Category Archives: News

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)

6 Comments

Filed under general, Musings, News

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.

4 Comments

Filed under general, Musings, News

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.

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Musings, News

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.

8 Comments

Filed under general, Musings, News

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?

15 Comments

Filed under Fiction review, Musings, News

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.

 

6 Comments

Filed under general, Musings, News

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

 

5 Comments

Filed under Musings, News

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?

 

15 Comments

Filed under Musings, News

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

Leave a comment

Filed under News

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

2 Comments

Filed under Blog Hop, general, News, Other Blogs

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

10 Comments

Filed under Musings, News

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Musings, News

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

2 Comments

Filed under Musings, News

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)

2 Comments

Filed under general, Musings, News

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Musings, News

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.

3 Comments

Filed under Musings, News

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

1 Comment

Filed under News

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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under general, News

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

3 Comments

Filed under Musings, News

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!

 

2 Comments

Filed under Musings, News

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.

5 Comments

Filed under Musings, News