it, and real feelings are involved.

Others have written negative reviews, or critical comments based solely on Hale’s article. I don’t feel this is right either. Hale’s reaction was wrong, but reading should be based on the book, not the author. At least that’s how I feel.

Hale blew everything far out of proportion, and if I have to pick a side I will go with the reviewer, however I do feel some sympathy for Hale, and I do think both sides did things which aren’t right.

As far as Hale’s article goes. It’s what really caused the trouble. Does that mean she shouldn’t have written it? Maybe, but it seems to have done more damage to her than anything else.Maybe it was a form of confession for her, or maybe she hoped more people would read the book and make up their own minds. Part of me does want to read it to see if I agree with the reviewer, but at the same time I wouldn’t want to ‘reward’ Hale for her behaviour.

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GCSEs and Book Choices


Image from The Learning Spy

One of the links in yesterday’s Sunday Surfing was about changes being made to the English GCSE syllabus. More specifically the exclusion of some American texts in favour of British texts.

This has caused quite an uproar. Partly because some of the most famous pieces of American literature have been taken off the syllabus; To Kill a Mockingbird, The Crucible, and Of Mice and Men. Partly because the choice doesn’t seem to be so much based on creating a better course as much as because Michael Gove doesn’t like these books, and thinks more British books should be studied. This article compares Gove to Mr Wormwood (of Matilda) and is well worth a read.

It is not so much the idea of changing the syllabus that I dislike. Whilst these books have a lot to offer, politically, historically, socially and in terms of the study of literature, they are not the only books which can offer this. Plus they have been on the syllabus for a long time, maybe it is time for a change?

As for the way of changing the syllabus I think that it makes a narrow syllabus. Studying only British literature means that the major world view seen through this literature will be British. Reading books from different cultures gives a different world view, and it’s one of the most accessible ways of doing so. If anything the syllabus should be wider. Not just American and British novels but novels from other cultures too. I think Murakami would be a really interesting author to study, for example,  or Rushdie. If the syllabus is to be changed then surely the best way to do so is to give access to a more varied book choice?

I am not saying scrap British texts either, but to give a broader range that simply British. Austen and Dickens have both been mentioned. I did study Dickens at school (just not at GCSE level), and whilst I can appreciate him he isn’t the easiest of writers to read, with, or without, analysis. Austen is easier, however it shows a narrower world view that Dickens. I think it could be a struggle for students. To Kill a Mockingbird, and Of Mice and Men are relatively easy reads, which means more time can be devoted to actually studying them.

I really don’t see why something needs to be taken out for something new to be added. Choice would be so much better, and if students could choose which texts to study themselves then they may well be more engaged in them.

You can sign a petition to re-think the changes here.

 

 

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Birmingham Indepedent Book Fair


I visited the Birmingham Independent Book Fair on Saturday, and I promised a post about it on twitter, so here we are.

The fair was hosted at the Ikon gallery,  run in conjunction with Writing West Midlands,  and featured a number of independent publishers and self-published writers from in and around Birmingham. I must admit I didn’t realise there were so many publishers in the area.

The publishers and authors were:

Twin Books | Fringeworks | Flarestack Poets | William Gallagher | Boo Books | Pigeon Park Press | Cinnamon Press | Silhouette Press | Cannon Poets | Shadow Publishing | TJB Books | Offa’s Press | Black Pear Press | The Alchemy Press | Ellie Stevenson | Nine Arches Press | Gingernut Books | Crowded Quarantine | Foxwell Press | Fair Acre Press | Five Seasons Press | Cassowary Press

Unfortunately we got to The Ikon a little later than intended and a couple of the stalls had already closed, having said that the majority seemed to be selling the types of books I don’t tend to read; crime, horror, poetry, short stories.

We did however visit a few stalls and found some things of interest.

The Pigeon Press stall was by far the most interesting. It was run by two of the authors; Heide Goody and Iain Grant.

What first attracted us to the stall was Heide’s map. She’s in the process of creating a map of places in the Midlands which feature in literature. I was able to add Ruby’s Spoon to her map. She’s hoping eventually to make an app. with the map so you can look up places where you are and see if there are books set there.

We bought a copy of the collaborative books between Heide Goody and Iain Grant Clovenhoof and Pigeon Wings, both of which look like they will be rather amusing. The boyfriend thought they sounded like they would be in a similar vein as Good Omens. I haven’t read that so I couldn’t really comment.

Just noticed the placing of the badge of Pigeonwings…

 

There were a lot of collaborative pieces from Pigeon Park Press actually which is interesting. I’ve always been interested about how the interaction between authors and each others characters work, seeing as authors tend to know more about their characters than is in the actual books.

 

What else? Cinnamon Press seemed interesting for writers. They hold lots of writing competitions, which I may enter if I ever finish my NaNoWriMo novel.

I also talked to Tom Bryson. It was interesting to talk about his writing process. He seems to go in for a lot more planning than me, and jumps around writing key scenes before linking them, which might actually work better, I’m not sure. My joining sections do tend to be my main problem.

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Goodreads, Censorship and Trolls.


goodreadsYesterday on facebook and twitter I posted this article with the plan to use it for this week’s Sunday Surfing, however I had so much to say about it that I decided it needed its own post.

The article is about an indie, debut author who claims to have been bullied and receiving rape threats through goodreads. Her book was not yet published and she claims that because of the treatment she received she has decided not to release the book at all.

It all started when the author asked about removing negative reviews which she said could not have been genuine, because nobody had been able to read the book yet. By her report goodreads told her that people could rate their interest in a book prior to release, and that they could use this rating in any way they wished. Basically that she should just ‘suck it up’.

That’s when she alleges that things turned nasty. She claims she received violent threats by being grouped onto shelves including “should be raped in prison” and “This author should be sodomised.” Plus she says that goodreads were rather blasé about the whole thing.

Now, obviously if this is true then it’s really not pleasant, although I’m not sure I would say it amounts to threats of rape. It’s more the type of thing which would be said about a paedophile than an author who has challenged your ideas. Either way though it isn’t something that shouldn’t happen- and goodreads does have a duty to protect its users from these types of things (whether they be authors or readers).

The most obvious solution would be to set up some sort of censor which would block certain words, from being used either over the site generally, or just within things like shelves. It seems pretty simple until you start thinking about it more deeply. There are plenty of books which have the sort of themes that would be blocked, you could end up censoring reviews for whole genres of fiction if it was a general filter. If it was just on shelves then it would stop people categorising books as they wished to, which could be for perfectly legitimate reasons, and those without legitimate reasons would probably find another way to the same ends, in their reviews for instance, or their status updates.

The whole thing of false reviews is a problem too. Maybe people were genuinely putting what their initial thoughts on the idea of the novel was, but it seems a bit strange to be rating a book based on your expectations, surely you could shelve it based on what you were likely to think? Not that I’d personally bother shelving books I wasn’t interested in.

It’s potentially easier to stop ‘fake’ reviews prior to the books publication, simply stop allowing reviews prior to publication, or allow only those with advanced copies (ARCs) to post reviews of the book. There are potential problems with either of those solutions however.

If all reviews were blocked prior to publication then those who received ARCs wouldn’t be able to post reviews either, and seeing as early reviews help create interest in a book this could cause problems for authors- especially indie authors who rely more on reader reviews.

Whereas to only allow those with ARCs to review early would have to have some way to verify the reviews, meaning that it could be open to separate censorship e.g. the author only authorising positive reviews. It could be good to have a code put in ARCs so that reviews could be posted early by anyone with the code.

Another possibility would be to allow authors to open their pages to reviews when they choose, e.g. once ARCs have been released, although I can see anything where the author is in charge of censoring could wind up trolls and cause more ‘fake’ reviews.

I can see that people may have had the suck it up attitude to early low star reviews. I’ve seen it myself to an extent. Is that really fair for reviews when the reviewer hasn’t actually read the book. Can you even call it a review based on that?

There’s also the attitude that this is all a publicity stunt. After all it’s made people take notice of the author. And they say all publicity is good publicity. If that is true though it means I have no respect for the author, it could do more bad than good.

So what do you think? Do goodreads have a duty here? What should they do? Or is it something that has just been blown out of proportion?

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Changing Book Titles


US cover

UK cover



In my recent review of The Officer’s Lover I mentioned that in America The Officer’s Lover has the title Almost Home. I also briefly said that I believed the American name was better. I certainly think it reflects the story better. Whilst The Officer’s Lover does have a slight baring on the story I feel it doesn’t reflect the main content of the story at all. However I an see Almost Home working. The main character, Jordan, had been floating since the death of her boyfriend. Making few connections, moving frequently, but never returning to England where she dated, and lost, him. I can see that her search for closure could make her ready to settle and get ‘home’.

So why was the novel name changed? Well I can see a little that it may have been changed to fit with other books by Pam Jenoff. It fits with the pattern of Kommandant’s Girl, The Ambassador’s Daughter, and The Diplomat’s Wife.

That’s what it often comes down to, marketing. It’s similar to changing book covers to film covers. Generally speaking I don’t like film covers- and them often being cheaper suggests to me that many people feel the same. However I can understand why the covers are changed- to make a link for people who have seen, or want to see, the film.

UK cover

US cover


Another notable time that a book title has been changed is the changing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in America. Apparently because American’s won’t understand the word philosopher. If I was American I think I would be offended at the assertion that I wouldn’t be able to understand a word- or even have the sense to look up a word I didn’t understand in the dictionary. I’ve heard of a few books being ‘dumbed down’ in this way for America.

 

UK cover

US cover

There are times when it works of course, when a word is something which is not used internationally. I did think that Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging had been changed to take out snogging in America, but apparently not. Some of the others have been changed however (USA list, UK list) I had heard it was due to the UK titles being too racy, although someone in America will have to tell me if they actually appear to be racy!

Generally speaking I think authors chose to title books by a certain name for a reason. And whilst other titles may work well on a marketing point of view I think really the author’s title should be stuck with. What do you all think?

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World Book Night 2013


world book night, world book night logo, wold book night 2013

Happy World Book Night everyone!

This year was my first year taking part in World Book Night as a giver. With a mixture of excitement and nerves!

World Book Night (for those who don’t know) is sort of like World Book Day, but for adults. The idea is to get people who wouldn’t normally read to read. Events take part up and down the country and half a million books are given away, some by givers (like me) and some are given directly to hard to reach areas.

I gave away 20 copies of Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair which is a favourite of mine. I picked it because it is easy to read, it’s engaging, it’s funny nd exciting, and it has a little bit of everything. Plus it’s the first in a series which makes it easy to go on from there, as well as being related to Jane Eyre, which is another way to continue your reading.

I was giving away copies to parent and staff at the nursery where I work, which is in a deprived area of Birmingham. It actually went much better than I expected. Not one parent who I offered a book to refused it, and a couple of staff took books too.

I actually found that quite a few of the parent like reading, I don’t tend to know the parents that well and it was interesting to see something new about them. One parent in particular was really interested to the book. He was asking me what it was about and about the rest of the series, he said he would definitely read it, but that it was his wife who should read more. Another told me she was reading The Help at the moment but would read The Eyre Affair next, then pass it on to her Mum who she said was also a reader. One of the grandparents seemed unsure at first but once she found lut there was a crime element, and it was also connected to Jane Eyre she changed her mine- and said she would pass it on to Mum. Quite a few seemed to think they needed to pay for them, or make a donation, maybe adults are just not used to getting free stuff, these seemed to be particularly gracious when they found out it was theirs to keep for free.

Some of the kids actually seemed interested too, which is good in a role model sense. The granddaughter of the grandparent I mentioned before asked why she got a book, and got the reply “because I was a good girl”. Another kid insisted on ‘reading’ the book himself. And another actually picked up a book for his parents, claiming it was about “George’s Day”, probably because it is St. George’s Day today.

 

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What to do with old ARCs?


The other day Jennifer (from The Restless Reader) was asking on twitter what other bloggers do with ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) once they have read and reviewed them? It’s always something which I have been a little unsure about, meaning that the majority of my ARCs are sitting on my shelves still, and most of them I am unlikely to read again.

I have in the past bookcrossed old ARC copies. It seems to be a pretty good solution to me. It’s sharing bookish love but means that you’re more likely to get someone who would not buy the book if they didn’t find it. Pretty much anyone can pick it up, and in a way that’s a sort of promotion of the author, and seeing as you’re meant to pass bookcrossing books on they may still buy the book if they enjoyed it.

Then there’s the rather popular blogger option of having an ARC giveaway. It’s not one I’ve ever done myself, mainly because of postage, I find it easier to just giveaway new books from the book depository. I can see the appeal though. It stands as a bit of a promotion for your blog (I tend to get more hits when I’m hosting a giveaway at least), and it’s again sharing the bookish love. Plus it’s fairly likely that whoever wins the book is a fellow blogger, so that could mean another review for the author.

Another option is to give them to a charity shop. However ARCs are never intended for selling, and although you wouldn’t benefit from it in monetry terms the charity would, which makes it a bit like selling the book on. It’s more acceptable than selling the book for your own gain because all books come to charity shops free of charge, whereas you’re ‘payment’ for the review is supposedly the book itself.

Then there are swapping options. Things like bookmooch, and read-it swap-it. Again you’re getting a sort of payment for this in the form of other books to read.

So what do you guys do with old ARCs? If you’re an author/publisher what would you like to see happen with ARCs?

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Chamber of Secrets Forum- In Memoriam


This week has been a sad week for Harry Potter fandom. First, Richard Griffiths (who played Uncle Vernon in the Potter films) dies, and then I find out that the wonderful Chamber of Secrets Forum is to close.

Untitled

I joined Chamber of Secrets forum almost 9 years ago. It was after the Bloomsbury Harry Potter forum closed down and when I was still insisting that Sirius was not actually dead (and yes there is still a part of me that believes that).

I’ve spoken before of how Harry Potter was my introduction to the online life, and this was mainly through The Chamber of Secrets Forum (CoS)

I enjoyed discussing various theories there and found that Harry Potter was more than just an imaginative and engaging book. There is so much behind it that once I did not see but soon learnt to discover for myself. Many an evening was spent talking about the various details of each of the books and what they meant. I didn’t even need the books to help my theorising, I lived them enough to know even small details off by heart.

But CoS was more than just a Harry Potter forum for me. I spent more time in general discussion threads than I did in the Potter threads most of the time. I made my first online friends, some of whom I met later during the release of Deathly Hallows.

I used the spend lunchtime at school on CoS, I stayed up late on CoS at weekends, when I started at 6th form I often spent free periods there, and even when I started uni and didn’t expect to be able to visit so much anymore I still managed to find a way to chat to my friends.

After the release of Deathly Hallows we all knew things were bound to change. With nothing new to discuss things could only go so far. The owner and moderators opened some new areas for more varied discussion but whilst they were used they never became as popular as the actual Potter areas were, and of course people don’t join Harry Potter forums to talk about other things.

I stuck around for quite a while after Deathly Hallows. At first there were Harry Potter things to discuss. I had my friends to talk to, and I started to explore other areas of the site. However things did start to drop of. Threads seemed to go round and round in circles, less people were visiting, you could wait days sometimes for a thread to be updated. Gradually I started visiting less and less. I still haven;t completely abandoned the forum but I visit less than monthly, and don’t always comment on things when I do visit.

I will be sad to see CoS go. There are so many happy memories there for me. But all good things must come to an end, and this day has been coming for a long time.

The Chamber of Secrets Forum will officially close in July

 

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Replacing Google Reader


This week the news came out that google reader is to close down. As a google reader user I’ve been thinking about where to turn, and with help from twitter I’ve had a look at some other feed readers, and I thought I would share my findings.

If you are a fellow Google Reader user you can sign this petition to keep Google Reader open

Bloglovin’

Advantages

  • Viewing blogs takes you to the whole blog, which makes it easier to comment
  • Ability to import bloglist direct from google reader
  • Easy to follow other bloggers who use bloglovin’
  • Ability to see stats for people following your blog on blog lovin’ (need to add a blog lovin’ link to your blog for this feature)
  • Ability to group blogs, but…
  • Web based so can be viewed from any computer.
  • Apple app
  • Easy to find new blogs on topics you are interested in and by popularity

Disadvantages

  • Bloglovin’ page doesn’t show the whole post meaning you either have to flick through posts one by one or go back and forth between the homepage and the blogs you want to read.
  • …laborious to group blogs, can only do one at a time.

NewsBlur

Advantages

  • Different options for viewing; as webpage, text only, rss view, by comments and sharing
  • Ability to ‘teach’ what you like and don’t like so you only see posts you’re interested in
  • Ability to group and see how much is available in each group
  • Apps for android and Apple
  • Ability to try before joining up
  • Web based
  • Ability to mark posts as read with a time limit (e.g. all posts more than a week old)

Disadvantages

  • View seems a little ‘clunky’
  • Need to pay to follow more than 12 feeds

WordPress

Advantages

  • Easy to follow WordPress blogs.
  • Ability to track comments made on WordPress blogs
  • First thing you see when you log into wWordpress so means you look at other blogs every time you go to work on your blog
  • Android and Apple apps
  • Web based
  • Blogs can be imported from Google Reader
  • Easy to find new similar blogs

Disadvantages

  • Whole posts not shown on feed page
  • Images are moved so content images become title images

Feedly

Advantages

  • Android and Apple apps
  • Ability to import google reader blogs
  • Easy to group blogs and see unread content numbers for each group
  • Variety of ways to view content. I like whole article view for intense reading and magazine view for a quick overview
  • Ability to sync with twitter and facebook so all your feeds can be seen in one place and for easy sharing
  • Ability to mark posts as read with a time limit
  • Clean, easy to use layout
  • Ability to import google reader feeds
  • Ability to tweet and retweet within page
  • Sign-in with google, no need for new account

Disadvatages

  • App/add-on based so can only be viewed from computers/portable devices with add-ons/apps. Can be used with Firefox, Chrome, Android and IOS
  • Suggested sites based on pre-ordained interests rather than blogs already followed.
  • Some on twitter have re[ported problems with images but I haven’t come across this problem.

 

Currently feedly is my favourite, but we shall see how continued use goes.

 

Which Feed Readers do you use? Should I try them out? What might I like about them?

 

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On Covers, Readership and The Bell Jar


Recently there has been lots of fuss around the new cover for The Bell Jar (see above). Lots of people have been saying that the cover doesn’t reflect the book, that it makes the book look unsubstantial, that it has an aura of chick-lit around it.

Really this post isn’t about The Bell Jar cover as such, but I feel seeing as it’s what has inspired this post then I should at least make my own feelings on this known. So, in brief. I can see how the cover can be seen as being chick-lit like. The lipstick, the pretty woman, the mirror. However I think if it’s a chick-lit cover then it’s chick-lit about a sad woman, I mean look at those lips, look at that reflection. If it does indeed attract chick-lit readers then once they see the image closer up then they will see that it is different, but may be interested enough to look further.

Anyway Faber & Faber answered the concerns this week. Key in their reasoning was the idea of a new readership, a reader who…

will enjoy its (The Bell Jar’s) brilliance without knowing anything about Plath’s other work.

There’s a certain deja-vu about it all. What was it that Bloomsbury said of the new editions of Harry Potter? What did Headline say of their new ‘chick-lit style’ Austen covers? It always seems to be finding a new readership, but does it work?

Well there could be quite a shock for people who pick up The Bell Jar based on its new cover, especially if they are reading it based solely on the cover image. Whilst I can personally see a sadness there is it just because I know The Bell Jar? If I knew nothing of the Bell Jar would I pick it up expecting something light and easy? Even having read the blurb (which gives no real allusions) would I still expect everything to turn out perfectly (because, you know, there aren’t sad endings in chick-lit)?

Even if this new cover gets people to buy The Bell Jar who wouldn’t have previously will you actually be getting a new fanbase (for want of a better word)? How many of these people will give up when they don’t get what they expected and how many will become Plath convertees*? I imagine that there would be people who wouldn’t have considered Plath before who find they actually enjoy The Bell Jar so look into her other works, However I also imagine that there will be people who go for The Bell Jar expecting something else and feel a little like they have been tricked.


After all that’s what a new cover is about isn’t it? About making a book appear differently. I don’t really think that the new cover for The Bell Jar is too bad for this but whilst Jane Austen is in a way the mother of chick-lit the chick-lit style covers do suggest something other than a classic. If you live in a hole and have never heard of Jane Austen you may actually think they are your stereotypical chick-lit books based on the covers (see right). Just don’t ask me what type of hole you can live in to have access to chick-lit but still not know who Jane Austen is.

So what do we think? Are different covers a good idea because they might bring new lovers to old books? Are they just a trick which might get up sales for a bit but ultimately lead to nothing? Or are they just an attempt which will never do anything?

Have you ever bought a book based on a new cover?

 

 

 

*yes, I do realise that convertee is not a real word, but it works, so I’m keeping it

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What Would Rory Read?


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(credit)

The Rory Challenge has been my longest standing challenge, it dates from the days before my book blog. The idea is to read books from the list of books which are mentioned or seen in the television show The Gilmore Girls.

Recently I’ve found that I’ve been reading books and thought ‘This is a book Rory would read’ if the show still existed. I think as I’ve read more from the list I’ve started to see a bit more what Rory’s taste is, and what her motivations for reading some books may be. Knowing her from the show certainly helps too.

So basically this post is like an extended Rory list. A list of books I think Rory might have read if the series continued. If you can think of any more I’d love for you to tell me in comments.

I’m including books which were released since the show finished and whilst it was still running, because she didn’t only read current books after all. I’ve only included books I’ve read.  I have some ideas for books I haven’t read which seem like they may fit on Rory’s list but can’t judge so well on these.

So without further ado…

The Etymologicon– What girl who wants The Complete Oxford English Dictionary more than any other book wouldn’t want to read a book all about words?

The Lover’s Dictionary– I can see Rory getting into the understated beauty of this one. It seems like it would fit with the poetic side of her.

How to be a Woman– Not sure how popular this one has been in the US but it’s feminist side would attract Rory I think, and if she had any knowledge of Caitlin Moran through her articles (as with Nick Hornby) I think she  might enjoy her writing style and want to read her book.

Anything by Murakami– How Rory managed to avoid Murakami I have no idea. He’s had quite a cult following for years and his first popular novel was released in the early 80s. She would totally love him. There’s a fair bit of translated fiction in her reading history too, although I don’t think any of it is Japanese.

Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism– There are a lot of feminist books on Rory’s list. I can certainly see her wanting to read a modern feminist’s view of the world.

Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series– would appeal to the book lover in her, I’m sure she would get a kick out of all the literary references.

The Help– Rory seems to like fiction about those who are marginalised (e.g. To Kill a Mockingbird, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). I think The Help would appeal to that side of her, would be quite a good contrast to Gone with the Wind too.

Midnight’s Children– actually I mean anything by Salman Rushdie, but Midnight’s Children is the one I’ve read. I think Rory would enjoy the beautiful and complex language. Links well with her classics.

Oranges are not the Only Fruit– would both fit with her feminist side and her like of stories about the marginalised. Another one I’m surprised isn’t already on the list.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas– There a lot of war writing (mainly focused around the Jews) on Rory’s list. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is one of the most popular in recent years and looks at the same area from a slightly different perspective.

 

Are you a fan of The Gilmore Girls? What books do you think would have made The Rory List if the series had continued?

 

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The Etymologicon: A Taster


I thought in honour of The Etymologicon (which I reviewed yesterday) I would post a sort of taster of the types of things contained within its pages by posting my tweets from while I was reading it.

All tweets are in my own words. Please forgive the errors, most I posted using my phone which has a slightly strange auto-correct function, and  don’t always pick up what it has done until it is to late.

Anyway, enjoy!

Here worth should say with, and loss should say lots I have yet to find a reason to use polyorchid unfortunately, although actually I can see it suggesting the opposite of someone having a lot of balls as most people would think of a delicate flower. (Have you ever tried to take care of an orchid? Very difficult flowers!)


No wonder us Brits are supposedly obsessed with the weather. We’re probably still trying to prove to the Vikings that the sky isn’t always cloudy,

Well at least we know the internet isn’t the only reason for procrastination, right?

Seeing as psychology is so often linked with emotions, and the soul is too it kind of makes sense.

Oops more typos ad, not add.

The Greeks actually believed that butterflies were the souls of the dead flying around earth. Hence the word for soul and butterfly is the same.

And again. Is, not us.

With, not worth

Correct grammar…what the hell a correct granger is I do not know

If anyone understood that sentence without an explanation you can have a cookie.

I sort of like this idea, it’s like binding your heart to another person. However I now want to know why a man’s engagement ring is wornk on his little finger, not his ring finger whilst a lady’s is.

Does this make anyone else like Starbucks more?

Excellent motivation for Harry. Don’t fear the dragon, it’s just a worm.

Find out more about The Hydrogen Bomb and Bikini Atoll.

Anyone else suddenly feel disgusted by the idea of wearing a bikini?

 

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Bookish Bits


Newspapers yellow

Newspapers yellow (Photo credit: NS Newsflash)

Over the last week(ish) I’ve shared a fair bit over twitter and facebook which I’ve found around the internet. It occurred to me that it might actually be good to share it here too.

A sort of homage to Chrisbookarama’s Friday Bookish Buzz.

PanMacmillan are running a competition to have your handwriting turned into a font. Something strangely personal yet eternal about that idea.

Netgalley is looking for a UK based Community Manager. This sounds like an awesome job for a lot of bloggers, except that you have to live in London.

The Guardian looked at the effect being Booker nominee has on sales. Life of Pi has been the most popular in the data studied.

And on a less serious note they challenged authors to write a ‘twitter novel’ using no more than 140 characters. My favourite is Ian Rankin’s kind of funny.

I tweeted my way through the first half of Philip Pullman’s Grimm Fairy Tales. Seriously I think I have something to say about every story. My favourite so far has been The Mouse, The Bird and The Sausage, simply for the absurdity of the situation.

And (hot off the presses) Hilary Mantel has won the 2012 Booker Prize for Bringing up the Bodies. Guess I should really move Wolf Hall up my TBR list now

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BBAW: What Book Blogging Means to Me


I’m taking part in Book Blogger Appreciation Week this week, and today we’re all looking at what book blogging means to us.

I started this blog just over three years ago (my blogiversary was at the end of August) but I’ve had a bookish presence online for quite a lot longer than that. Firstly it was more about Harry Potter, I am a member of The Chamber Of Secrets Forums where I used to spend a lot of time. I’m not going to go into the relations between my online life and Harry Potter (it would just make this post last forever) but I have made a post on it in the past that you can read if you are interested.

Really though by book blogging life started with The Book Club Forum where I had my own thread for book reviews, as well as joining in with discussions about books. Quite a few members on there have their own blogs and my thread eventually became Lucybird’s Book Blog.

I discovered the wider book blogging community through the book blogger hop (hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy for Books) which one of my forum friends took part in. That’s when I really got going.

Well that’s my favourite thing about book blogging really. Discovering new blogs, and with it new books. I’ve read some really fantastic books thanks to other bloggers. I’ve discovered different blogs. I’ve found inspiration for my musings posts from things other bloggers have written, and from comments and conversations started in different posts I’ve made. I got introduced to twitter, which is just a fantastic way to meet new bloggers- and to find out about blogging events.

Ultimately blogging for me is about sharing my love for books with the world. I hope I inspire people to read with my reviews and/or posts- or even just help them to find a book they love.

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Most Popular Posts


E007_HDR_bella_sol

It’s Blogiversary Time so that’s a great time for looking back, right?

A perfect opportunity to see which the most read posts have been on my blog have been this year.

So without further-ado here are the Top 10 Posts to be read on this blog over the last year. I’ve taken out giveaways and Page posts as these are popular for reasons other than themselves.

1) When God was a Rabbit– This was one of my first ever requested review. It’s a book I really enjoyed and it gets a lot of traffic from search engines.

2) Harry Potter Merchandise– I loved making this post for Harry Potter Week. It’s lots of different Harry Potter related items you can buy- mainly from etsy.

3) About a Boy– I went through a bit of a Nick Hornby phase (set off by the Rory List). This review is interesting because I do a lot of comparison to the film. Usually I write film reviews and compare them to the books, not the other way around.

4) Film Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part 2)- Personally I like this post just for the troll comment, however it’s also probably one of my more extensive film reviews.

5) How Winning the Lottery Changed my Life–  I’m not particularly fond of this review, possibly because I was less than impressed by the book. I think it’s the title that gives me the hits.

6) The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts– I’m glad this is a popular post. It’s one of my favourite books, and I’m quite happy with the review too. I imagine a lot of the hits have to do with me giving it away (twice),  naming it as one of the best books I have read since starting this blog and it being my book of the year last year

7) Sputnik Sweetheart– Another favourite author, although this is not my favourite Murakami. No idea why this particular post is popular actually.

8) Half Blood Blues– This is a book which was nominated for a few awards which explains why people could be interested in a review. The post has a couple of pingbacks too which helps. Not my favourite book but the review is quite good I think for a book I wasn’t bowled over by.

9) 50 Shades of Grey and Decency– I think that this is quite a recent post and the only musings post in this top 10 really says something about how people feel about 50 Shades of Grey. I love all the debate on this post too.

10) The Whereabout of Enea’s McNulty– The only reason I could see for this post being popular is because of the popularity of The Secret Scripture which this is a prequel of.

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50 Shades of Grey and Decency


I read a mention of this article from the Boston Globe, about reading 50 Shades of Grey in public, on Bookriot yesterday and it got be thinking about the decency of making your reading of Shades of Grey public.

I’m not sure I can even remember the last time people were telling me about a book this much outside of the book blogging community. My boss has told me I should read it because I “like reading books”, people are on about how much they love Mr Grey all over the place on facebook. Amazon keeps deciding I must want to read it because it’s so popular. Even a friend who I would have said would be the last person to read it has read it- on the kindle, when it was still free.  I’ve even seen people reading it out and about. Including a whole host of staff in HMV who were trying to find out if it was really worth the hype (apparently not).

Now usually I would be all for it. I wish more people read but there is something a bit seedy about being so open about your reading of erotica. I mean it’s not designed for reading pleasure exactly, is it? Of course at first when it was only on kindle it was a bit more discrete. Nobody could tell you were reading it unless you told them, and you could tell whoever you wanted to tell. Yes the book has a level of discretion too, but because everyone knows what it is it looses the discretion of those covers. I suppose what gets to me is that you wouldn’t tell an acquaintance about some great erotica you had read online, or post some amazing porn you had watched on facebook, why has it become acceptable to do that with Shades of Grey?

Plus when it comes to reading it in public. Well either that’s adding an extra thrill or just a bit uncomfortable and inappropriate surely. I would certainly rather feel embarrassed for the person that imagine that it might be giving them sort of thrill to know I know what they’re reading!

So, no I haven’t read it (but would I tell you if I had?!). There is a small part of me which is interested, but from the little snippets I have read/heard I don’t really think it’s worth it.

Read the Reviews:

Bookriot

The Sponsored Lady

Escape into Life

Laura J Moss

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Bookcrossing: Good Book Karma


I have been a Bookcrosser on and off for 8 years. I tend to go through phases when I do a lot of Bookcrossing and phases when I do none. Since recently sorting out my bookshelf I’m on a bit of an on phase at the moment. While today I was registering books and it suddenly occurred to me, I should do a post on Bookcrossing. I really don’t know why the thought had never occurred to me before.

Bookcrossing is basically a way of sharing books with the world. A Bookcrosser will register a book on The Bookcrossing Website before passing it on, or (and this is where it gets fun!) leaving it somewhere for someone to find. Within each book will be contained a little note saying where the book has come from, what Bookcrossing is and with a BCID (or BookCrossing IDentification). Once someone has read the book they enter the BCID on the website and leave a note saying what they thought about the book and where they are sending it next. In this way one book can be shared all around the world!

I love leaving books all over the place and imagining who might pick them up. I especially like to put books in a place where I can watch (e.g. another table in a cafe, a different seat on the bus) and see who picks it up, who looks at it, who takes it. There’s a certain thrill to it, especially when it’s a book you want to share with the world. What I love the most is when I hear back from a book, unfortunately it doesn’t happen as often as I would like, but maybe that’s what makes it special. I’ve had some really nice comments back too.

There was:

The Dutch girl who read her first book in English

The woman who found the book the day before she moved to Spain

The girl who found a new author

I’ve tried to do a few funky releases too. I left Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in a branch of Thorntons for one. My favourite though is the book I released by balloon (I just wish I had heard back from it!). I’m also a fan of releasing favourite books, I am on somewhat of a mission to release all the Harry Potter books (I’ve only got Deathly Hallows to go), and I’ve released a few copies of Captain Correli’s Mandolin, plus copies of Birdsong. I figure if you’re going to share a book you may as well share one you love.

I’ve found books from Bookcrossing too, which is just as exciting. This is the first one I found….as I was leaving another Bookcrossing book! There are such things as Official BookCrossing Zones (it’s where I found Big Fish and Olivia Joules) but while they are a good way to know that your book will be picked up by someone who values it I find it lacks the excitement of a wild release.

You can find me on Bookcrossing as Lucy-bird.


Read and Release at BookCrossing.com...

Find out more about Bookcrossing:

The Bookcrossing Website

Wikipedia

Guardian Article

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Literary Giveaway Blog Hop back again


Judith is again running the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop on her blog Leeswammes’ Blog. This time it will take part from the 23rd to the 27th June.

The Literary Blog Hop is different because bloggers only give away books with ‘literary merit’. No romance, no Y.A and no urban fantasy. I like this because often I find giveaways fall into these genres, and they aren’t the genres I tend to read. I guess you can say it’s a breath of fresh air.

I think it’s been a while since I last did a giveaway too so I’m looking forward to this one.

If you want to join in sign-ups are open until 20th June here at Leeswammes’ Blog

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Happy World Book Night


Hi everyone! Happy World Book Night! Oh what a great day when we can celebrate books!

I always loved the sound of World Book Night, even before knowing anything about it! I brings to mind secret meetings to share a great love of books. I can imagine candles and cellars, and dark corners as people smuggle books to one another. No idea why but I certainly like the idea, and it’s not terribly far from the truth!

For one thing it is about sharing loved books. The main content of World Book Night is to share books. Every year 25 books are chosen by the public to be shared with the world. Readers can then apply to receive 24 copies of these books which they can give away as they choose- although the idea is to try and giveaway books to those who may not usually read or have access to books.

There’s also the link with Bookcrossing which adds an air of mystery. Bookcrossing is about chronicling a book’s journey and all its readers- it’s something that happens all year round (and which I am involved in). The mystery being that you never know where a book could end up, I have journals entries from books which have traveled all over the world.

Unfortunately I didn’t get in early enough to ask for my copies of books this year- but I hope to next time!

There are some bloggers who are posting about what they are doing however:

Jane @ Booketta’s Book Blog

Cassanadra @ Indie Reader Houston

Lainy @ So Many Books, So Little Time

Sherry @ Semicolon Blog

 

Find Out More:

World Book Night (UK)

World Book Night (US)

Bookcrossing

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Orange Fiction Prize 2012


Image from orange prize site

Yesterday the Short list for the Orange Fiction Prize was revealed. I briefly mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook but haven’t had time until now to look any closer. Has anyone read any of these? What did you think?

All title links lead to Amazon.

The Nominees

Half Blood Blues- Esi Edugyan

I read this one last year when it was nominated for The Booker Prize. It’s a story based around Germany in the Second World War and focuses on a group of black jazz musicians, one of whom goes missing. The story is written from the point of view of one of the musicians who is looking back. I can’t say I was particularly impressed with this one as far as WW2 novels go but I could see why critics might like it. It’s the only book on the shortlist that I have read.

The Forgotten Waltz- Anne Enright

The Forgotten Waltz is a story of love and adultery, and the complications which come with both.

Painter of Silence- Georgina Harding

A man turns up on the steps of a hospital. He is deaf and mute and nobody can tell what has happened to him. Gradually his story is revealed through the pictures he draws, but some things are just to complex for imagery alone- at some point he will need to speak.

The Song of Achilles- Madeline Miller

A story set in the time of Greek gods. Anchillies and Patrocius are great friends. When the war of Troy breaks out Patrocius is called to fight and Anchilies chooses to follow his friend, but this is a war which will change everything.

Foreign Bodies- Cynthia Ozik

Bea Nightingale leaves America after a divorce, supposedly to help her brother bring back his runaway son. But Bea gets involved in her Nephew’s life- and love- and ends up fighting her brother on his behalf, that’s when things start to unravel.

State of Wonder- Ann Patchett

Dr Swenson is working at the Brazilian Rio Negro on a drug which could change the lives of women forever. Swenson’s investors are getting inpatient with her secrecy about her research so send a researcher to investigate, only for the news of his death to reach them later. A colleague of the researcher goes to find out more about his death only to get drawn into a world she could never imagine.

 

Out of the shortlist I am probably most interested in Painter of Silence because from the full synopsis it seems to combine my interest in historical fiction and psychology, and State of Wonder because it sounds a little mysterious. In case you were wondering I didn’t mention the historic section of Painter of Silence because I felt the synopsis may be giving to much away.

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J.K. Rowling new book details.


Image from Little Brown

So today the details of J.K. Rowling’s new book, to be called The Casual Vacancy have been released. How can I as a self-confessed Potter-geek not comment?! So what’s it all about? Synopsis comes from Little Brown

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

I must admit to me that sounds kind of interesting. War in a village. Vaguely political, I can imagine that being quite funny in a sort of Yes, Minister way but smaller scale. All about people thinking they’re fantastic and wanting to do anything for power- which is just made silly by it just being a parish council. Yeah I can see black comedy there.

Of course it’s very different from Harry, but at least it can’t be compared (although I am sure someone will try). A good move by J.K. I think, she really needs to get away from Harry if she wants to be seen as an author who is more than a one-trick-pony if you will. To keep going with Harry it may seem a bit like she’s in it just for the money (and God how I hate when things go past their best and people still keep trying to go with it.)

I probably will read it, although a part of me does wonder if I’m more interested in reading it because it’s J.K. rather than because it sounds like a good read.

You can already pre-order The Casual Vacancy on Amazon

Related Articles:

From The Guardian

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On review requests and approaching the blogger


Mail symbol

Mail symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been meaning to write this musing post for quite a while but somehow haven’t got around to it.

Anyway since getting my kindle I have been getting an increasing number of requests for reviews, understandably seeing as it’s much easier and cheaper to send a digital copy of a book than a paper copy.

This has made me see the different ways authors, publicists and publishers approach a blogger. Part of it I know is that sending an e-mail (especially to a person rather than a company) doesn’t really have a set format. It tends to be less formal than a letter but how informal should it be in order to still be professional. I must admit as a blogger I prefer a more chatty friendly approach, but I’m sure there are bloggers who don’t want o be treated like a friend.

Anyway this isn’t meant to be a post about e-mail etiquette. It’s about the pitfalls and successes of people who approach bloggers. I guess you could call it a bit of a how to guide.

Good Stuff to do:

  • Read the review policy: This is the most important one. I can’t count the number of times I was asked to read an e-book before I got my kindle. It’s a waste of everybody’s time if you are pitching a book a blogger has said it of the type they won’t, or can’t, read.
  • Address the blogger by name: My name is right at the top of my blog but it’s not so easy for everyone. If it’s not easily visible a few places you can look are at the tops and bottoms of posts, about me sections, and the sidebar (blogger blogs tend to have a little blogger profile in the sidebar in particular). If all else fails refer to them as owner of ‘blog name’. Just calling me blogger (or even worse webmaster) suggests that the only way you’ve looked at my blog at all is to find my e-mail address.
  • Tell the blogger about your book: just a simple synopsis will do. Saying ‘hi I have a book will you read it if I send it to you’ won’t get you many reviews. Most bloggers won’t accept every request and if you give no information about the book you won’t make the cut. If you want to put more information it’s nice but not essential. Do tell us if there is a date you’d like us to review the book by, most bloggers will try and do this for you but do give them a chance to actually read it! (Note sending an e-copy with your initial e-mail is a little conceited, it’s like you expect the blogger to say yes).
  • Offer to give interviews, write guest posts, or giveaway copies: not an essential one but sometimes it’s nice to have extra information on the book, or writing, for the blog’s readers. It’s a good way to engage your readers too. I always feel an author who is ready to talk really cares for their readers.

Things to Avoid

  • Adverts: I’m not an advertiser. Maybe you do have a book out but unless I have a history with your books, or have read the book prior to release I’m sorry but I’m not going to start shouting about it just because you’ve told me it’s out.
  • Expecting a good review: unfortunately opinions are subjective, just because you have had good reviews it doesn’t mean everyone is going to like your book. I can understand authors getting upset about negative reviews, I know time, and feeling and effort has gone into it, but unfortunately by putting yourself out there you are going to encounter people who don’t like it.

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On Series


Recently I posted a review of The Hunger Games (which I loved more than I felt I really should) which is of course the first books of The Hunger Games Trilogy. In the comments I got a comment from Andrew @ Where Pen Meets Paper. Andrew suggested that The Hunger Games lost something simply because of its nature as a first book of a series. It’s never something I have really put any thought into before but Andrew if right in at least one sense, when you read a book from a series it automatically has a predictability just because it is a series book. You know that no matter what happens in the story the main character is going to be okay (at least until the last book in the series) because otherwise the series couldn’t continue.

Does this really mean the book is spoiled though? Certainly it takes a certain level of suspense out of the story, and this is particularly pronounced in The Hunger Games because the main bulk of the story is about a battle to the death. However I do wonder how much you think of it at the time of reading though. If you are caught up in a story do you really start thinking rationally at moments of high tension? When Katniss was in danger can I really say that I thought ‘it’ll be okay, there are 2 more books, she has to survive’? I honestly can’t say I remember for that particular book that I thought it.

Plus maybe sometimes it’s a good thing to be able to think it. When all feels in despair and like nothing can ever save your lead character there is a certain comfort that you can think it will be okay because there is another book to come. I think I used this protectionism for a certain extent when reading the Harry Potter series, at times things looked helpless, I thought there was no way Harry could survive but I gained comfort from knowing there were still more books to come, so he must survive. It’s the same reason that only the last book really made me cry, I couldn’t have that comfort anymore.

I guess as well reading a series really spreads out the suspense, because you know someone will be okay by the end of the first books and the penultimate books but do you really know that they will be okay by the end of the last book?

What do you think does reading a series take something away from the story? Does it add something? Or is it just like reading a very long book with lots of twists and turns?

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So, J.K Rowling is writing again.


Image from The Telegraph

JK Rowling announces new novel – for adults | Books | guardian.co.uk.

Not much to tell really…barely makes an article. J.K will be releasing a new book which is aimed at adults and “very different” from Harry Potter. She is going with a new publishers, supposedly to separate her new novel from from her Harry Potter novels.

In the past I remember her talking about the possibility of writing a crime novel after Harry Potter (although I can’t seem to find the interview so I could be wrong), which isn’t actually a genre that far from Harry Potter, what with the solving of mysteries that tend to happen especially in earlier Harry Potter books- Chamber of Secrets leaps to mind. However in the past Rowling has said that she would want to write crime under another name- maybe she has abandoned this plan, or has been persuaded to- I am sure her name adds a lot to the prospects of a book selling, at least her first novel for adults anyway. Or maybe she already has done this and now that no new Harry Potter books are coming out she has decided to start using her names to sell things.

I don’t really care about her motives for choosing to use her name- or not as the case will be, I am however intrigued to see what she has come up with away from Harry, and it she can pull off writing for adults. Personally I’ve always thought that her writing style had more to it than you would initially see. This I suppose is from years of dissecting Harry Potter on The Chamber of Secrets Forum.

The real question I suppose is will I read it? And that, well, to be honest I really do not know.

There is a part of me that really wants to. The part of my that wants to see what a different novel by J.K. is like. The part of me that wants to read it just because it could be just as good as Harry- and that doesn’t want to miss out on that possibility.

Then there is the bit of me that says, but what if you don’t like it? Won’t that be a great disappointment? The part of my that says I should just judge it as a book rather than a book by the author of Harry Potter.

The thing is can I judge it just as any other book? Even if I try to do into it open minded won’t there still be the bit of my that’s squeeing to have a new book by J.K. Rowling…because I always wanted more Harry, and well isn’t this the next best thing? Will I ever be able to get past comparing it to Harry Potter, when he has been in my life for so many years, and been a big part of my life for some of that?

I would love to walk in to a bookshop, maybe see a book I like the look of, read the synopsis and like the sound of it and not know right till the end that t was by J.K. that way I would have no preconceived ideas. But that’s not going to happen is it?

Related Links:

J.K. Rowling’s New Book: Clues Suggest a Turn to Crime Fiction (Guardian online)

Chamber of Secrets Forums

J.K Rowling’s Site

Accio-Quote (Quotes from interviews)

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On Covers and Consistency


Regular visitors to this blog may remember me complaining about the change of cover style of Andrey Kurkov’s books recently when I reviewed The President’s Last Love. Now I’m not one of those people who really judge a book buy its cover, I will buy the ugliest book ever if I think it sounds interesting. That’s not to say I won’t get attracted to books because of the covers, an unusual cover in particular will make me intrigued about a book,and sometimes you can tell what type of book a book is by looking at the cover, and that’s good for finding books I may enjoy. However I really like consistency in my books. Popular authors do tend to have the same style of cover on their books and I like seeing they all lined up on my shelf.

I suppose I understand why covers change, it’s about attracting a new readership. Certainly this was the idea between ‘Chick-lit-iffying’ Jane Austen’s books. Bloomsbury even said that their new Signature Editions of Harry Potter are redesigned for a new generation of readers.

It does give a certain annoyance to people like me though when book cover styles change as they acquire them, especially when the new cover is not as nice, as I believe is the case with Andrey Kurkov’s novels.

1Q84

'normal' cover style

So recently it has happened again. 1Q84 is a very much anticipated book, but why the change from the usual Murakami cover style? Is it simply to keep the series bound together? But then isn’t that also true of A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance Dance? Both of which are in the usual style.

 

 

 

Then there is the change of covers by Louis de Bernieres. I have 3 in the ‘old’ style, all of which I like. The new style is

pretty enough but it doesn’t stand out as well as the old style and doesn’t shout de Bernieres to me.

Luckily my ‘new’ copy of War Of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts came from bookmooch and is in the oldstyle so it still fits in line with my shelves. I also own A Partisan’s Daughter which is in a completely other style of cover again!

 

 

 

Old style

New style

You know what really annoys me though? When covers change because there has been a film or TV series of a book. I must admit I prefer the Trueblood cover art of Sookie Stackhouse series to the original artwork but those who knew of the books before the show must be annoyed that it’s now rather difficult to get hold of the original cover versions.

Ok rant over!

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Remembrance Day Reads


Today is Remembrance Day here in the UK. Remembrance Day is all about looking back and recognising the contribution of those who have died serving the country in the British armed forces. To commemorate these men and women, at the 11th hour the 11th day of the 11th month every year the whole nation falls silent for 2 minutes. And remembrance services are held up and down the country.

I saw a post on Dizzy C’s Little Book Blog which talked about possible Remembrance Day reads and I thought it was a great idea. So this is my take on it.

From Amazon

Birdsong- Sebastian Fawkes

This book is one of my favourite books ever (along with the next in in this list) so is of course also one of my favourite ‘war stories’. Birdsong is set before and during the First World War and follows the life of a young man Stephen who becomes a solider in the trenches.
Fawkes is also the writer of The Fatal Englishman which is a biography of 3 English men including the life of Richard Hilary who was a fighter pilot who was injured during the second world war.

From Amazon

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin- Louis de Bernieres

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is set in the Greek Island of Cephalonia at the beginning of the Second World War (before Greece was invaded). An Italian batalion is stationed on the island and this is where we meet Captain Corelli. While on the island Captain Corelli meets a resisdent of the island, Pelagia, whom he falls in love with.

from Amazon

Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy

This trilogy (Regeneration, The Eye in the Door and Ghost Road) is set during the first world war. It follows an army psychiatrist who is treating patients to try and get them fit to go back to the front. It also follows the lives of three of his patients and their lives at the front.

Special Mentions

(Designed) For younger readers: Carrie’s War, Remembrance, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

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Children’s Book Week (Picture books Pt2)


When I wrote my post on picture books earlier this week I said that I was going to write another one this week for books which I had discovered later on, mainly while working in childcare (I work with pre-school and toddler children). I’ve picked books that the children like but that I also enjoy.


Good Baby, Bad Baby- Nanette Newman

This is a lovely book. I love the pictures. Good Baby, Bad Baby is two stories in one. One about Good Baby (“…She plays very nicely with her best friend Paul, she doesn’t like rough games or pushing at all…”) and one about Bad Baby (“…she shouts for more biscuits when she’s given cake. She combs Nanny’s hair with the old garden rake…”). The kids at work generally choose to read Bad Baby over Good Baby, and I must admit I find it more entertaining too. Both stories are written in poem for and end with the same word (I’m sure that this baby isn’t like/this baby just has to be you!). Of course if you have a Bad Baby you may want to change the endings!

I’m Not Cute!- Johnathon Allen

This is a cute book. Secretly baby owl reminds me a little of some of the kids at work- but I’m not sure they would enjoy it so much if I said so! They’re always excited to see this book and shout “Baby Owl! Baby Owl”. It’s a pretty simple story. Baby owl goes for a walk in the woods hoping to find some peace and quiet, but instead he finds fox, squirrel, and rabbit all proclaiming how cute he is. Baby owl is not happy.

Where’s Boo? series- Rebecca Elgar

These lovely lift-the-flap books are really popular with the kids with their bright pictures and interactivity. The only problem is in a nursery setting the kids argue over who gets to lift the flap. The books are set in different locations. For each page there is something to count, then a flap to lift as the children search for Boo, along the way they find his friends. The kids tend to like Growling Tiger (“run away, run away!”) and Sleeping Bear (“tip-toe, tip toe”). As with Good Baby, Bad Baby this book is all written in rhyme. Unfortunately they no longer seem to be in print, I tried to find one for my niece last year, but you should be able to get one second hand.

Walking Through the Jungle- Stella Blackstone

This book is based on the song Walking Through the Jungle, it starts as the song does, by looking in the jungle but moves onto other habitats. With beautiful bold pictures. Our kids already knew the song but could now ‘read’ the book themselves.

That’s Not My… Series- Fiona Watt

The That’s not my series are a beautiful collection on touchy feely books. They’re most appropriate for babies as they can explore all the different textures, but they can help older children to learn how to describe texture too. Each book is basically the same. A series of something (the link is for a dinosaur, so I shall use that example) all of which are not my dinosaur because of something e.g. their spots are too fluffy until right at the end you find your dinosaur.

Owl Babies- Martin Waddell

I did already know this book before I started at the nursery but it was more my sister’s generation than mine, and the kids love it so much I can’t not mention it! One day three baby owls wake up and their Mummy is gone. They increasingly become more anxious. The children especially like Bill and love to join in with “I want my Mummy”.

Special mentions go to: Peace At Last
, Five Minutes’ Peace (Large Family)
,A Hug for Humphrey
You Choose!
Hungry Hen
The Commotion in the Ocean (Orchard Picturebooks)

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Children’s Book Week (Books for older children)


Yes that’s right book fans, it’s still Children’s Book Week. Today I’m looking at books for older children (i.e. children who can read for themselves). As before these are books I enjoyed as a child.

Image from The Book Depository

Anything by Roald Dahl.

Apart from the adult books obviously. I think I have read more or less every children’s book by Roald Dahl. I am still a particular fan of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I just loved the idea of a chocolate factory being like that, and I loved reading about the horrid boys and girls. I wanted to be Matilda though! I remember being disappointed in the Matilda film because it didn’t have my favourite scene from the book, where Matilda puts the parrot up the chimney.

Image from The Book Depository

Anything by Jacqueline Wilson.

Jacqueline Wilson was my favourite author for quite a few years. I read everything written by her up until I was about 12 and after then I read Falling Apart (which was more of a Young Adult novel, and now I think about it pretty depressing) a couple of times as a teenager. I always say I was a fan of Jacqueline Wilson before it was cool. I even wrote her a letter, and I still have the reply she sent me. My favourite Jacqueline Wilson book was probably The Lottie Project which I liked for it’s historical bits and its issue-y bits.

Image from The Book Depository

Special Powers- Mary Hoffman

This book was one I kept borrowing from the library again and again. I really don’t know why I never bought it. Maybe because at the time I only got 50p pocket money a week. It would never have occurred to me to buy my own books when I could go to the library or ask my parents to buy them. And even then I rarely asked my parents to buy things for me, or at least things more expensive than a pack of sweets. Anyway the book. Special Powers is about a girl, Emily who is a pretty normal girl, boring even. She brings excitement to her life by imagining a fantasy land where she is queen. One day she meets a girl who has just moved to town with her strange family and her fantasy starts to seem more realistic. Special Powers is the first fantasy book I can ever remember reading. Although I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy anymore it still holds a special place in my heart, and this book lead me to some of my favourite books.

His Dark Materials Thrilogy- Phillip Pullman

Image from Amazon

To this day Northern Lights remains one of my favourite books (while I enjoyed the others I liked Northern Lights the best). I love the characters, all off them. Especially I loved Lyra, and Mrs Coulter and Lord Asriel were both fascinating. For a while I even considered that I might name one of my children Lyra. I would recommend these books to pretty much anyone, adult or child. I even managed to convince a few girls in my English class to read The Amber Spyglass one year when it was a nominee in a children’s book award (it didn’t win but if everyone else was put off by the size of it, like many in my class were, I’m not surprised).

Image from goodreads

The Adventure Series- Enid Blyton

I used to get teased by my sisters for reading these books. When I was a kid it really wasn’t cool to like Enid Blyton. The Famous Five was still popular but I always refused to read them because I didn’t want to read the popular ones (even now I often shy away from books which are very popular). I liked them though. They were exciting. I didn’t read them in order, but I don’t think it really mattered. I started off with The Circus of Adventure, and, maybe because I owned it and got to re-read it, it was my favourite. Oh and I liked the parrot (Kiki) and that one of the characters was called Lucy-Anne which is my name and my sister’s name together (Simple pleasures!). I also read all the Secret Seven books and particularly liked that one of the characters had a pet monkey.

Image from Amazon

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit- Judith Kerr

Yes the same Judith Kerr who wrote The Tiger who came to Tea which I mentioned in my previous post, but I did not realise it until yesterday! I often credit this book for starting my love of historical fiction. Or, more accurately fiction focused around war time. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is beautifully and sensitively written for children in a way that really gets into a child’s mind. Not just worries about war but little things too, like leaving your toy rabbit behind. I cannot let it go past though that I loved lots of ‘war stories’. Carrie’s War. Goodbye Marianne. Remembrance. A Little Love Song (although that came more as a teenager) Goodnight Mister Tom. The Dairy of Anne Frank. Tom’s Midnight Garden

I do not think I need to do more than mention my love of Harry Potter. I could not even link you all the posts for it! But if you type Harry Potter into the little search box on my sidebar you will find plenty! Or click the link and you will find out about my relationship with the Harry Potter books.

I feel I am missing so many books out but still special mentions go to. Heaven Eyes. Woof! Bill’s New Frock. The Family from One End Street. The Hobbit. The Peppermint Pig. The Sophie Books. Moondial, The Worst Witch, The Horrible Histories books, Witch Child.

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Children’s Book Week. (Picture Books)


Did you know that this week is Children’s Book Week?

Well I may not be a reviewer of Children’s books but how can I let a celebration of books pass by without some note?

I wanted to talk about my favourite books as a child but then I realised that I had too many favourite books as a child to have just one post. So today I’m only going to look at picture books. As a nursery worker I also want to highlight books I’ve discovered as an adult, so at some point this week there will be a (probably smaller) post on those picture books too.

Image from Amazon

Tom and Pippo- Helen Oxenbury

This series of books were probably my favourite picture books as a child. They may even be responsible for my collection of toy monkeys. I used to borrow these from the library when I was younger. My memories of the library are so strongly connected with these books. I can still see the red book box in my mind and the colourful letters which make up the Pippo logo. Pippo is a pretty simple story. It’s a story of a boy (Tom) and his toy monkey (Pippo). Pippo does everything Tom does. Sometimes Tom talks through Pippo (e.g. Pippo wanted some cheese. But I ate it). The stories are all told through Tom’s voice. Unfortunately these books are now out of print, but it’s not too difficult to find a copy on Amazon marketplace (or similar), and I bought a collection of Pippo stories for my niece this way.

Image from The Book Depository

Titch- Pat Hutchins

I think me and both my sisters read this one when we were young. The story is pretty basic. Titch is little. His brother and sister are big. His brother and sister always get the best things well Titch gets the little things. It is a bit of a thing in our family (or maybe just for Dad) to say “Titch held the nails” when someone has a little job to do! I’ve read this one to the kids at work too (I work in the toddler room of a nursery) and they still seem to like it. Apparently there is also a Titch TV show (or was), I do not like this idea one bit!

Image from Goodreads

The Very Hungry Caterpillar- Eric Carle

I still think what I like most about this book is the pictures, especially the beautiful butterfly at the end. I also love the idea of the caterpillar just eating anything and everything. I’m a little unsure about how commercialised The Very Hungry Caterpillar has become but it wouldn’t stop me reading the book when I have kids of my own.

Image from The Book Depository

Two Monsters- David McKee

David McKee is probably better known for Elmer but as a child (and now actually) I always preferred Two Monsters. Two Monsters live on either side of a mountain and talk to each other through a hole, one night they have a big argument and start throwing boulders at each other over the mountain, and shouting very funny insults. I love the pictures in all David McKee books and maybe that’s why I remember them all so vividly. I also loved Not Now Bernard where Bernard gets eaten by a monster and nobody realises. As an adult the details in the pictures in I Hate my Teddy Bear make it to most interesting to look at though.

Image from Amazon

The Tiger Who came for Tea- Judith Kerr

I loved some of the little ideas in this book. The idea of the Tiger drinking all the water in the tap, and Sophie and her mother going out to buy tiger food. It’s probably a little outdated now, with Daddy being at work, and then coming to save the day when the tiger has eaten all the food in the cupboard, but it is still a beautiful story.

Image from Amazon

Alfie and Annie-Rose- Shirley Hughes.

I still remember a lot of these stories now. Alfie gets in first where Alfie manages to lock himself in the house. The party where Alfie has to take his blanket. I remember lots of little details too like Alfie having L written on his left welly, and R on his right welly. Alfie feeding all the bears on his bowl breakfast.

Special mentions go to I Want my Potty, Each Peach Pear Plum, Where the Wild Things are, Peace at Last and Dear Zoo.

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Looking back, teenage reading


I have been meaning to write this post for a while but I seem to be so busy recently I’ve barely had time to even think about it! If it were a few weeks ago I would have written it at the boyfriend’s house but his computer is broken so I left it.

Anyway on topic. Reading and reviewing Million Dollar Mates the other week got me thinking about the books I read when I was a teenager. I mentioned a little in my review about the other books by the author of Million Dollar Mates, Cathy Hopkins, but really the main reason I liked them at the time was that the main character was called Lucy. I do remember quite vividly a scene with an inflatable bra in one of the stories, but I remember little else about them.

Of course most regular readers of my blog will know about my Harry Potter obsession, and that was a big part of my time as a teenager, but I don’t want to talk about that I want to talk about the books aimed at teenagers which I still remember now.

 

Image from Goodreads

Jacqueline Wilson’s ‘Girls’ series

Jacqueline Wilson was my favourite author for a while while I was in Primary school (about aged 9/10) and I read all her books that were out then. I even remember writing to her and getting a lovely handwritten letter in return. I loved Jacqueline Wilson before it was the norm. The first Girls book, Girls in Love was release in paperback my first year in secondary school (11/12) and seemed a bit more mature for me to read as a teenager. I enjoyed it enough to buy the next, Girls Under Pressure, in hardback (which I rarely buy). And I remember liking Girls Out Late best. By the time Girls in Tears came out I had started reading more adult fiction (I think it was the chick-lit years) but my little sister was reading Jacqueline Wilson and she bought it. I couldn’t quite resist finding out what had happened with my 3 favourite girls, although I remember little of the story now. I must admit there is still a small part of my that wants to be Nadine, but I’m certainly more of an Ellie, and happy with that!

 

 

 

Linda Newberry’s Shouting Wind Trilogy

Image from Goodreads

 

 

This series of books were my favourite for years and years. The first book, The Shouting Wind follows a young woman during the second world war. Kay joins the WAAF and most of the book is focussed around what it was like to be a WAAF girl, although ultimately the book is a coming of age story. The next book, The Cliff Path, follows Abigail, Kay’s daughter and the story of her running away from home with her boyfriend. The third and final book, A Fear of Heights, follows Abigail’s daughter Tamsin as she leaves for university. The trilogy is basically a coming of age tale which follows three generations of the same family, while still keeping up with the generations from previous books. My favourite has always been The Shouting Wind, which is a fantastic story set around WW2, which was the main reason I picked it up. Unfortunately the series now seem to be out of print, it’s a real shame as I never had my own copies (I borrowed them from the library) and would love to own them. I read quite a few other Linda Newberry novels after these but never found anything quite as good, although her adult novel Set in Stone is well worth a read.

Image from goodreads

Ann Brashares’ Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series

How much did I love the girls in these series. They seemed to be so much that I was and so much I wanted to be all at the same time. As far as teenage issues these are probably a bit less believable than the Girls series, but that’s ok. I enjoyed all the different issues I could get my teeth into. I remember especially liking Tibby, although it probably helped that her storyline was the most moving. This is another series I finished off when I was too old for it and my sister was reading it which got me wondering. I’ve never seen the film but I would be interested in seeing how the adaptation goes.

 

Image from Amazon

Anything by Paula Danziger or Judy Blume

Image from goodreads

 

Need I say more? Both genii when it comes to teenage fiction. Every possible teenage issue covered. When it came to Judy Blume I started off with the Fudge series (which was made into a TV series when I was a child which I loved). I remember especially loving Deenie because there was so much that spoke to me personally, and Tiger Eyes was the first book made me cry. As for Paula Danziger I loved her books with Anne M. Martin, P.S Longer Letter Later and Snail Mail No More. I remember being disappointed when I found out that Anne M. Martin was the author of The Babysitter’s Club which I couldn’t imagine reading at all.I also remember really liking The Pistachio Prescription and It’s an Aardvark Eat Turtle World

While writing this I found out Paula Danziger died in 2004. I don’t know how this passed me by for so long. Can honestly say I am shocked. What a sad loss.

 

Image from Goodreads

Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson Series

These books are what I imagined life as a teenager should be (but mine wasn’t). There was a certain element of me living vicariously by reading them. I must admit Georgia could be very annoying, but I also found the books hilarious so I put up with it. I think these are still being written, at the very least lots of them have come out since I stopped reading them, and even since my sister stopped. One of my overuling memories of this book is talking about ‘It’s okay I’m Wearing Really Big Knickers’ with my best friend and laughing when my Mum came in just as we were saying the title. I’ve never seen the film of this one either but I hear it’s not a good adaptation.

Peter Dickinson’s Eva

Image from amazon

When I talk about my love of books that make me think I always mention this one. It’s the first book I can remember that really made me think. Absolutely fantastic book I would recommend to anyone. When Eva is involved in a horrific accident she is saved by having her brain transplanted into a chimp’s body. Inside Eva is the same but outside is completely different. This novel challenges views on animal rights, and scientific progress. How far would anyone go to save the life of a person they love? I can only find a copy of this on The Book Depository so am unsure if it is still in print or not.

 

Special mentions go to The Teenage Worrier Books, Speak, The Point Teen Books (which I can’t find any information on but I read lots of).

 

Where possible the editions I read have been used as images in this post. The books may be avaliable with different covers.

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Man Booker Prize Shortlist 2011


So the shortlist for this years Booker has been announced. I’ve read 2 of the books, neither of which I was very impressed with.  Links lead to my own reviews.

The shortlist is:

The Sense of an Ending- Julian Barnes

Well Julian Barnes has a good reputation, but I’ve never read anything by him so can’t really comment. However Arthur and George has been on my to be read pile for literally years.

 Jamrach’s Menagerie- Carol Birch

I love the cover of this book, and am fairly interested in the story. I may pick it up at some point

The Sisters Brothers- Patrick deWitt

Another one I am fairly interested in. Could be completely crazy and far fetched though.

 

Half Blood Blues- Esi Edugyan

This book promised to be a bit of a war story and a bit of a mystery, but wasn’t that great of either. I see some similarity between this and Pigeon English though in that they are both written in a different sort of tone of voice. No real problem with it just don’t think it’s worth the win

Pigeon English- Stephen Kelman

I can really see why the critics like this one. It’s about a quite, fashionable topic. The writing style is quite authentic as that of a migrant boy, and a child trying to adapt to a new culture, but that was also a voice which really annoyed me, and it was kind of predictable.

Snowdrops- A.D. Miller 

Ths is the only one I really don’t have any thought or feelings on at all.

Read my post on The Booker Longlist

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Looking back: Musings


Again as part of my blogiversary week I wanted to look back at something from my blog. Today I’m going to look at a past musing.

One of my most commented on posts is a post about how the popularity of a book may effect a reader’s perceptions of it.

Well I have a little personal slant to add to it. I don’t want to re-hash old ground seeing as my thoughts are still pretty much the same as they were when I wrote the original post, so you may as well just go back and look at that particular post.

I wanted however to talk about a particular series of books because it is a time when I have been on the outside, or so it would seem. You may have heard of these books The Hunger Games trilogy. They are certainly well known. Lots of bloggers have read them, lots of bloggers have loved them. It’s got to the point where I am cheering to see bloggers saying that they haven’t read them because it means that it is not just me!

Well lets put it blankly. I first heard of these books (may even have been book at that point) before I noticed any big popularity thing going on around them. I can’t honestly say I was interested. Maybe there was something there but the idea just reminded me of Battle Royale, which just makes it a little unoriginal, especially as Battle Royale has such a cult following, it’s not as if it’s a bit of inspiration taken from a generally unknown story. I haven’t read Battle Royale, in case you were wondering. I’ve seen the film (and yes I know as well as anybody that there is rarely any real comparison there), which is pretty horrific in a kind of you don’t want to see but can’t look away sense.

Anyway back to the point. I wasn’t very interested in this book but gradually I was seeing more and more rave reviews of the books, and people who could not wait for the release of Mockingjay.It made me begin to think that possibly I was missing out on something. Maybe it was more that just a calmed version of a gruesome cult classic for a younger generation? So far I have stuck to my guns, but who knows how long. I’m been tempted a few times but not jumped. What if it ends up like Twilight? With a need to keep reading but a hatred of what I was reading?

So there you go, popularity can be seductive. But sometimes it makes you want to resist.

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Oh How Far We Have Come!


Today is my blogiversary. Can you believe it? Lucybird’s Book Blog has been going for two whole years! I would not think when I started that thread (which is still there by the way) on The Bookclub Forum over 2 years ago that it would come to this. Never had I imagined the amazing blogs and bloggers I would find, the visitors who would stop by, the authors who would actually give me free books just for my review!

Yes a lot has changed, my reading has gone up, my postings have gone up, my visitor count has gone up, I’ve even joined twitter,  but I think this blog still as the same ideals that I set it up with; to write simple reviews of books I had read which people would enjoy (or at least I hope you all enjoy them). And to write about book related topics which interest me (and hopefully again interest my readers). I’m still proud that I don’t take part in two tons on memes, just The Book Blogger Hop. I still don’t really like memes, they just seem like filler to me, or a way to get people to visit your blog. Not that it’s bad to get people to visit your blog, just it seem a bit like a popularity contest.

What is still to come? Well only the future will really tell, but I have a few plans. I have a reading challenge in the pipeline for the new year, and a possibility of re-launching the Out the Comfort Zone Hop along with it. I have a few little things I want to change (like writing a proper review policy). I’m considering the possibility of setting up a fan page for facebook, as just another way for readers to connect with the blog. I also want to write a sort of blog guide for new visitors.

Watch out over the next week for more Blogiversary posts, including a giveaway with a twist!

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UK Riots


So despite this being a blog about books I do not think I can be a blogger from Birmingham (or even just a blogger from the UK in general) without at least mentioning what has been going on over here during the past week. So it comes down to writing a post that is not about books, the first time I have done such a thing on this blog. Those of you who follow me on twitter may have noticed that my tweets recently have been going off my normal book topic too in order to talk about the riots.

In fact it was Twitter that first showed me what was going on in Birmingham. With pictures of police and smashed up shops appearing at least an hour before anything was mentioned on the news.

You can imagine the shock of seeing such images of your own city, added tot the fact that just half an hour before I had been in the city centre and everythings had been ‘normal’. Even today (when there has been no trouble for a few days) there are police all over the place, and so many boarded up shops it’s sad to see something like this. Some of the choices of shops seem so illogical too. I mean why smash up a betting shop? Or a newsagents? Why smash up a sandwich shop, whatever are you hoping to find. One of the most powerful videos was that of Cyber Candy being smashed up, another seemingly pointless place to smash up. Other places make more sense in that you could actually get something from them, clothes shops, phones shops, electrical shops mainly. Walking through town though I was surprised of the places that had been hit and I didn’t know about. Hat Man (a local business) was talked about a lot because it comes down much more to one person’s livelihood, but The Oasis is independent too, so why wasn’t that talked about?

There were certain advantages and disadvantages to following what was happening on Twitter. It was certainly getting news through quicker than the actual news but it wasn’t very accurate. It did seem pretty genuine at first but then the photos decreases and the rumours started, the Bull had been decapitated (not true, but there was a fake picture), Primark was on fire (again, not true), the children’s hospital had been attacked (not true, again, although rioters did go for the police station opposite). Generally was the worst night, there was a police station burnt down (luckily with no police inside) but nothing too serious. Birmingham though was where 3 men were run down who had been defending their community. Things seem to have been quieter after that, maybe people thought it had just gone too far by then.

So what sparked it? Yes, there was the factor of an innocent man being shot by police. I think that helped, along with the probably well known knowledge that the police are racist, but that suggests all the trouble was with ‘minorities’ but really it wasn’t. It is very easy to say that they were all greedy criminals, stupid, unemployed, poor, but really it wasn’t that. Plenty of unemployed yes, plenty poor. Buts lots of educated people too, and lots of employed people. I really think it wasn’t just about that one guy, I don’t think really it was just about racism. I don’t think it was about greed, or about lack of respect. I think a lot of people are angry at the government right now (and I’m count myself among them). Pensions are getting cut, services are getting cut, job’s aren’t secure, student fees have been raised. The economy could be much better, and people really don’t like the way the government are dealing with things.  Something was bound to happen, most people won’t react like this but it’s difficult when your peaceful protects aren’t being noticed, how else can you make your voice heard? I’m not saying rioting is the answer. Far from it but I can see what people might be thinking.

 

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Man Booker Prize Longlist 2011


So today the Man Book Prize longlist for 2011 has been announced, and I have read the total of one books from it! I still thought an overview was in order though.

In no particular order

 The Sense of an Ending- Julian Barnes

This book is not yet released, so I haven’t read it.
Looking at the Synopsis this sounds like a book about memories of the past essentially. The main character find out something about his past that he does not remember. It’s is about him coming to terms with his past, what he remembers and what he does not. Would I read it? Well I can’t see myself having looked at it if it wasn’t on the longlist but it does sound fairly interesting.

Arthur and George also by Julian Barnes has been on my To be Read pile for quite a long time after my Mum recommended it but I don’t know if I really want to read it. Julian Barnes is a very popular author, so I can see this one being popular with the public.

On Canaan’s Side- Sebastian Barry

Another not yet published.

This sounds like what you would expect from Sebastian Barry, the tale of somebody’s life. This time it’s about an Irish woman who emigrated to America. It’s about herself in relation to others and events (including the first world war). Sounds like it could be a good read.

On Canaan’s Side is a biblical reference which refers to The Promised Land. I see it as a reference to death so possibly the narrator is nearing death when the book takes place.

I’ve read a couple of Sebastian Barry’s before. I really liked The Secret Scripture but wasn’t so impressed with The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty. Barry has been popular in the past and I can see this one doing well too.

Jamrach’s Menagerie- Carol Birch 

The synopsis of this one confused me a little, apparently it starts off with the main character being saved from being eaten by an escaped circus tiger, and somehow he ends up on the boat of his rescuer…The cover makes it look like a horror book. I am intrigued in the sense that I want to see what it’s about but I probably wouldn’t buy it.

The Sisters Brothers- Patrick deWitt

This one is about two contract killers who travel to America to fulfil a contract. Lots of strange and violent things happen on the way, then they meet the man they have to kill to find he has invented a magical formula which will make them rich. From there on out things only get stranger.

I like the sounds of this one will at least add it to my wishlist.

Half Blood Blues- Esi Edugyan

Set in Berlin, when Sid returns to Berlin years after his black band mate had disappeared he is given a letter about the past. But whose past is true?

I like the sound of it, half history half mystery, I would like to read it.

Oooh and just as I was typing this I have won a copy. Much excitement!
A Cupboard Full of CoatsYvvette Edwards

Jinx and Lemon both have their own stories of what happened when Jinx’s mother was stabbed 14 years ago. Now it is time for those stories to come to light. A story of guilt, confession and betrayal.

This one sounds really interesting, another one I would like to read.


The Stranger’s Child- Alan Hollinghurst

This one confuses me a little too. Sounds like it’s a story of English gentry. Meh
Pigeon EnglishStephen Kelman

The only one I’ve read! Pigeon English is about Harri, a boy who as emigrated to England and about his life on a British council estate. While living there a boy is murdered and Harri decides he will find the killer.

When I read this book I wasn’t especially impressed. It was enjoyable enough but nothing special, and I found Harri’s voice annoying. It was pretty authentic though and I can see why reviewers like it.


The Last Hundred Days- Patrick McGuinness 

This one is about the collapse of a socialist state and all the nasty things that it entails. Could be interesting but I’m not really convinced.

I recognise the name Patrick McGuinness but not any of his titles. Maybe I am thinking of the comedian Paddy McGuinness….

SnowdropsA.D. Miller

Set in Moscow Snowdrops tells the tale of a man who is corrupted by a corrupted society, and his battles with morals and seduction. Snowdrops sounds like it may have potential but I don’t feel the synopsis gives me enough information to really know if I would want to read it.

Far to GoAlison Pick 

Oooh this one sounds just like my type of book. When a family of Jews try to flee Nazi Germany they are reported by their nanny, but Pepik, the child of the family gets a spot on the Kindertransport. This is his tale.

Not the most original of stories though, so it will have to be very good to win I think.

The Testament of Jessie LambJane Rogers 

This is the story of a normal girl who tries to save the world from biological terrorism. Sounds a little childish (and possibly overdone) but could be very good.

Derby DayD.J. Taylor 

One of those books that follows various characters all who are connected via one thing. In this case a horse running the Derby. I tend to enjoy these types of books, but it is difficult not to make them confusing.

I hope I’ll get to read at least a few before the short list is announced

 

Past Man Booker Prize Winners I have enjoyed are:

The Life of Pi

The Ghost Road

Midnight’s Children

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Me and Harry


I can’t believe it’s the end of Harry Potter Week already! This was fun. Today is a bit more personal. I want to talk about my relationship with Harry Potter, it really feels like the end of an era, Harry Potter has been more that just a book series for me, it’s been a part of life. Yes maybe it’s time to let go but sometimes things aren’t that easy.

I first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when I was about 12. I had never heard about it but my Dad had read about it in The Guardian. I’m always happy to say I read it before all the hype, I even have the version of Philosopher’s Stone with the random wizard on the back (as opposed to Dumbledore who now adorns the back of the first book, due to much fan puzzlement about who the guy on the back of Philosopher’s Stone actually was). I’ve said before here that I almost gave up on Philosopher’s Stone first time around. I found it a little difficult to get in to. if it hadn’t been Christmas I may never have finished it.  But I carried on, and by the time Hagrid had turned up I was hooked. Until very recently I skipped the first few chapters when re-reading Philosopher’s Stone however with the consequence that I actually know the first bit of the first book less well than the rest of the series (despite innumerable re-reads).

Oh I remember looking for another book by Rowling (hoping it would be about Harry) for what felt like months and months. I think Chamber of Secrets may have actually been out by then seeing as I am far from having a first edition, but maybe my local Waterstones (or was it Dillons back then?) didn’t have it in stock? It wasn’t the most well known book then (although J.K. was already a double Smarties Award winner) but I for one wanted it. I am sure the anticipation for Chamber of Secrets has actually contributed somewhat to it being one of my favourite Potter books.

Lets skip forward a few years. I happily read Prisoner of Azkaban, managing to get hold of that one fairly early on. Then the hype started Goblet of Fire was released on the 8th July 2000 (wow was it really that long ago?!)  and the preceding months it was mentioned on TV (I remember first realising that my favourite books were actually really popular after seeing a report on Newsround), and advertised for pre-order everywhere! I ordered it from a local bookshop, it was a shop I passed everyday so why not? That was a really good idea, they didn’t seem to get the idea of a release date but phoned me as soon as the book came through, a day before it was released. Of course I had to start it straight away, and I was a good 100 pages in before most other people even had the book- it’s one of my favourite stories! I remember coming in to school the next day and people asking me questions about what they had read, thinking I would have the answers seeing as I had read so much more.

This is around about the time I started getting into fandom a little. I wasn’t the most popular of girls at school, a little geeky and awkward, incredibly shy, I never really felt I fit in. Yes I had friends but I still spent lots of time in the library and in the I.T rooms. Reading and Harry Potter was a real escapism for me, it was almost like another friend, and the internet gave that distance and anamosity which meant I didn’t have to be shy, if I embarrassed myself who cares? I could just disappear and nobody would know who I was. Maybe it was a bad way to deal with things but I think it’s part of what makes me who I am today. Yeah I’m still pretty shy but I’m much more comfortable with myself, and I do think the internet helped with that. There is something with the internet community that is very accepting, everyone is there and it’s so easy to find a group where you feel like you.

I started off on the (now closed) Bloomsbury Harry Potter forums, which were the most basic of forums ever, no log in, just write your name in a little box under your comment, no comment threads, just endless comments on random topics. Completely crazy forum, partly for that reason, when it got boring we used to pretend to be other people. After a while it got closed down just because it was a moderating nightmare. For a while I drifted around the internet then I hit upon Mugglenet, complete Mecca of Harry Potter fandom, at that time Mugglenet still had a link to their once official forums the Chamber of Secrets Forum and that’s where I ended up, sometime after the release of Order of the Phoenix. After the Bloomsbury forums the Chamber of Secrets Forum was like a maze, every possible theory, what felt like hundreds of people all talking about Harry Potter. I must admit the actual Harry Potter threads were somewhat daunting and I actually spent almost a whole year barely visiting them but just chatting in the chat threads, I’m still in semi-contact with people from that time even though most of us no longer visit the forums. Gradually I  started participating in more and more Harry Potter discussions till it came to a point that for the release of Deathly Hallows I actually went to London to meet with people I had met on Chamber of Secrets Forum.

I still visit the forum occasionally, but now the series has ended it doesn’t hold the same draw for me. But in some way it has led me to this blog. I needed something to replace Chamber of Secrets, it had been a part of my life for so long I couldn’t just let go of the online world all together. I have a Livejournal which is pretty much only followed by Chamber of Secrets friends so I kept updating that, then I joined the Bookclub Forum. My book blog started as a thread on there and after a while I decided to bring it to a larger audience.

I don’t think I will ever completely let go of Harry, he still holds a part in my heart, but he is less of my life now, and I think that’s how it should be. I’ve grown up with Harry, he’s important to me.

Must admit though I am still fairly excited to see Pottermore– although I am doubtful it will offer much new.

 

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Because I want to!


Waffles

Image by dr. muerte se come el mundo via Flickr

Oh I really shouldn’t have made that my title! I have The Billie Piper song in my head now (I dare you to click the link go on!). Was that really 1998? Yeah shut-up Lucy.

So if you can’t guess from that beginning I really wanted to write a blog post today, but I have no reviews to post because I’ve finished no books this week, and no inspiration for a musings post. Which leaves me sitting here with a blank page and a Billie Piper song stuck in my head.

suddenly this is turning into a post about Billie Piper, strange for a book blog right. Err but it can connect I suppose err Billie Piper plays Hannah in The Secret Diary of a London Call Girl which was a book first (or was it a blog first, whatever I read the book before there was a TV show). Out of interest has anyone read The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl, is it any good? It’s been on my wishlist for literally years.

Ok so I thought maybe talk about why there has been no review this week. It’s pretty unusual for me not to read a book in a week, my general rate is pretty much a book a week, a review a week which is a comfortable level for me, I don’t feel the need to blog everyday and so long as I get a none meme post off about once a week I’m happy, if it’s more that’s even better. Yes this week I have posted none meme posts (both about Pottermore I think, but so what it’s exciting!), so why do I feel the need to blog today?

I suppose it’s unusual for me not to post a review and that makes me feel somewhat out of sorts. Especially when I have already read 6 books this month, somewhat of a record for me. Not that this fixes that but whatever. Blogging for the sake of blogging right?

Why haven’t I finished a book this week? While I can honestly say I’m not getting on too well with The Piano Tuner. I’m about 150 pages in currently which is past my I can give up if I get to this point, point. So that means it’s not a total loss, but I think it still says something when it takes me a week to get to a point that would usually take me a couple of days. I don’t know what it is with the book really. I can tell the style of writing is good and everything feels very authentic it just doesn’t really feel like much is happening. Sure things have happened, and those are the parts that have kept me reading really, for more parts like that. It still feel like a scene is being set too which makes me think there’s still some potential for this to be a good book, it’s just taking it’s time getting there.

It think it says something that I didn’t really feel like reading it one evening and picked up a book which has been on my To Be Read Pile for about 6 years, Pooh and the Psychologists. It’s a book that feels right to read slowly. It’s a bit silly, and a bit far-fetched but the psychology behind it is genuine enough and the way it’s presented it pretty fun. It’s not going to replace The Piano Tuner, because I can see it driving me crazy if it was all I was reading but it’s good as something light and easy enough to put down before bed.

So yes there is no review instead there’s a random post which can only very loosely be called a post of musings!

Actually speaking of random musings I found a bookmark in The Book Tuner (it was sent to me from bookmooch), it’s one of those arty type book marks which doesn’t really look that arty but like he sort of picture postcard art which is really a bit tacky. All the same it’s quite nice to find things in books. You could say I found something in Pooh and the Psychologists too (bought from a charity bookshop) but that was a message because the book was originally a present. I actually thought the message sounded quite personal at the time and that it was quite sad that someone had given away the book, but apparently I have an unnatural attachment to my books. The boyfriend has the attitude that it doesn’t matter if they get battered because you can always buy another (which makes me tell him off when he throws book across the room…yes I did say throws).

Oh and on the 100 page policy. I started it after reading the first Harry Potter, because I may actually have never finished it if it hadn’t been the school holidays and I wanted to read something because it took quite a lot for me to get through the first few chapters, but it’s ended up being a favourite of mine (even if I do still started at The Shack in the Sea). So to stop the same happening again I told myself that I couldn’t give up on a book until I had read at least 100 pages. It seemed a sensible number of pages, readable in a day if I really raced through them (although that barely ever happens when I am contemplating giving up, and if it did I would probably decide to carry on because I don’t really like giving up on books, and it would only take a little longer to do), long enough that a scene could be set and the story really started, but not so long that it would feel like a chore to get that far. In reality I rarely do give up at 100 pages, I have to really hate a book to do that. If there is any sign of promise I will plough on. It’s seems a pretty good system, I have ended up loving books that I considered giving up before 100 pages. Maybe the struggle makes it more rewarding?

Right am going to shut-up now. Well done if you got this far through all the waffle, especially all the rubbish about Billie Piper at the beginning! Maybe you should reward yourself by entering my giveaway?

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eeek excitement POTTERMORE!


 

Wow this is much much excitement! See I can’t even use words properly!

From the video I am most excited about the extra snippets J.K talks about, anything new always drives me crazy and I still want to know MORE!

It sounds kind of like an online community too, I love forums so am happy in that respect but wonder how much it will actually give us that a ‘normal’ forum doesn’t? And how awesome would it be to be one of the people to be let in early?

There is more information on The Leaky Cauldron

  • You will be like another character, getting sorted and even getting a wand from one of 33,000 combinations!
  • There will be lots of information on McGonnagal’s backstory (which could well be interesting)
  • You will get exclusive information about your house (unless you are sorted into Gryffindor)
  • Will not included the encyclopaedia, this will be a paper book, if it ever happens (WHAT it might not happen…I was hoping for it for so long though!)

Can’t wait for 31st July to try and get in early!

 

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Pottermore


So I did find out about Pottermore not long after it had been released that Pottermore is the answer to the clues but I thought here I am self confessed Potter addict and I haven’t even mentioned Pottermore on my blog!

Of course there is little really to say, I mean it’s just “Coming Soon” currently which really shows very little about what it will actually be. J.k. has said it’s not a new book but I am still hoping for the encyclopedia (or The Scottish Book).

Still something new that actually comes from J.K. Rowling…very very very exciting! And it means my final Harry Potter straw will not have to be the last Harry Potter film, this make me very happy as I don’t even really like the films.

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