Monday, 29 April 2013

Buying Books & Booksellers

After recently visiting The London Book Review I started thinking about how I actually buy books. Ebooks have been a phenomenon, and according to an article I read this week an estimated eight million Brits now own an e-reader (17/04/13 Evening Standard). Although I own a kindle, and appreciate the convenience of  been able to cart around hundreds of books in my handbag without putting my back out, I will never stop buying physical paper books.

 I will also never stop supporting book stores, yes the internet is marvellous, but online shopping is impersonal. I find it easier, and more enjoyable to leisurely browse for books in a shop. You can read the blurb, feel the weight and appreciate the cover design in a way that is not possible when just clicking on links. 

I find it a real pleasure to spend hours in a bookshop, my arms overflowing trying to make a decision. It is one of the simple joys in my life to open a book for the very first time, the pages fresh and the spine crisp and unbent, you cannot experience the same sensory delight reading from a screen. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Women Writers- sisters doing it for themselves

Female authors are slowly gaining recognition in the media, for the first time the Granta list, which celebrates twenty  promising British authors under forty, comprises of more women than men. It is also refreshing to see the addition of authors from diverse backgrounds, including Somalian, Bangladeshi and Chinese. For the Granta list to remain relevant it is important that the authors chosen reflect Britain and modern British Literature, which is multicultural and complex.

 I've only read three of the authors featured on the Granta list, Xiaolu Guo, Ned Beauman and Zadie Smith, but I'm looking forward to checking out the others. 
Xiaolu Guo, one of the women of this years Granta list, I love her hat 

I have read debates recently about whether it is still necessary to still have female only awards for literature, such as the Women's Prize for Fiction, personally I believe it is still needed. I was shocked to read on VIDA about the disparity between the number of male authors reviewed compared to women authors. The men outweigh the women, clearly showing that male authors are getting more publicity, more acclaim and more notice than their female counterparts. Below are graphs, taken form VIDA, that show a gender count of bylines and authors reviewed in literary publications. Even Granta, if unequal, showing that the majority female list this year is an anomaly.  

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

All's well that ends well

"Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none"- William Shakespeare 

Happy Birthday Bill!

Today is the birthday/deathday of William Shakespeare, the bane of English lit students. I'm sure most people have been forced to study him at some point. I used to be suspicious of people who actually claimed to like his work, as I thought they were just being pretentious, but I have to confess I have developed an appreciation for old Shaky.

 My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Currently reading

The sun is shining! I really hope it keeps it up so I can spend my lunch break in the park.

I've been reading a lot of fiction recently and thought I should mix it up a little. So this week I'm tackling The White Man's Burden, William Easterly and The Kingmaker's Sisters, David Baldwin.
ISBN: 9 780199 2108 24

ISBN: 9 780750 9507 63 
 The White Man's Burden is all about whether or not foreign aid is effective and if it does more harm than good.

I am really interested in the war of the roses, and have read a fair bit of historical fiction about this period, so have chosen The Kingmaker's Sisters to learn more about the influential Neville family.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Pretty Covers- Red and Pink

red and pink books, spines, pretty book covers, mug, cup of tea, stack of books, reading list, decoration, pile of books, colours

Eva Stachniak- The Winter Place

I enjoyed the beginning of The Winter Palace, but I think it could had done with some rigorous editing, as my enthusiasm for the novel waned towards the middle.

The Plot: When Vavara becomes an orphan she is taken in as a ward of the Russian imperial court. To survive she must make herself invaluable to the fickle, vain and promiscuous Empress, Elizabeth Petrovna. Vavara becomes a 'tongue', taught by the slippery chancellor, she learns the arts of subterfuge. She reports gossip and plots to Elizabeth and gains her favour  Her loyalties are however tested, when she befriends Princess Sophie. Sophie is newly arrived at court, shy and vulnerable, but she will later be known to history as Catherine the Great.

First of things I liked about the novel- Stachniak really gives insight into the opulence and drama of the Russian court. Empress Elizabeth is a complex character, she is incredibly selfish and is primarily concerned with her own pleasures, both sexual and material, but is also surprisingly maternal towards her heirs. Elizabeth was obviously a strong woman, she lead a coup against her preprocessor and ruled over a vast county for 21 years. No doubt she had to be a bit of a bitch to accomplish this.

Compared to Elizabeth, Catherine the Great comes across in the novel as being bland and weak. Though I'm sure as readers we are meant to feel sympathy for her, and it is true she was treated badly by Elizabeth. I also found Varara's personal life uninteresting. I liked the start, when the novel talked about her spy training, and thought the author should have gone into more depth about this.  

The major flaw of The Winter Palace was the plot pacing. There seemed to be lots of pointless padding in the middle and then the ending seemed rushed.

I would class this novel as average, it's not the best I've ever read and not the worst. It has defiantly sparked an interest, and I'm keen to read more about the era, Elizabeth Petrovna and Catherine the Great. Has anyone got any recommendations? If you enjoy historical fiction, you might want to give this one a go.

garden book nook

Picture taken from here
This would be such an amazing place to sit and read! The only downside is I would probably also have to take an epic amount of antihistamines for the resulting hay-fever.    

Friday, 19 April 2013


"Words are powerful. They too can be agents of what is new, of what is conceivable and can be thought and let loose upon the world."
- David Malouf, Ransom 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

London Book Review Bookshop

I nipped in to the cutest bookshop today, The London Book Review, no picture's I'm afraid as I didn't have my camera and my phone doesn't has the capabilities (it's a knackered old Nokia). I'll make sure I snap one at the earliest opportunity.

It has a vast range of titles and has the really pleasant hushed feeling of a library. The staff were quite happy for me to wander around without any pushy sales pitch, but I'm sure if I had any questions they would be knowledgeable. There is also a small cafe attached to the store selling cake and sandwiches. It was a real pleasure to peruse the shelf with the smell of fresh coffee floating over.

There were so many books I wanted but I managed to restrain myself. As it's round the corner from my new work, I'm sure I'll be a frequent visitor and soon succumb to temptation.

You should check it out if you're in the area, it's located 14 Bury Place WC1A 2JL, near to British Museum

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

"Fate [...] the divine plan for which there is no remedy"
- Eva Stachniak, The Winter Palace 

Monday, 15 April 2013

Currently Reading

I've semi-abandoned Ransom for the time being. I had a 5 hour train journey at the weekend and I wanted something a little bit less demanding, so I picked up The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak, kindly lent to my mum by one of her friends.
ISBN- 978-055277-789-8
I have a secret fondness for historical fiction. It's not the most respected of genres, but a good bodice ripper can give a clear feeling of an era, even if it short on actual facts.

The Winter Palace is all about the court of Elizaveta (Elizabeth) Petrovna, Empress of Russia and predecessor to Catherine the Great. It is full of court intrigue and told from the point of Barbara an imperial spy.  I'm nearly at the end, and will give a full review when I'm finished. 

Has anyone else read The Winter Palace? What did you think? 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Scotney Castle

The residents of Scotney Castle were obviously bibliophiles as there are lots of bookshelves and libraries in this stately home. The 14th Century castle is actually a ruin, but that just adds to the romance. Margaret Thatcher, the recently deceased British Prime Minister, used to have an apartment in the Victorian manor that is also located on the Scotney estate.  

Friday, 12 April 2013

he seats himself beside her and takes her hand

David Malouf, Ransom 

Currently Reading

Continuing with my new years resolution to read The Iliad, I am currently reading Ransom by David Malouf. The novel reflects on Priam plea to Achilles to return the body of his son, Hector. So far I am not enjoying it as much as I did The Song of Achilles, but I am finding it interesting to see the other side of the story, from the point of view of the Trojans rather than the Greeks.
ISBN: 978-0-099-53952-0
"citizens-though they believe themselves quietly asleep and safe in bed- are corpses he moves among: headless, limbless, savagely hacked, hovered about by ghostly exhalations and the fires of the dead. Flies cluster at their nostrils and corners of their eyes. Dogs lick up the splatter of their brains, gnaw at their shoulder-bones" 
- David Malouf, Ransom  

teacup shirt

I picked up this shirt in the Gap sale, the colour is really vibrant and the pattern is cute. I bought mine for £19.99, but no doubt it will be further reduced. The shirt comes up quite long, so if you're petite you might want to bear that in mind. My mum is five foot, when she tried the white version it was like a dress. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Burj Khalifa Library

Burj Khalifa, libraby, tallest buildings, books, visit, Dubai
The library in the tallest building in the world 
My dad is currently working in Dubai, he sent me this picture of one of the libraries in the Burj Khalifa, it looks pretty swanky and I bet the view is amazing!

Adam J Nicolai- Alex

Firstly, massive respect to Adam J Nicolai for self-publishing and doing so well in the Kindle chart. Though self-publication has become easier because of ebooks, it is still a brave and difficult thing to do. Unfortunately, although I admire Nicolai's proactive approach to getting his work out there, I really didn't like the book. Alex is unimaginative and trite. I wouldn't have bothered to struggle through it if it wasn't for this blog. Perhaps, I am being a little bit harsh, it has some glowing reviews on Amazon and surely they can't all be written by Nicolai's family.

The Plot: Ian's son, Alex, is murdered and although the perpetrator is dead as well, Ian can not find closure. His wife has left him, his job is threatened and now he is being haunted by his son. Are these visions of Alex a manifestation of his grief and a sign of mental ill health or is the ghost of his son trying to communicate with him beyond the grave?
Trigger warning:  rape, child abuse, N-word, murder.

The premise of this book is overdone, a ghost with unfinished business and a father wanting vengeance has been done to death (pun totally intentional) and Nicolai doesn't add anything new. The whole thing was very predictable, and everything was too neatly tied up at the end.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

"Old stories are like old friends, she used to say. You have to visit them from time to time"
- George R R Martin, A Storm of Swords, 1: Steel and Snow  

Friday, 5 April 2013

Currently Reading

As I'm sure you are aware Game of Thrones is back on tv- YAY! So I am currently re-reading A Storm of Swords: 1.Steel and Snow, purely so I can annoy everyone around me by yelling, 'That didn't happen in the book!" at the tv.
game of thrones, boxset, books, colourful, a song of ice and fire, amazon, bargain, black friday, HBO, complete set, paperback
Couldn't resist buying the box set, though they are so chunky the kindle version might have been a better  idea. 

Actually, the HBO adaptation, it pretty faithful to the original and if you're a fan of the show I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of George R R Martin's series. In the summer last year, I saw loads of people on the train reading the books, they obviously had withdrawal symptoms after then end of the last tv series and the start of this one.

I will do a proper review of A Song of Ice and Fire soon. I really want to talk about how many strong female characters this series has. It's fantastic to have such a range of women represented instead of just a token one, round of applause for George R R Martin!

I'm also reading some Lisbon guide books. I'm off on holiday in about a month, and at the moment we have no accommodation and no plan.

 Previously when I've been travelling I've always relied on Lonely Planet, as they have lots of budget options, however when I went to the library the other day they didn't have any copies. I quite the DK Eyewitness guides, they have lots of pictures which I find good inspiration. Also they include maps and walking routes, which will be really helpful as my sense of direction is appalling.

Lisbon, map, eyewitness travel, guide book, review, helpful, pictures, holiday
Lisbon, Eyewitness Travel, ISBN: 978-1-4053-2649-0

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Lemon Polenta Cake

yorkshire tea box, lemon polenta cake, easy, recipe, tasty, food, baking, gluten free, diy, yummy, delicious, sweet, treat, tea, mug
Lemon Polenta Cake- gluten free and delicious 
If you want to make your own the recipe is under the cut:-

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Stephen Chbosky- The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I finished Perks in a two day reading binge over the Easter holidays. At first I wasn't sure how I felt about it, the book does have a couple of good points, but they are outweighed by the negatives.

The Plot: Charlie is an introverted teenager navigating the pitfalls of friendship, first love and growing up in the early 90s. As a shy loner, Charlie's life is changed when he is befriended by flamboyant Patrick and his step-sister, rebellious and beautiful Sam. They introduce him to parties, drugs and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Encouraged by his friends, Charlie stops just observing life, and starts participating.

Trigger warning:- the book contains domestic violence, rape, homophobia and child abuse
hands, typewriter, vintage, typing, keys, writing, old, hands, the perks of being a wallflower, sepia

My initial reaction to The Perks of Being a Wallflower was irritation. The first sentence set me off, 'I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party'. I'm not necessarily against narrators addressing the reader directly, Mildura Kundera is a good example of a writer who breaks down the fourth wall effectively, but I hate when motivations or actions are attributed to the 'you'. I really dislike when an author projects things onto me as a reader, I like to make up my own mind about a character or a situation and not have assumptions made about how I will read and react.  It's a minor thing really, but as it happened right at the start it influenced how I felt about the rest of the book.

Monday, 1 April 2013

"It's strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book"
-Stephen Chbosky- The Perks of Being a Wallflower
"And even if someone else has it much worse, that doesn't really change the fact that you have what you have. Good and Bad."
- Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower