Jane Austen 200

IMG_1669Rachel: Pride and Prejudice

Honestly? I don’t understand people who say they don’t like Pride and Prejudice. I think they’re a bit weird… You know, like people who don’t like roast potatoes. Who can resist the classic tale of overcoming ingrained prejudice and improper pride in order to find everlasting love?

As thoroughly explained in my review, I adore Pride and Prejudice. I now own 5 different copies and still read at least a chapter of it every week. I love the richly drawn characters, even those who are meant to be unlikeable (*cough*LadyCatherine*cough*), the witty social commentary, the pace, the setting. Everything in fact. I never get bored of reading this book and I always find something new in reading it.

Before I met my husband, I used to think it’d be jolly nice to meet a ‘Mr Darcy’ IMG_1667and now that I am happily married I despair every day that my husband refuses to reenact the ‘You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’ bit! Ah well, probably for the best, my husband is way grumpier than Darcy!


IMG_1671Gem: Persuasion

My favourite Jane Austen novel (though I confess I haven’t read them all) is Persuasion. It’s one I only picked up a few years ago and I bought it because I was holidaying in Lyme Regis and much of it is set there.

It definitely enhanced my holiday, allowing me to access the history of the area in a way I wouldn’t otherwise, but the reason I fell in love with it wasn’t it’s accurate and enlivening descriptions of Dorset but its heroine Anne Edwards. Unlike some of Austen’s more popular protagonists, Anne isn’t a creature of wit and self assurance. She may have been when she first rejected the marriage proposal from the man she loved but the intervening years have stripped such vanities from her. Though thankfully they have left her grace and intelligence.
Read it to meet Austen at her best (in my incomplete experience) from the allegorical settings to the wisdom that not every happy ever after happens the way it should.

IMG_1664Kelly: Sense and Sensibility

I had a hard time choosing my favourite Jane Austen novel, and had narrowed it down to three! (P&P, Emma were the two runners up, in case you were wondering). But in the end, it could only be Sense and Sensibility. It’s Pride and Prejudice if Mr Bennet had died, and as such has a darker element at the start of the book. I love the relationship between Elinor and Marianne, their devotion towards each other and the way they each approach life in such different ways. Elinor steals the show for me: smart, logical, loving. A steady port next to the turbulent storm that is Marianne. I could never stand Marianne’s selfishness, her inability to see that whilst her heart ached for Willoughby, Elinor was going through her own suffering.

I love the 1995 film too. For me, one of the best adaptations of any Austen novel ever. The actors have become synonymous with their characters, none more so than Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon. And the part where Willoughby and Marianne recite Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116? Perfect. Please excuse me. I’m off to watch it again!

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘A Fall Of Moondust’ And Why I Love To Re-Read Books

Are you the kind of person who likes to re-read books? Some people I know consider reading a book a second or third time as being pointless. Once you’ve read it, well – you’ve read it. However, I totally disagree. I compare it to listening to your favourite music over and over. For example, that album which has developed some kind of meaning for you. It evokes an emotion or triggers a memory. It changes you, if only for a brief moment. And you’ll keep on listening to it because it does exactly that.

A well written piece of fiction can take you places by using nothing more than your imagination. It can make you feel happy or sad, basically your emotions are under the authors command.

There are certain books that I will read again and again because of what the author can do. This includes Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘A Fall Of Moondust’ which I re-read recently. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve buried myself in the pages of the story. Most will agree it’s one of Clarke’s best and is now regarded as a classic.

The book was originally published in 1961 and describes the moon before we really new anything about it. To aid the story, certain assumptions were made. Some of which have turned out to be inaccurate – such as the actual depth of moondust on the surface (centimetres, not meters). However we can forgive that sort of thing as Clarke used the science that was understood at the time. His writing is at it’s best when he’s extrapolating in to the future and weaving it in to the story.

I was in my early teens when I first picked up the book. The story caught my imagination, it was all happening on the moon and there were spaceships too! With subsequent re-reads, and with a developing interest in science, I started to understand more about the ideas that pushed the plot along.

With each reading of ‘A Fall Of Moondust’, I go back to my teens. I remember how I felt when I first read it, the gripping story line and how the words filled my imagination. It’s more than a ‘comfort read’ because I still find the story exciting. The book will always be close by, proudly sitting on the shelf with other treasured stories that I will re-read someday soon.

Bob Toovey
I started reading Sci Fi at around age 8, I've never looked back since. I was highly influenced by my father's reading choices at the beginning. I soon branched out to many different authors and Sci Fi genre's. Early influences include Asimov, Clark, Simak, PKD and other 'golden age' authors. On occasion, I like a good spy book and currently finding early religious history a fascinating subject – despite being an atheist.

Twenty Years of Harry Potter

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone.

Twenty years is a long time. Twenty years ago, Bill Clinton was US President; Tony Blair stormed to victory in the UK General Election on a mandate of things only being able to get better; Katrina and The Waves won the Eurovision song contest. And a book by unknown author, J.K Rowling, called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published.

albus-dumbledore-harry-potter-quotes-favim-com-2040949It’s impossible now to imagine a world without Harry, Ron and Hermione, and it’s impossible to let this twentieth anniversary go by without a moment of reflection on the impact of the franchise. In 1997, Bloomsbury ran an initial print run of 1000 books for their new release. In January of this year, the seven books of the series had sold nearly 500 million copies worldwide. So what is it about the series that has made it so successful?

When you listen to people talk about Harry Potter, the first thing you notice is a sense of belonging. The books resonated with people on a personal level. They taught us that it is ok to be yourself, to be different, and that people are incredibly complex. Fred and George are class clowns, but also successful entrepreneurs, and incredibly brave. Luna Lovegood doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. She is completely true to herself. Neville Longbottom is terrified most of the time, but it doesn’t stop him fighting to save the world. The women are smart and daring, and unashamedly so. Readers found heroes and friends within the pages, and it kept them coming back for more.longform-original-19888-1424711210-4

In the way that good fantasy fiction does, it shone a light on our own world. The slavery of the house elves, the complexity of good and evil. This isn’t just a series about witches and wizards, it’s so much more complex than that. And it doesn’t shy away from it. It was children’s fiction which didn’t talk down to children. No wonder they loved it. It generated a passion for reading in children and young adults who had never picked up a book before. How magical is that? Who could forget the lines of fans queuing up outside bookstores on publication days, dressed up as every conceivable character. And it spoke to adults too. As I alluded to in our review of The Philosopher’s Stone, it is a nostalgic read. But it’s also dark, challenges preconceptions, and generally makes adults think about the world around them, just like it did its younger readers.

tumblr_static_tumblr_static_3yzvk95xx76s8wsgcs8c0sg8k_640And it still has the power to bewitch. Last year, I volunteered at an event run by Felixstowe Library on Harry Potter Night. Actors were dressed up as Hagrid, Snape, Professor Trelawney and Dumbledore, and the entrance was made up to look like Platform 9 3/4. AS we were preparing for the influx of children, Hagrid walked past the doors, and a boy of about seven gasped “It’s Hagrid!”. The magic lives on in the next generation.

The franchise is now so much bigger than the books. The films have been some of the most successful of all times, grossing over $8.5 billion at the box office. And with further films yet to be released, including a sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, due out in 2018, they aren’t done yet. What I find incredible when I re-read the books is how the actors have become synonymous with their characters. It’s difficult to picture Harry without thinking of Daniel Radcliffe, or think of Severus Snape without imagining the late, great Alan Rickman. Currently in the West End, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is pulling in the audiences, with tickets harder to grab hold of than a snitch on a particularly stormy day. Meanwhile, you can tour the studios, walk down Diagon Ally, see the Hogwarts Express, drink Butterbeer, eat Every Flavour Beans (including the ear wax ones), even buy 4 Privet Drive (for just shy of £500,000). Who could have imagined this in 1997?

Who knows what the future holds for the franchise. If pottermore.com has taught us anything, it’s that JK Rowling has an unlimited supply of stories, myths and legends. One thing is for certain. Harry Potter will still be read and loved, not only by those of us who love it now, but by future generations too. Always.

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

Harry Potter at 20- Fan Fiction Galore!

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_CoverIt’s a little hard to believe that the Harry Potter series is twenty this year… twenty!! It can’t possibly be that long… and yet it feels weird to try and remember a time when the bespectacled boy wizard wasn’t enchanting millions of children and grown-ups alike!

Kelly and I have been rereading and reviewing the books over the past few weeks for you but I wanted to address something else about the Harry Potter series… Fan fiction. I’d never really come across fan fiction before Harry Potter- it wasn’t really something that had crossed my radar. I think that’s partly due to the fact that the release of the first couple of books coincided with the burgeoning popularity of the internet and so I didn’t really have the opportunity to before. The main reason however, was my friend Clare. I met Clare at university and one of the things we bonded over was our love of Harry Potter books. She introduced me to the world of fan fiction and away I went!

Fan fiction is a little hard to get your head around at first… after all, if you love the books why would you want to read something that the author hadn’t even written? But people did… there were numerous websites, some dedicated solely to Harry Potter fan fiction, some covering fan fiction of all sorts of books, tv shows, films, and weirdly some real life stuff too!

Digging a little deeper into it, fan fiction becomes much more explainable, particularly in the case of Harry Potter.
JK Rowling had done a marvellous job of creating the fictional world of Harry Potter. The wealth of little details she has is testament to how much she dedicates to building a plausible world within which to frame her stories. Even the characters with the smallest roles to play, even the ‘walk on’ parts are well rounded and fit into the overarching story line. She drops in little details about people and places that seem completely innocuous and yet turn out to be pivotal in future plots. Her world building is on a truly epic scale.
And so, when it comes to writing the stories, there is a lot that she just can’t address. She can drop hints of back stories but never tell them, lay a foundation for a character’s motivation but never completely explore it and this is where fan fiction comes in.

IMG_1642So many of the fans want to know more. More about their favourite side characters, more about what happens when Harry and co aren’t around, more about the grownups at Hogwarts and how they got there. More more more!

Some fans decide to write this ‘more’ for themselves, some decide just to read (I fall squarely in the latter category) but Harry Potter fanfiction usually ends up having something for everyone.

The most popular types of fan fiction when I was reading tended to fall under certain categories.

The Maruaders- telling tales of Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs, these types of stories focused on Harry’s father and his friends when they were at Hogwarts themselves. Creating the Map, becoming animagi, James’ romance with Lily were all popular themes.

The Founders- harkening back to the formation of Hogwarts itself, these focused on the four Founders- Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin- and the whys and wherefores of creating a magical educational establishment. Often they featured romances between the founders.

AU- Alternative universes, often featuring the resurrection of a particular character (usually Sirius), or focusing on a world where Voldemort triumphs and Harry and co become freedom fighters.

Filling in the blanks/ alternative POV- These stories focused on minor characters and either told the story from their point of view, or told part of the tale unseen in the real books. Neville and Ginny’s resistance against the Carrows in the final year was a popular one, Colin’s POV of The Chamber of Secrets was pretty hilarious too.

Post Victory-  a hugely popular type was to write about what happened next. What happened when Harry had defeated the Dark Lord, grown up and faced other trials and tribulations contributed millions upon millions to the fan fiction databases  and covered all sorts of possibilities.

 

I’m certainly not saying that all Harry Potter Fan fiction was good, in fact huge swathes of it were absolute drivel, but every so often you would come across and sharply written take of Rowling’s world and it felt a little bit like knowing more…

 

 

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption. I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

In Praise of Audio Book Narrators

I’ve been listening to audiobooks for a long time but I have to say this is mainly down to the influence of BookEater Jeff (aka Dad!) And it was while listening to books with him on car journey’s that I started to realise just how big an impact the narrator had on the story. I’d already heard a fair amount of good narrators and enough bad ones when we came across a narrator so good that neither of us could believe it. Let me introduce you to …

Hugh Lee

My dad was listening to Broken Harbour by Tana French, a murder mystery set on a ghost estate on the outskirts of Dublin when we realised just how good Hugh Lee’s narration is. Although the detective Scorcher Kennedy is male, this book is chock full of strong female characters. A lot of me have trouble doing women’s voices, often making them sound too haughty and querulous. Hugh Lee had no such issue. In fact it was his voicing of the women’s part that really impressed us both, each charachter was identifiable and each sounded completely natural. Needless to say I had inspiration for the next gift to give my father, searching through other books narrated by Hugh Lee I found Three Bags Full by Leonie Swan, a very unusual murder mystery where the detectives are all sheep! Both books are worth a listen!

Find all Hugh Lee’s narration here

Benedict Cumber batch

Being the successful actor that Benedict Cumberbatch is it’s no surprise that his narration is sublime. He added so much character to The Spire by William Golding.

Sadly it’s also no surprise that he hasn’t lent his voice to this art very much! Find all Benedict Cumberbatch’s narration here

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Like Benedict Cumberbatch Maggie Gyllenhaal has an incredibly successful acting career so to find anything narrated by her is a special treat. But to find Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar was pretty much all my Christmasses come at once! There’s only one other narration on her list – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy … I’m not a fan of Tolstoy but I’m tempted just for the 35 hours I’d get to listen to her voice!

Find all Maggie Gyllenhaal’s narrations here

Hillary Huber

Hillary Huber I discovered by chance, but as she’s narrated 148 books on audible I guess I was bound to bump into her work at some time! With a catalogue like that it doesn’t really matter what genre you prefer there’s a strong chance she’s narrated it! I discovered her narrating the brilliant but very literary Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels and she breathed such life into it that I was hooked in a way I don’t think I would have been had I just read the books. Her voice actually reminded me a lot of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s so now I’m not so upset that she has narrated so little … Tolstoy might have to wait after all!

Find all Hillary Hubert’s narrations here

Prentice Onayemi

Prentice has one of those voices. You know the ones I mean, the sort that somehow manage to sound like your grandmother is telling you where the secret stash of chocolate she’s hidden just for you is. It’s warm, knowing, a little teasing. I would happily listen to him read the phone book! Luckily I listened to him read Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, a brilliant book so I got double the pleasure!

Find all Prentice Onayemi’s narrations here 

David Thorpe

I’ve sung David Thorpe’s praises in my recent review of Karen Maitland’s A Company of Liars. I want to say he has a soft, lilting north country accent but the fact is he can do so many accents so well that he might not! Maybe his real accent is an italian one! Anyway being good at accents may be an asset for narrators but it is not enough, Thorpe also has a warmth and a good ear for gentle comedy, inserting inflections in to create levity, love and

Find all David Thorpe’s narrations here

Sean Barret

Perfume by Patrick Suskind is one of my all time favourite books! As such, and because it is a book full of sensations I was worried about listening to it, if the narraton had been bad it would have broken my heart. Thankfully Sean Barrett’s understated narration suited the sneaky Grenouille down to the ground. It would have been easy to go over the top with a character like this but Barrett had the wisdom to know that too slimy or whiny a voice would have repulsed readers so instead he voiced it subtly.

Find all Sean Barrett’s narrations here

Stephen Briggs

If you’ve ever listened to an audio version of a Terry Pratchett brook there is a very strong chance you know Stephen Brigg’s voice very well already! Almost every book Pratchett has ever written has been voiced by him. Briggs, an actor as well as a writer, first met Sir Terry when he wrote to ask if he could stage his Wyrd Sisters, Sir Terry said yes and in so doing catapulted Brigg’s life down a different leg of the trousers of time! Brigg’s voice is perfect for Pratchett’s works, and he totally understands the humour in the work. If life is getting you down delve into these audio treasures and you’ll soon be smiling again!

Find all Stephen Briggs narrations here

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

A Very Grand…..Parent

This week something momentous happened. It wasn’t just my 54th birthday, it wasn’t that I taught my last maths class of this academic year and it certainly wasn’t that Britain finally reached the climax of yet another election campaign and some of us dutifully trotted off to vote. No, what made it momentous was the fact that without doing anything I became a GRANDPARENT. Over the last few months I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide whether I want to be called Granny or Grandma, Nanny or Nona and this got me thinking about why I felt uncomfortable with being labelled ‘granny’(see below for my final decision).

Click through to Waterstones
Click through to Waterstones

Society and media stereotype grandparents as old, grey, infirm, sedentary and either cosy or grouchy and yet the last census showed that there are now 2.7 million grandparents acting as the primary caregiver for their grandchildren but this isn’t reflected in literature and media. In addition to the primary carers there are also umpteen grandparents who have either taken early retirement or reduced their hours of work in order to act as unpaid baby-sitters and child-minders so their adult children can carry on working. The reality of many middle-aged and pre-retirement people being actively engaged day in and day out with the raising of the next generation is barely acknowledged at all.

So with my Book Eater’s hat on I set out to find some great books about Grandparents. The first thing I discovered is that most books with a focus on the senior generation are aimed at young readers and many of them perpetuate the stereotypes. A study of children’s books in five EU countries confirmed that not only are grandparents portrayed as a sedentary, grey haired and wrinkly but identified that the age of these literary ‘grandparents’ was depicted as being far older than the average age of real grandparents with young grandchildren.

Sadly I found very few examples of genuine grandparent/grandchild relationships and so if you are aware of any that fit the bill please, please, please – recommend them to me

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull.

This fantasy series is often recommended to Harry Potter addicts. It turns out that Grandpa Sorenson is the caretaker of an amazing and dangerous fantasy world. Unfortunately his relationship with his grandchildren is not overflowing with openness and trust and quite a few of the problems they encounter are because he isn’t entirely truthful with them. Not exactly the grandparent / grandchild relationship I was hoping to find. 3 bites

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

This book was always a firm childhood favourite of mine – with a more typical depiction of a firm grandfather and an adventurous young girl. Their relationship grows in strength and trust and grandfather’s heart is softened by the love and affection of Heidi. This novel has stood the test of time and Grandfather is perhaps the epitome of literary grandparents, stern, firm, loving and with a twinkle in his eye. 4 bites

Gansta Granny by David Walliams

This is an absolute favourite of my 81 year old mother. She has read this with two of her five great-grandchildren and plans to read it with the other three just as soon as they are old enough.  It opens with the typical depiction of a boring Scrabble playing granny who makes her grandson Ben eat cabbage and …even worse…whose only television is broken. However the plot quickly develops as young Ben, who hates staying the night at granny’s place, accidentally discovers that she was an international jewel thief and all her life she has longed to steal the crown jewels – and now needs his help to do exactly that! Full of laughs and adventures the real joy of the story lies in the blossoming relationship that develops between Ben and his Granny when he learns to see her in a different light. 5 bites

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

Aubrey is just 11 when she finds herself bereaved and abandoned but then her grandmother Gram arrives and takes her back to live in Vermont. Struggling to cope with her losses Aubrey is a difficult house-guest but Gram has endless patience and gradually with the help of a new friend and a good counsellor Aubrey begins to open up. Written from Aubrey’s point of view the reader will nevertheless feel the love that Gram has for this child and the efforts she makes to help her heal.This really is an excellent depiction of a modern grandparent / grandchild relationship. 5 bites

 

Well there we go – please send me your book recommendations so I can read how to be the best Grandee (!) that I can.

 

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.

Have some Pride in your BookShelf!

It’s Pride season and here at The BookEaters we love our literature with all kinds of love!

But there’s more than one way to show your Pride, and if you’re not a writer and therefore not able to write great LGBT+ characters, you can still show your LGBT+ love through your books!

Here’s a gorgeous collection of rainbow bookshelves to inspire you!

First off here’s something you can do straight away, no paintbrush or anything else required! Just spend a few minutes and rearrange your books in a rainbow! Go on! Full disclosure I organise several of my bookshelves in colour order!

Or if you want to get really fancy about it scroll down to see some more painted and permanent displays!

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GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

When Pictures Say More Than A Thousand Words

It’s often been said that a picture says a thousand words but the art world – and certain pictures within it – have often inspired authors to write many more than a thousand words!

Here’s selection of novels about artists, paintings and a whole palette of emotions!

Let Me Tell You About A Man I knew by Susan Fletcher

5199g2QmCJL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Based on the time that Van Gogh spent in an mental asylum in Provence after cutting off his ear, this tells the story of Mme Traubec and her friendship with the troubled painter. Usually in stories like this it is the friend that save the artist but in this story it is the artist that saves the friend, not by doing anything special, but by the power of art itself.

… read our full review here

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

imageHannah Rothschild took the unusual step in this book of letting the painting have a voice of its own.

It’s a painting that’s hung on some of the most aristocratic walls imaginable before ending up in a junk shop then in a small flat in London before finally being rediscovered.

Read our full review here

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith

imageSara De Vos was a 17th Century Dutch painter and the first woman to be admitted to the Guild of St. Luke. Her last painting – “At the Edge of a Wood” is a haunting landscape showing a girl overlooking a frozen river. It is a memorial to her dead daughter. In 1950s New York Marty de Groot, a wealthy Manhattan lawyer in an unhappy marriage, has inherited the painting and has it hanging above his bed. But the real star of this book is Ellie Shipley, an artist who has turned to forgery to survive. She forges a copy of At The Edge of a Wood and through her eyes we see the painter’s skill.

Read our full review here

Midnight Blue by Simone van der Vlugt

cover99665-mediumA journey through the Golden Age of Amsterdam to the renaissance of pottery making in Delft. This story told from the perspective of young widow and talented artist Catrijn, allows us to mingle with Rembrandt and Vermeer without losing touch of what life was like for the everyday people.

Chronicling the innovations that led to the creation of Delft Blue pottery, the horrific explosion that left so many in Delft dead (including Fabritious, echoed in Donna Tarts excellent The Goldfinch, another artsy book worth reading) and the plague striking Europe, this book shows art as an essential refuge from the troubles of life and a basic human right.

Read our full review here

Charlotte by David Foenkinos

img_2356This is one of the most unusual novels I have ever read. It slips between biography, fictionalised biography and memoir of it’s own construction from page to page.

Yet by doing so it seems to both illuminate Charlotte Saloman and obscure her at the same time. Which, quite frankly, made me desperate to find out more about her. It wasn’t long before I was googling her art to see at least some of it with my own eyes.

It looked pretty similar to how I had imagined it – blunt, honest and vibrant. So the author had done a pretty good job! But this isn’t solely a story about art, it’s also the story of fascism stamping art out. It deserves to be read.

Read our full review here.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Dorian Gray“How sad it is!” murmured Dorian Gray, with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrid, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June … If it was only the other way! If it was I who were to be always young, and the picture that were to grow old! For this – for this – I would give everything!”

Read our full review here.

The Muse by Jessie Burton

imageArtists and revolutionaries have often lived hand in glove, each inspiring the other. This book delves into these relationships in a number of ways. Set simultaneously during the Spanish civil war and during the very different cultural revolution of 1960’s London, we meet a young artist infatuated with a local revolutionary whose sister is in turn infatuated with the artist. Masterpieces are produced, then lost to the winds of war. When one turns up in London decades later secrets are uncovered and social mores are destroyed.

Read our full review here

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham

IMG_2406 This book doesn’t paint artist’s as a particularly nice breed – actually no – it’s more accurate to say that it paints artistic geniuses as rude, selfish and uncompromising! Humility here is only for those that are technically adequate but without vision, the tortured soul of the artist is not so much tortured more superciliously annoyed by interruptions! This might make it sound like an unpleasant read but it has some redeeming features, not least among them the descriptions of Tahiti and it’s people- descriptions that ironically automatically call to mind Gaugin’s paintings!

Read our full review here

There are lots of other great books to help you bring the art galleries to your sofa, a couple that are so famous it seemed pointless including them are Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (which did get a mention earlier) and Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with the Pearl Earring.

if you’ve read any others you think should make the list let us know in the comments!

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

So You Want To Own A Book Shop?

Admit it, every reader has a secret hankering to own their own book shop, I know I do! So when I friend of mine told me she was planning on opening one I practically begged to help her set it up … ok, not practically, embarrassingly!

Luckily I had some time off which coincided with her getting the keys to her new shop and she took pity on my BookEating self and said I could help out a bit. So here’s the secrets behind the glamour!

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What a lovely logo! Designed by Craig Grew of Kea Kreative

The book shop is Woodbridge Emporium … a lovely and unique venture. My friend, Jules Button, has owned successful retail businesses before so I have absolute faith in her abilities. She knew straight away that this wasn’t a venture that would be successful without a good team and she got that into place immediately. Her daughter Jessie is the shop manager, she also has two other staff members that she’s worked with before and knows she can trust. Together the team span the generations and have a wealth of knowledge and variety of expertise so they should be able to serve every customer well.

But of course the staff is only one part of the experience and what customers really want is to find things they want to buy! Jules realised that she would need to offer more than books if she was going to have a profitable shop. This was already a bookshop before she took it on but it sadly wasn’t very successful and taking on a failing business is an obvious risk. She needed to offer something completely different than was there before, but without putting off the customers that had stayed faithful! In a previous shop she had sold a selection of Mind Body & Spirit books so she already knew that the profit margin on books is much smaller than on most retail items. She began by adding in a gift section, this ties in nicely both with the books – as people often by books as gifts – and with the range of cards and wrapping papers already offered.

But her knowledge of the local area also led her to adding in an extra range – high quality loose teas! There are quite a few coffee shops and suppliers in the area but nowhere to get loose teas locally. And as we all know there’s nothing better than a book in one hand and a cup of tea in the other!

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Image shamelessly stolen from The Woodbridge Emporium’s Facebook Page, pop over there to see more of the behind the scenes work to opening a book shop!

There was a lot of hard work to be done before re-opening. Some of the problems the shop was suffering from before were cosmetic, I had been an occasional customer but the building always had a slightly damp and dingy feeling to it which made it hard to feel comfortable in for long. It doesn’t have big windows like most shops so there is little natural light. So the first thing the team did was to refresh the decor – outside the door and window frames were painted in the bright red and black of the new brand colours, the counter was moved to a new location, the old carpets were ripped out and replaced them with a light laminate wood floor, they repainted the walls in a bright white, added more shelves, added a red trim to each bookshelf, used blackboard paint and chalk to make directional signs and got a lot of extra lighting put in. Now it’s easy to read the blurbs on the backs of the books!

The other major task was to go through the stock that came with the business and this was the part she let me help with. The first day she set me to going through the books in the stock room to see which were worth keeping, which might sell well online and which should be given away. I quickly discovered that there were some books that were unlikely to sell particularly in the quantities there were. Jules wisely decided that these could go into lucky dips for customers on the opening weekend.

After the back up stock was sorted I was allowed out to play with stock already on the shelves. You know when you go into a book shop that you’ll find different genres on different shelves, but have you ever stopped to think how long it takes to get those shelves so neatly ordered? The Woodbridge Emporium has around 10 thousand books, which is about average for an independent book shop, I organised and reorganised those books four times in the run up to the opening! I promise it’s not because I’m an idiot but until the first organisation was done it was impossible to see where we had too many books or where we didn’t have enough. And as we were adding new genres and wanted the shop to have a natural flow so that lovers of one genre might notice books nearby that might also appeal to them, we had to play around quite a bit to get it looking good! For the record though, as an avid bookshelf organiser I loved every second of organising those shelves!

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I am in this picture but hiding behind people! Quite a turnout for a grey day in a small town, proof that people want independent book shops!

By now the shop was almost unrecognisable but Jules knew that more was needed to make sure the business would be a success. Publicity is vital for any new venture and Jules made sure there was plenty of it. She started a Facebook page and Twitter account before opening to keep potential customers up to date with developments, spoke to the local press and organised a big launch!

 

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Local author and actor Hugh Fraser with owner of Woodbridge Emporium Jules Button

The shop was opened in the presence of the towns Mayor and Mayor-in-waiting by local author and actor Hugh Fraser.
There were balloons, free gifts a chance to sample the teas and the wonderful Hugh (best known as Captain Hastings in Poirot) stayed all day signing his books. (Read our review of his first book here.) Jules has since also been featured in the Bookseller Magazine.

The Woodbridge Emporium has been open for two weeks now and I’ve had the pleasure of popping in to help out a couple more times, yesterday I asked her what the perils and pleasures of the experience had been to date. It was no surprise to me that she admitted one of the biggest perils for any bookshop owner is the cost of the stock and the small profit margins available. The cost of stock is quite substantial and like any other business she has staff costs and rates etc to spend on top of that.

But what heartens me most is what she told me the biggest pleasure has been. She’s run lovely local retail businesses before but even though that’s true she said she’s never experienced the amount of support that she has with this venture. Customers have had wonderful things to say but she’s also received a lot of industry support. Publishers and authors have been in touch to offer help with events, suppliers have gone the extra mile and so have the Booksellers Association. All in all she’s very happy to have her own book shop and we’re very happy too!

Me helping in the shop!
Me helping in the shop!
GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Train Reading…

Train I wish I was on!
Train I wish I was on!

You may remember this time last year, roughly, I was gushing over a wonderful book by Andrew Cartmel. It was his debut novel in The Vinyl Detective series. I recently reviewed the equally brilliant second book of the series.

In thinking about those two books, I started musing about train reading! One of my favourite times to read is on the train. I don’t mean a quick read on the commute although I’ve heard that is pretty great… I mean the long journeys, sometimes familiar, sometimes brand new.

I love to set myself up with some snacks, a nice drink, get myself comfy and whisk myself away to a different world safe in the knowledge that I’m unlikely to be interrupted. Sometimes I begin something new as I did with Written in Dead Wax, sometimes I turn to my old favourites…

So what are my go to train books?!

 

the-millenium-trilogy-coverThe Millennium Trilogy– love this series and surprisingly, I love reading it on a train.

It’s dark and intense and I love the characters.

It’s totally absorbing and I can while away the whole train journey immersed in Lisbeth’s life.

 

 

PridePrejudice423x630Pride and Prejudice

One of my all-time favourite books, there is something really comforting about reading this on a train.

Most often I read this after I’ve finished another book and want to ease myself gradually back to the real world. It’s particularly soothing on a late train home!

 

60471Coming Home

This is a very very favourite book to be reading on the train! I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact the main protagonist takes the exact same journey I am usually on at all!

I particularly love starting to read it just before Plymouth. If I time it right I can reading the section where she travels over the Tamar at the same time I’m travelling over the Tamar! #readinggoals

It’s a lovely book to be reading when you are indeed coming home!

 

gracelingGraceling

Another of my favourites, this is a nice light read that I’ve read so often I can dip in and out… the advantages of taking an e-reader on the train!

I particularly like reading this when the train is busy and I can pretend I’m not really there, I’m in this wonderful land with this wonderful heroine saving the day!

 

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption. I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

Interview with Katherine Arden – author of The Bear and the Nightingale

 

Katherine Arden - credit Deverie Crystal PhotographyKatherine is 29, dark-haired and misty eyed and curled like a cat into an old armchair. This young woman had her first book published in January of this year and is contracted for two more in the series. In fact the proofs of book two are already starting to circulate and book three is well under way. I took the opportunity of asking what it is like to be at the start of a writing career and she told me about some of the ups and downs along the way.

“I wrote as a kid. I read tons and it inspired me to write short stories. But I didn’t connect that with becoming an author. It was simply a side thing I did for fun. I was still writing as a teenager but I went to college with the intention of becoming a diplomat or an interpreter and simply didn’t have the time for writing. My college was in Vermont and I studied in Russia – the winters were long and cold and by the time I graduated I was simply longing for warmth and guaranteed sunlight so I headed to Hawaii without any great plans. I’d pick macadamia nuts and coffee for a few hours a day and I lived in a tent on the beach – very much hand to mouth. I ate farm produce, hitch-hiked places and swam. On the farm next to ours was a little girl called Vasilisa and she was lovely. I started writing again for pleasure and made Vasilisa the heroine of Bear and Nightingale. About two months in I discovered I was really enjoying the process and suddenly thought “I know what I’ll do, I’ll get it published”. In all the first draft took about 8 months and I started the hunt for an agent. In the meantime I’d started teaching English – I’d accidentally ended up in the Alps and was getting cold again.

Finding an agent is not an easy process. I got quite desperate and toyed with the idea of self-publishing. One of my stepmother’s good friends, who is also an author, took the book to edit it but when she read it she refused to edit it as she’d enjoyed it so much and decided to do what she could to introduce me to some agents. The first agent I signed with turned out to be a false start and after 18 months I circled back to some of the other agents I’d been introduced to. They in turn passed on taking the book but referred it and me to others and then suddenly my current agent, Paul popped up. By this time I’d left the Alps and returned to Hawaii where I’d started work in a realtor’s office. Determined to make a professional living for myself I took licensing classes. Amazingly in the same week as I got my Realtor’s license I landed a book deal with Random House.

Bear and Nightingale underwent quite a transformation with my editor’s guidance. The original was nearly twice the length of the published story and at first I thought I might be able to use some of the material we’d removed as part of the sequel ‘The Girl in the Tower’. However it didn’t sit well and I ended up writing the sequel from scratch. The proof of that book is printed now and although I can make small amendments the story and its shape is set. I am now working on book 3. The Girl In The Tower

I’ve spent the last couple of months travelling, seeing old friends and making new ones. I’m trying to decide which of my ideas to develop next as I have several stories in part draft and as soon as book 3 is completed I want to know which of my other projects I’ll be moving forward.

My advice to budding authors – finish what you start! Finish the book and don’t give up. You will learn so much from finishing it.”

Book Eater’s note – since doing this interview with Katherine I have devoured the sequel The Girl In The Tower and was absolutely hooked from start to finish. A full review of that book will be published on this site in November – the perfect Christmas gift for many, many readers whether your preferred genre is fairytale, myth,fantasy,legend, romance, historical, Russian or feminist. Click here to read our review of The Bear and The Nightingale.

 

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.

Be More Terry

TerryPratchettSir Terry Pratchett was born on this day in 1948. His career spanned countless books- non fiction and novels- articles, plays, video games, board games, graphic novels and TV programmes. Although most famous for his 41 book ‘Discworld’ series, he is also well known for his struggle with Alzheimer’s, his advocacy for Alzheimer’s funding and the right to die movement, his humanism, his humour and his penchant for black fedoras!

On what would have been his 69th birthday, people across the world are pledging to “Be More Terry”, to follow what they believe Terry would have done in certain situations. Sir Terry’s views on life, love, youth, religion, cats, food, pretty much everything can be found in his extensive writings so being more Terry is actually pretty achievable!

Be more…questioning

“Open your eyes and then open your eyes again.” 195133-Terry-Pratchett-Quote-Not-all-questions-are-answered-but
―  The Wee Free Men

“It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.”
― A Hat Full of Sky

“The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.”
― Monstrous Regiment

 

04_terrypBe more… honest

“He was by nature an honest person, because apart from anything else, lying was always too complicated.”
― Johnny and the Dead

“Mort’s innate honesty will never make him a poet; if Mort ever compared a girl to a summer’s day it would have been followed by a thoughtful explanation of what day he had in mind and whether it was raining at the time.”
― Mort

“’We are going to stick to the rules.  And the thing about sticking to the rules is that it’s sometimes better than cheating.’ “
― Unseen Academicals

 

Be more… political

“’As a wizard I must tell you that words have power’.

‘As a politician I must tell you I already know’.”
― Unseen Academicals220a2462-f45a-4d7f-bb27-122974fe8b53-2060x1236

“On the fifth day the Governor of the town called all the tribal chieftains to an audience in the market square, to hear their grievances.  He didn’t always do anything about them, but at least they got heard, and he nodded a lot, and everyone felt better about it at least until they got home.  This is politics.”
― The Carpet People

“Them as can do has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.”
―  The Wee Free Men

 

pratchett1_3230196a-largeBe more… Cat

“Cats know about people. We have to. No-one else can open cupboards.”
– The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

“You can’t teach cats to do anything.  No, not a thing.  You might think you can, but that is because you’ve misunderstood what’s going on.  You think it’s the cat turning up obediently at the back door at ten o’clock for dinner.  From the cat’s point, a blob on legs has been trained to take a tin out of the fridge every night.”
―  The Unadulterated Cat

“If cats looked like frogs we’d realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That’s what people remember.”
― Lords and Ladies

 

Happy Birthday Sir Terry, we miss you!

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Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

Brilliant Book Nooks!

You all know that all of us here at the BookEaters are obsessed with books … and that obsession spills over into book storage! I mean you have to house your darlings appropriately don’t you? I’ve long been collecting pictures of gorgeous home libraries, cool book shelves and everything in between on Pinterest and I thought I’d start a series of features to share the inspiration with you!

Today let’s dive into the beautiful world of Book Nooks! Here’s a variety of cosy corners for curling up in – some are colourful, some are classical, some contemporary and some just plain cosy!

Cosy Book Nooks!

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Colourful Book Nooks!

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Contemporary BookNooks!

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IMG_2461   IMG_2476    IMG_2462

Classical BookNooks!


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For more P-inspiration click the link in my bio to my Pinterest account and check out my Home Libraries board!

 

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

What a Way to Go!

We all know that the death of a much loved character can reduce many of us to tears – even at the umpteenth re-reading. I sobbed so much when Rudy died in the Book Thief that my throat closed up and I could only squint sideways to read the few remaining pages.

Original illustration by Sidney Paget 1893
Original illustration by Sidney Paget 1893

When Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty fell together from the Reichenbach Falls in 1893 over 20,000 people to cancel their subscription to The Strand magazine as a protest against his death, and a century later the demise of Albus Dumbledore sent shockwaves around the globe. However on some occaasions it is not the fact that a character has died as much the nature of their passing that lingers in the reader’s imagination and I’ve had a little rootle around in my memory to recall a few of my favourites.

Murder most Vile

Electrocution!

Philippa Gregory combines nosy interference and electrocution with shocking results in her novel The Little House. Ruth, the desperate daughter-in-law ingeniously uses a pram and an electric lawn mower as the unusual tools with which to murder the MiL. Louise Penny was similarly inspired to employ electrocution in combination with anti-freeze and a garden chair in her novel Dead Cold. Female victims, female murderers and female authors, surely there can’t be a pattern here?

Lawn Mowers!

Thinking of the pram and lawn mower combo reminded me that while a mower is an unlikely tool of death, every now and again it is brought out of the garden shed with gruesome results. Stephen King, a master of the shocking, uses it with great effect in Misery- enabling Annie Wilkes to dispatch an unfortunate State Trooper on the verge of discovering the missing author Paul Sheldon. Yuk!

From lawns to earth and the Four Elements!

Dan Brown pulled out all the stops in Angels and Demons to present a themed, creative and unpleasant way to murder four cardinals. Brown employs the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water; one is suffocated by soil in the throat, another has punctured lungs so air leaks out, a third is burned alive and finally the fourth is wrapped in chains and dumped in water to drown.

But enough with gruesome murders what about …

Mercy Killings

Lennie is shot by George in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Is it a mercy killing? George knows Lennie will be lynched and almost certainly killed but does he choose to shoot his friend in the back of the head simply as an act of kindness or is he, in part, saving his own skin by making sure that he won’t get caught up in the anger of the lynch mob? Some might go so far as to call it euthanasia – Lennie will undoubtedly suffer and this is a preventative act by his friend.

In an murder that rocked the world Severus Snape performed the killing curse on Dumbledore and claimed the elder wand for himself. But readers later discover that Dumbledore’s death was arranged beforehand between the two of them –was Snape actually doing Albus a favour and euthanizing rather than murdering him? Whatever the background to the event there is no doubt that in great literary tradition Dumbledore knowingly sacrificed what little was left of his life in order to protect both Harry and Draco. This brings me to my third and final category…

Self-sacrifice.

Click here for Waterstones link
Click here for Waterstones link

The real tear jerker death of literary heroes is self-sacrifice. Even unpleasant or weak characters can be redeemed and elevated to sainthood by choosing to die in the place of another. This is exactly what happens in Dickens’ novel, A Tale of two Cities. Sydney Carton is presented as a brilliant solicitor and a man of great intellect but he is also an alcoholic and a depressive full of self-loathing. He is instrumental in obtaining the release of a client, Charles Darnay, about whom he has mixed feelings. When Lucie Manette marries Darnay, Carton’s jealousy is further mixed with bitterness for he too loved Lucie. The French revolutionaries are in full flow and heads are rolling left, right and centre. When Darnay gets arrested in France and his real identity as an aristocrat is revealed he is sentenced to face Madame La Guillotine – but in steps Carton who not only breaks Darnay out of jail but takes his place knowing that he will in turn be beheaded. Such self-sacrifice has always been popular with readers and Dickens’ set the seal upon Carton’s noble act with these legendary final words;

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known”.

 

Nothing in his life became him like the leaving. What a way to go!

 

Got a favourite literary death? Let us know in comments.

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.

BOOK BATTLE! The Cursed Child

Who would ever have thought it would come to this?

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Two BFFS, Bookeater Kelly and Bookeater Rachel, at odds over The Cursed Child!
Kelly loved it, Rachel hated it- how will they ever reconcile their friendship?

With a BookEater Book Battle of course! The literary version of a corridor death match pistols at dawn duel!
Who will open up a can of literary whoopass and emerge victorious?!

(We made efforts to keep it spoiler free but failed miserably towards the end… you are duly warned!)

 

Rachel: So, I didn’t like it. To start with, I didn’t particularly like the format. The difference between the richness of the Harry Potter books and this bare bones play was stark

Kelly: I agree with that, but it was never trying to be a book. It was published as a screenplay so it was always going to be different.

Rachel: That’s true but I didn’t consider it a positive difference

Kelly: I think it depends what you wanted from it. I loved the idea of finding out what happened to the characters afterwards, the “living in your father’s shadow” theme and the impossibility of living up to being the son of the boy who lived. For me, the characters made up for any lack in description.

Rachel: That’s interesting because I thought the characters and the theme were pretty terrible

Rachel: The characters didn’t seem to be in line with how they were portrayed in the books and I found the theme of living in your father’s shadow to be depressingly mundane

Rachel: I wasn’t expecting them to have been the exact same as in the books but I felt the fundamentals of their characters were different

Kelly: But we grow up and change. We aren’t the same people we are at school. I mean- you and I are awesome still, but for different reasons!

Kelly: And a lot of the actual stories in the original series are mundane, just set in a magical environment- like this one was.

Kelly: Although if you delve into Harry’s personality more, he was always filled with doubt about his wizarding skills, it’s just that now he doubts his parenting skills.

Kelly: I loved Scorpius!

Draco and Scorpius from Pottermore
Draco and Scorpius from Pottermore

Rachel: We do grow up and change but we aren’t witches nor are we the focus of an entire franchise of books devoted to making magic out of the mundane. That is what made JK Rowling’s stories so wonderful and that isn’t what happens here. Here the magic is burdened, is dragged down and is overwhelmed by the ordinary, the boring, the mundane.

What does The Boy Who Lived grow up and do? Erm, well actually he has a pretty boring desk job, three kids and a severely middle class, suburban outlook on life.

Wow what an exciting sequel. #snooze #evaporatedmagic

Rachel: Scorpius wasn’t bad. What did you like so much about him?

Kelly: I can’t help but feel that the play is much different and pulls on the magic more. Again, because it’s a screenplay we lose some of the description and background that makes it more magical. We only have the dialogue, and that’s never going to be able to incorporate all the magic.

Kelly: I thought Scorpius was a wonderfully funny character. He’s so the opposite of what you expect a Malfoy to be. I kept waiting for him to do something evil!

Kelly: I found it quite nostalgic. I can’t expand on that because of spoilers. Did it give you that feel at all?

Rachel: Not really to be honest. I felt a bit betrayed (or something slightly less dramatic!). I felt a bit like I did when I found out Father Christmas doesn’t exist (is that a spoiler too?!)

Kelly: (What do you mean? Father Christmas is real- I’ve met him!!)

Rachel: I agree with you on Scorpius actually. He was pretty funny and loyal, and I could see him being in the original extended gang. He made up for my disappointment in the neutering of Draco Malfoy

Rachel: Which to be totally honest was a process begun by Rowling

Rachel: (Oh, yes, OF COURSE he is real…..)

Kelly: It was- it began in the last book. When you are on the losing side, you are going to be neutered. But there is still the distrust between him and Harry.

Kelly: (Thank goodness! You had me worried for a bit!)

Rachel: Which I didn’t find believable. But again, this is really Rowling’s fault. He didn’t seem to have suffered any consequence in her epilogue for having been essentially evil albeit in a flawed manner so why would he here?

I found the family aspect of his storyline to be a bit affecting (although think it clashed with stated facts from the epilogue)

Kelly: Affecting in what way?

Rachel: I felt sorry for Draco because of what happened to his family (close to spoiler territory!). And his reactions felt real

Rachel: Which unfortunately just contrasted with how unaffecting I found Harry

Kelly: I agree with your comments on Draco, but disagree about Harry. I thought his actions were realistic and he made me react emotionally throughout the screenplay. I felt angry with him, a bit disappointed in his reactions (which I think was the point) and sad for him. Can I say that the bit I was most disappointed with was how small a role Ginny had.

Harry, Ginny and Albus from Pottermore
Harry, Ginny and Albus from Pottermore

Rachel: Yes! It was as if she was totally erased as a proper character!

Rachel: And they had such a good opportunity to show how the two characters had grown together and complemented each other

Rachel: Wasted

Kelly: Exactly. She was purely there to give Harry and Albus a sounding board, and to give them advice that they ignored. Such a shame.

Rachel: She could have easily been a brand new character for all of the emotional attachment I had to her

Rachel: Wasn’t massively impressed with Ron or Hermione either. The Trio felt missing. I couldn’t find that amazing connection and camaraderie they had

Rachel: And don’t tell me that it’s because they’re grown up and friendships change because we’re living proof that friendships can be just as marvellous, if not better, decades on!HHR CC

Kelly: Ha ha! We are living proof of that! But not everyone is as lucky as us, and doesn’t Hermione admit that work has gotten in the way and they haven’t been as close as they once were? Or did I make that bit up? I’m sure it was part of the story.

Kelly: But less of the decades please. We’ll stick to “years on”. It ages us less!

Rachel: Maybe I am biased because even when work and life gets in the way of us, we still managed to get through the, erm, several years on (!) with our closeness still intact.

I just felt that these three saved the world together; they wouldn’t let work get in the way

Rachel: Particularly as their friendship was SUCH a core element of the original story

Kelly: I do get what you mean.

Rachel: So I think I could have forgiven or got past most of my concerns (not really to the extent of thinking it was a good book/play, but at least to the stage of not regretting I’d read it) if it hadn’t have been for the plot. Not so much the main plot as I thought that was fairly decent. It was the addition of that character and their origin… You know the one I mean

SPOILERS APPROACHING!

Kelly: I do. I understand what you mean, but again I feel it draws on the themes of the play. Without giving too much away, you have Scorpius who is forging a path away from his father and is a good guy, Albus who is struggling to make a life away from his father’s shadow, and then the other person who just embraces their father’s character. It provides contrast.

Rachel: It provide contrast but in a way that completely undermines the character of the father, and as such, undermines a central concept of the original series. It’s difficult to not spoil things but this new character’s very existence contradicts a central aspect of the father’s core belief and the actions they take on those beliefs.

If they were going to introduce this new character, they could have done it a different way. They didn’t actually need to be that character’s progeny

Kelly: I don’t know how to reply without spoiling the book. I would say that I disagree and think that we don’t know completely that this would be against the characters core beliefs. In fact, it’s in keeping with the characters actions.

AND HERE IS WHERE OUR ATTEMPT AT A SPOILER FREE BATTLE GOES COMPLETELY OUT OF THE WINDOW!! BE WARNED!!

Kelly: But wouldn’t Voldemort have created her as another horcrux? There was nothing to suggest love between them

Rachel: The idea that he would feel enough human emotion to actually have sex with Bellatrix is baffling to me, but more importantly, it’s a distraction from his main purpose

Rachel: And it’s totally unrealistic that no-one ever found out

Rachel: And why did she confund Amos except that otherwise the rest if that story makes no sense

Kelly: But we don’t know Voldemort as well before he tried to kill Harry, there may have been aspects of him we don’t know.

Kelly: Maybe it was a turkey baster?!

Rachel: Ewwwwwww!

Rachel: I think it was sensationalism. Delphi would have worked better had she been the child of Bellatrix and Rodolphus and was trying to live up to her mother’s legacy and restore Voldemort for her

Rachel: Still fits in with the theme

Kelly: I do get what you mean, that’s a good way around it and makes just as much sense

Kelly: (Is it ok that this isn’t a battle, more a polite discussion of views?)

Rachel: (Yep, we’re bffs, we aren’t going to let a book bring us to fisticuffs!)

Kelly: I still really enjoyed this book, as a screen play. It works as that, it’s not a novel and shouldn’t be treated as one. I completely got your beef with “that” character and feel your solution is much better. Maybe you should write to JK?!

Rachel: Kelly hasn’t swayed me although I do concede that I’m perhaps too harshly punishing the cursed child for being a play rather than a novel. However, it was billed so much as the continuation of the original series, the ‘what happens next’ and I think it just gets so many things wrong. And the new character tipped me over the edge! (Seriously, I have SO many beefs with it!)

all-cursed-child-cast

 

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption. I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

In Celebration of Mums- 5 Great Literary Mums!

It’s Mother’s Day in the UK on Sunday- Quick! Get your cards sent!

In honour of my mother, who is the most fantabulous mum in the whole world (yes I checked!), I would like to present a small round up of literary mums who are super brilliant too…

Now, these mums were chosen because they are more than just good fictional characters, they would actually make rather marvellous mothers if they were real. So for example, Mrs Bennet from Pride and Prejudice has not made the list. She’s a completely marvellous character in literary terms but I’m pretty sure that most of us would agree that her attempts to sell off all her children, and the multiple ‘quiverings and flutterings all over’ would drive us all batty!

In no particular order….

MWMolly Weasley (The Harry Potter Series)

I’m pretty sure that Mrs Weasley would top, or come close to topping any poll on literary mums.

Her Christmas jumpers, her excellent cooking, her steadfastness in looking after her seven children all combine with her willingness to take in Harry and care for him as one of her own to show off her kindness and compassion.

She’s always ready with a hug or a decent scolding when needed and, although her protective nature sometimes feels smothering to her children, her badassness is legend.

‘NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!’

 

MDMrs Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility)

Although Mrs Dashwood isn’t without her flaws- she’s often too romantic and emotional, and too governed by the whims of Marianne- she is kind-hearted and very affectionate towards her daughters.

There is a lot of love in the Dashwood household as signalled by Marianne’s fevered fixation on her mother when seriously ill, and her mother’s subsequent dash to her side.

Unlike many mothers depicted in Austen’s novels, Mrs Dashwood cares more for the happiness of her daughters than for what advantageous matches they might make.

 

MM

Marmee (Little Women)

Almost too good to be true, Marmee, as Mrs March is known to her children, is a highly principled, progressive woman for her time.

She doesn’t insist her daughters marry for money and in fact makes sure that they are educated and able to stand up for themselves at a time when the opposite was expected. She’s non-judgemental, and believes in all sectors of society.

She’s hard working, sets a good example, is available to console her daughters and be confided in, and has a huge amount of love for her children.

She’s able to protect her children whilst letting them make mistakes and learn from them.

 

ap

Amelia P. Emerson (The Amelia Peabody Series)

A truly formidable woman, Amelia Peabody’s world is turned upside down on her first visit to Egypt where she meets her soon to be husband, Radcliffe Emerson.

Their union produces a son Walter Peabody Emerson, known to almost one and all as Ramses. Her maternal experience later includes Nefret Forth, a girl they rescue from the Western Desert at the age of 13.

Very progressive for her time, and yet in some ways the epitome of a Victorian lady, Amelia instills a liberal viewpoint in her children. They do not treat people differently due to their race. They are kind to animals and compassionate to people less fortunate than themselves (which is, frankly, most other people in the book)

She is fiercely protective and has been known to go into a ‘berserker rage’ if someone threatens Ramses, most notably when Ramses is physically threatened as a youngster.

Woebetide those who cross the Sitt Hakim and her magical parasol!

 

MF

Mrs Frisby (Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh)

Noone who has read this book or seen the adaptation The Secret of Nimh can fail to be moved by Mrs Frisby’s bravery.

Her son Timothy is ill with pneumonia just at the time they would normally move to their summer home- the spring plowing is about to begin and their home will be destroyed.

Mrs Frisby’s bravery and courage in finding a solution to this is indicative of the sacrifice that so many mothers are willing to make to protect their children.

With no thought to her own safety, she does what she needs to to get the help to move her house.

 

 

These are just a few of the great mums out there in the world of literature- who would you have picked??

And thanks Mum! You’re ace!

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption. I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

Second hand Best Sellers – The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

Tam’s second-hand bestsellers book finds…..

So here’s the Criteria:-

Each book must be bought secondhand for no more than £1

Each book must claim on its front cover that it is a bestseller

12 books – one per month for a year

Do feel free to join me and share your second-hand bestsellers in the comments

 

Available at Waterstones - click here
Available at Waterstones – click here

I had high hopes for this novel as it boasted on its cover “International Bestselling Author” and a snippet from the review by The Times promising it to be “tantalising” and “richly entertaining”. It starts with the image of a woman walking in the dusk through a silent, snowy village and her image being recorded in an oil painting by Sisley. Sadly those two pages were the best part of this 600 page book. Although the imagery continued to charm in parts, the plot and the constant retrospect left me bored and I kept waiting for something to happen.

Robert Oliver the artist at the centre of the drama doesn’t speak – he has been committed to an institution after trying to slash a painting of Leda and the Swan in the National Gallery. So dedicated is his psychiatrist (Marlow) that he decides to traipse all over the country and even further afield in order to research Oliver’s history! Three quarters of the book is taken by Oliver’s wife and Oliver’s mistress as they tell similar stories of a brilliant artist fixated by another woman. Oliver paints this woman over and over and over but will not tell anyone who she is nor why he is obsessed by her. Then suddenly Marlow discovers that he’s falling for Oliver’s ex- mistress and she in returns tells him that the woman at the centre of Robert’s illness was an artist who died a century earlier and off they go together to view a portrait of Beatrice de Clerval. From there Marlow then “retrieves” from Oliver a bundle of personal letters that passed between Beatrice and her uncle and flies to France to return them to the man from whom Oliver had stolen them. After that Marlow pieces together that the painting it was mistakenly assumed that Oliver had tried to attack was in fact painted by Beatrice who had been blackmailed by an unscrupulous dealer in allowing him to pass it off as his work. Using the design on the bottom of the dress that Beatrice was wearing for her portrait Marlow then tracks down the village which Sisley was painting at the start of the novel and finds long lost proof that Beatrice was in fact the artist who created the Swan Thieves and Leda. He returns to America to discover Oliver cured of his selective mutism and able to rejoin society.

I love the concept of this but the execution of it was as exciting as a telephone directory. At no point do we come to understand why Oliver became obsessed to the point of madness with the image of a dead artist nor how he had been able to piece her history together. Infact I was left wondering why he ‘recovers’ – nothing is discovered that he doesn’t already know and Beatrice is not going to be given the credit she deserved as a brilliant artist. Was it meant to be a mystery or a romance – I don’t know but it was far too long and frankly tedious!

It marginally scrapes 2 bites because of the imagery.

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.

A baker’s dozen with Patrick Gale

patrick-gale-patronIt’s not often that any of us get the chance to interview someone whose work we really admire but when Patrick shared an Instagram image snapped by this BookEater at the Penzance Literary Festival I saw the chance for a spot of bargaining and grabbed it with both hands. What was only meant to be a couple questions grew into a dozen…and then just one more.

You mentioned previously that you always write longhand in brown ink, Montblanc Toffee Brown ink to be precise, so do you use a particular paper?

Any A4 hardback notebook. Provided it’s lined and the feint isn’t too narrow.  

How do you organise your writing day?

 I wish! I just try to start soonest to nine as possible and to keep going until the dogs demand their second walk at teatime. I try to avoid the internet’s distractions, including email, and often resort to a nifty free app called Freedom.

Where and how do you find inspirations for the themes e.g. do you have a vague idea before you start, do you plan it out meticulously before you start, do you sit down and let the muse take over?

I’ve no idea. Ideas seem to bubble up. The one consistent thing is that the story I tell has usually been obsessing me for a while and I take about a year of thinking and note taking before I begin writing the novel proper.

What is the single most difficult chapter / incident you have written and why?

Hard to say. Deaths of beloved characters are always hard. I hated killing Petra in A Place Called Winter. In the end she died twice because I found it easier to narrate her death at the end rather than on the night it happened.

How many drafts do you usually do before you feel a book is finished?

Three but there’s usually a fourth that is just little tweaks and corrections.

Are there differences in the way you approaches screen writing and novel writing?

Many. The big difference is that I type my scripts because they have to be so tightly timed. 58 pages in narrow margins is about an hour’s screen time and is painfully few words. But I relish the challenge. It’s still storytelling. The myth is that it’s all about dialogue; actually it’s largely about structure and point of view.  

When did you reach the tipping point between feeling an urge to write for pleasure and reaching the conclusion that you could / had to do it professionally?

Very young. I was 21 when I acquired my amazing agent and he took a year to find me a publisher, during which time I wrote Ease. But those early books were very lightweight and underwritten and I was paid about 2500 for each, which wasn’t enough to live off. What it did was convince me to try living by my pen and I was lucky enough to have contacts who found me scraps of reviewing and journalism to pay the bills.

How long does your research normally take?

About a year.

Do you focus on one project at a time, or do you have multiple books on the go?

I could only ever write one book at a time but I seem to have three or four scripts on the go at the moment and I’ve already an idea for the novel after this!

(Ooohhhh now that sounds tempting but we’ll just have to wait and see)

Do you play musical instruments other than the cello?

I used to play the piano quite well and to sing but I gave both up to focus on the cello.

You have a lot of involvement with the literary scene; will you be bringing back the children’s element to PZ litfest?

I’m only the PZ Litfest patron so have no input other than helping nab authors! I’m artistic director of the North Cornwall Book Festival each October and that now has two whole days devoted to young readers. It’s crucial to have a children’s element but it’s very time consuming for a volunteer to organise. I hope this year PZ will have at least a day of children’s events to link in with an orchestrally accompanied screening of the Battle of the Somme in the evening.

What authors do you read for pleasure?

So many! Always grab new ones by Sarah Waters, Colm Toibin, Barbara Gowdy, Anne Patchett, Sarah Winman and Stella Duffy, who I’m thrilled is coming to PZ this summer.

No.13 – Bakers Dozen – tell us about your garden at Trevilley……(Patrick is obsessed with the garden they have created in what must be one of England’s windiest sites and which includes England’s westernmost walled rose garden, and he deeply resents the time his writing makes him spend away from working in it.).

My garden will be open to the public in aid of the two book fests I’m involved in, on June 25, so you can all find out for yourselves

 And if you want to find out more about either of those 2017 literary fests then here are the links;

Penzance Literary Festival July 5 -8th    www.pzlitfest.co.uk

North Cornwall Book Festival October 5-8 www.ncornbookfest.org

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. A day in which we celebrate the impact women make in the world; honour the amazing women who create, inspire and fight for the rights of all of us; women past and present. We at the BookEaters have taken the opportunity to reflect on what IWD means to us, the books and authors who have influenced us over the years, and raise awareness of those that still have a bit of work to do!

Tam:

iwdIWD is a day not just for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, but, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women. This year’s theme is “Be Bold For Change”

Women fight for women’s rights and we need to encourage our daughters to think big, to see way outside of the confines of stereotypes and social media. Our daughters shouldn’t be dreaming about change rather they should be aspiring to achieve the change. How girls see themselves and their role in the world is inculcated in them from the moment the people around them make decisions that define them – from being dressed in pink and given dolls through to FGM and forced marriage. From infanthood our girls need female role models who will help them to feel more confident and to set bigger goals, to replace dreams with aspirations.

51HWn+LRX1L._SX356_BO1,204,203,200_I have just ordered a copy of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This children’s book has 100 bedtime stories about the real lives of 100 extraordinary women and is illustrated by female artists from all over the world. Some of the stories even begin with the traditional “Once upon a time” approach but these real life Cinderellas don’t get rescued from poverty and slave labour to marry rich handsome men instead they grow up and really do become astronauts, ground breaking scientists, mathematicians, amazing artists, womens rights activists, authors, queens, politicians and so on. Don’t dream it – be it! – that’s what we need to teach our girls.

 

Gem: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

51LhIJz4gtL._SS500_Before I read this book I was a feminist in theory. Reading it when I was 17 changed my whole understanding of feminism and politics. For the first time I truly realised the the personal IS the political and how culture impacts on human beings. I’m proud to call myself an intersectional feminist, I know that although all women our opressed (yes, still) our levels of opression and the forms they take are different. I couldn’t stop and had to read the rest of her books, Maya Angelou took me from childhood to womanhood in my year of reading her and I will be forever grateful.

Kelly:

51VHe12RxJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Thanks to the Virago Books twitter page, I have been thinking a little more about the books that made me a feminist over the last few days. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is the one that springs immediately to mind: A story of a dystopian future in which many women are sterile, and younger women are used as a vessel for childbirth. It’s a chilling representation of the eroding of women’s rights, made all the more disturbing by the fact that the protagonist recalls memories from her life before. I re-read it recently for a feminist book group and found that not only does it stand the test of time, but its message is becoming ever more pertinent. No surprise then that in this new “post-truth” world, this book has been flying off the shelves. It shows how we still have a long way to go to achieve equality, and how precarious are the advances we have made so far.

Rachel:

50ShadesofGreyCoverArtI know that the others have all talked about inspirational women who have done great things but I could not concentrate on that. Last night I watched as much of 50 Shades of Grey as I could before my head exploded with rage.
Why on earth would you do that??? I hear you cry. Well, I wanted to see how they would handle/disguise the abusive elements of the relationship between Ana and Christian.
I was badly disappointed. They took almost every incident of abusive behaviour and lauded it as a sign of romance.
Therefore, I’m afraid that rather than celebrate the many many women who fight for the rights of women everywhere, I am compelled to add my voice to the hundreds and thousands that warn people off EL James.

EL James has not created a romantic fairy tale of true love conquering all. She has not created an epic love story depicting a loving relationship and a journey towards happiness. She has not even created a well-written story- her writing is shockingly awful.
She has created a story of oppression, a story of abuse, a story that not only blurs the lines of consent but also erases them entirely.. He frequently assumes that her silence is consent despite her verbal comments suggesting otherwise, particularly when it comes to the sexual elements of the story. At one point in the story, Christian sells Ana’s car without her knowledge or consent

Christian Grey is not a flawed romantic hero. He is an abusive controlling menace.

Ana Steele is not a strong confident woman who is seeking her fairy tale. She is oppressed, mislead and abused.

THIS IS NOT THE STORY WE* SHOULD BE CELEBRATING. THE STORIES ABOVE ARE THOSE WORTHY OF OUR TIME AND ATTENTION.

*The world at large/Hollywood etc. Obviously we BookEaters in no way celebrate E L James.

 

 

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.

Re-read, Re-think, Re-review…

Opinions change. I think that’s a given for most people, and I’ve certainly shown that with some of my TBT reviews- books I adored blindly as a younger reader, I now consider flawed although usually still enjoyable. (Restoree by Anne McCaffrey for example)

I frequently re-read books. Very frequently- It’s actually quite rare (and a sign of my feelings bout the quality of a book) if I don’t reread it and I find that my rereads change my view on the book.
This is understandalbe. I’m a bit of a speed reader so each re-reading I tend to pick up on something I missed, or reflect on the book in a different way. Quite often the mood I’m in may affect my reading of a book.
Sometimes I’ve read something else which impacts on my view of the book.

tht

It’s a bit of a mix of things that affected my opinion on The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch– I’ve read more of the comic series that adds a little detail to the world; I re-read the entire series including the comics in one go; I wasn’t in the full flush of pre-release excitement; and I wasn’t reading it as quickly to make a deadline for posting.

So how has my review changed? The link above will take you to my original review and is almost relentlessly positive. On reflection, it isn’t a very balanced review and is very much written with regard to excitement over a new installment and relief that it hadn’t been terrible.

That being said, I would still be fairly positive about the book.
The world that Aaronovitch has created does get more nuanced and richer and I enjoyed the plot points and story lines that came to fruition. I actually felt this point even more strongly having just completed a re-read of the entire series; the story lines were fresh in my head, the little signposts and flags throughout the series all pulled together and I really got a sense of the level of forward-thinking/planning that Aaronovitch had done. The comic series added little details that although weren’t essential, did add to the world and to the over-arching plots in a real way.

And there were moments where I laughed my socks off. I called Aaronovitch’s sense of humor ‘nonchalant’ in the review, and the re-read only makes my opinion on that stronger. The PC Grant series is funny. Aaronovitch can write comedy. He’s relaxed somewhat into the humour over the course of 6 books and 3 comic series, and his readers have relaxed too. In the whole of the re-read I actually found myself laughing more frequently- Aaronovitch references previous books quite a bit and it’s more obvious when you’ve done a recent re-read!

My main criticism in the first review was that the increase in the cast of characters meant many of our favourite characters were left out in the cold somewhat and that still holds true- we don’t spend time in The Folly or with Beverley. However. this didn’t bother me nearly so much. Partly this was because I’d had my fix of all the characters I had missed by doing a re-read but mainly it was the comic series- The three series so far (one only has one issue before it is complete) have expanded the role of the secondary characters quite a bit- they feature short stories with a focus on a different character each issue. Molly gets her chance to shine as does Toby, and Varvara and Nightingale etc. They also get expanded roles within the main narrative and I really recommend getting the series and reading them. They may be quick stories but they add so much to the world.

One of my new main concerns after re-reading was actually something I considered a positive…
“The plot cracks on at a very speedy pace and, as usual, twists and turns and doubles back until you end up at a place that you could never have predicted from the opening chapter but are very glad you’re there.”

The plot does crack on and there are lots of twists and turns but a re-read of this shows no longer makes me pleased about this and rather than being glad about the place we end up, I am just a bit confused and all too aware of the plot holes and dubious about what I’ve missed in Aaronovitch’s story telling. The main point of the ending seems to be to push on the over-arching plot which has been tied in with main investigative strand of the story. There are a lot of inconsistencies with how certain people get to places, why certain criminals would have access to certain places, and how the hell so many people can get to the same place at the same time!

I still agree that there was no need for sequel trepidation for The Hanging Tree however, I think each re-read of it will increase my trepidation for the next sequel- Has Aaronovitch overblown his story? Can he successfully navigate resolving the fairly convoluted plot points remaining? Can he do it in a way that we all believe?

This re-review would drop a bite for The Hanging Tree to 3 bites.

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption. I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

Hear Hear for AudioBooks!

Headphones on the old book..

I’m a huge fan of audiobooks! Personally I have no idea how anyone gets through cleaning their kitchen without listening to a good book while they do it! Honestly a visit to my house will always show how good the book I’m listening to at the moment is – a super clean house means a book I just can’t turn off!

But what I didn’t know is that the humble audiobook has a history nearly 150 years long, dating back to Edison’s recitation of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” for his tinfoil phonograph in 1877.

My thanks are really owed to the blinded World War I veterans for whom the first novel-length talking books made. The history and social impact of audiobooks is told in “The Untold Story of the Talking Book” by Matthew Rubery.  In it he argues that storytelling “can be just as engaging with the ears as  with the eyes, and that audiobooks deserve to be taken seriously. They are not mere derivatives of printed books but their own form of entertainment.”

I couldn’t agree more. Except that sometimes I disagree!

For an audiobook to be good, obviously the book has to be good, but also the reader has to be good. And not just good, but the right reader for the right book.

51nLN7yvmnL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_For example, “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern is an excellent book, BookEater Kelly adored it and everyone on Twitter loves it too. I loved the blurb and got it on audiobook three or four years ago. But although I started listening to it twice I just couldn’t get into it, then Kelly’s review pushed me to try it again and this time I got far enough in to fall in love with it. The problem was the reader, an accomplished narrator but his voice was too old for a book whose main characters were much younger.

On the other hand, listening to Maggie Gyllenhaal voice Unknown“The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath is a sublime experience. And Benedict Cumberbatch reading William Golding’s “The Spire” is a pure joy!

Not that the readers need to be famous to be good. I get the majority of my audiobooks from Audible and they allow you to search by narrator so when you get a good one you can find other books they’ve narrated. But if Audible isn’t for you there are plenty of other places to get audiobooks, in fact you can even borrow them from your local library!

So give your ears a treat and get listening! And if you’re already a fan drop us a comment with some of your favourite listens and narrators!

 

 

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Books to Turn You Japanese

Turning Japanese I think I’m turning Japanese I really think so!

I loved that song as a kid, and though I’ve never really been to Japan I’ve read a fair few books either set in the land of the rising sun, or with Japanese characters. It is after all a country full of stories, whose written language is created of tiny images.

So to celebrate this amazing country here’s a selection of books for you. Some are written by Japanese people, some not but hopefully you’ll find something in here that will inspire you turn Japanese too!

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami

imageMurakami’s classic novel combining the suburban life of a Japanese couple with a mysterious and magical cast of characters is nothing less than mind-twisting.

I loved the descriptions of everyday Japanese life and particularly of the buildings. So often Japan is romanticised as some kind of Tatami heaven but of course it’s not like that these days. This felt real.

There are many subplots through this and one of my favourites involves the story of one man’s war, not enough is heard of Japanese soldiers and this vignette was fascinating.

Read our full review here.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

imageNao (pronounced now) is a teenager living in Tokyo before the new millennium. Somehow her diary ends up in a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on a Canadian beach. It is found by Ruth, a Japanese expat and novelist suffering from writer’s block and trying to avoid her feelings of guilt for not being a good enough daughter. Ruth becomes obsessed with the diary, trying to research to see if she can find Nao whilst simultaneously reading it slowly and not wanting to know what has become of Nao until she reaches the end.

Like Murakami’s work it shows us life in Japan in the last quarter of the 20th Century, but it also gives glimpses of their war history and explores themes much bigger than country and culture.

Read our full review here.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

the-watchmaker-of-filigree-streetTo be fair this book isn’t really even partially set in Japan. But one of the main characters is Japanese and through him (and a few others) we do get to see what London living was like for expat Japanese in the early 1900’s. Clearly it was a time when the west’s fascination for the land of the rising sun was rising, because one sub-plot here involves the preparation for the premier of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado!

Read our full review here.

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

imageWhen the atomic bombs hit Japan families were torn apart. Amaterasu Takahashi’s family were torn apart. Her daughter Yuko and gorgeous little grandson Hideo were gone in that appalling flash.

But in truth there was a tear in her family already and when a stranger arrives Amaterasu has to face up to it and decide if she can reconcile herself to the past for a chance at a new future.

Read our full review here.

Star Sand by Roger Pulvers.

image

As World War 2 draws to its end sixteen year old Hiromi sees a man on the beach at night about to shoot himself. He is rescued by another man and dragged into a cave. When she follows to help she finds they are both army deserters—one American, one Japanese.

Though they should be enemies they bond instantly and Hiromi, alone in the world herself, resolves to care for them. But when another joins them the dynamics are upset. Fatally.

Read our full review here.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

imageDavid Mitchell’s epic historical novel is set in 18th Century Dejima. A tiny, man-made island in the bay of Nagasaki, that has been the sole gateway between Japan and the West for two hundred years. The streets of Dejima are thick with scheming traders, spies, interpreters, servants and concubines East and West converge. Superstitions and science fight for supremacy but nothing can conquer Mitchell’s historical accuracy.

Read our full review here.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

415meoi1r1L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_When her mother falls ill, Chiyo and her sister are sold. Her older sister is sold as a prostitute but Chiyo ends up a servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house.

Many years later she tells her story of her the highs and lows, the beauty and the ugliness of life behind the rice-paper screens, from the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Hers is the story of Geisha in the 20th Century, the last generation of true Geisha, girls that knew how to wind the kimono, how to walk and pour tea, and how to beguile the land’s most powerful men.

Read our full review here.

The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby

IMG_2396Lady Murasaki is considered the author of the first novel ever written She was born around 973ad and wrote The Tale of Genji initially to entertain herself and a few friends but then it came to the notice of the young Empress Shoshi and she was called to court.

This story is based on her diaries, it is a fascinating story of life in medieval Japan. Liza Dalby has retained much of the poetry that underpins the writing but yet turned it into a lyrical voice that recounts the story naturally. I’m tempted to read The Tales of Gengi but in truth I think the story of its author will remain more fascinating!

 

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Hit Book and The Sequel!

Rebel Of The SandsRebel of The Sands

This was a huge book last year. It’s cover taunted me from every book shop and it was all over our instagram feed too. It was a gorgeous cover too as you can see, chanelling Shaherazade’s magical stories and the mystic pull of the simmering desert nights.

The blurb was enticing too – but somehow never quite enough to pull me into buying the book there and then. It promised a “phenomenal novel packed with shooting contests, train robberies, festivals under the stars, powerful Djinni magic and an electrifying love story.

What more could I want? I’m not sure – if anything I maybe wanted a bit less! It sounded almost like a western crossed with a thousand and one nights and I wasn’t sure it would work.

But the next book is hitting the shelves tomorrow (with an equally lovely cover) and I got the chance to read them both via NetGalley – time to see what all the fuss is about!

So first off these are targetted at the teen / YA market. The first book starts with our hero Amani, desperate to escape the small town she’s been brought up in before her uncle can force her to become his next wife. Luckily she’s an amazing shot with a pistol so she dresses as a boy an attempts to hustle the prize money of a local shooting competition. But she has stiff competition in the form of a stranger to the town until they decide to join forces. What happens next leads to them racing out across the desert sands together – to start with at least. Amani wants to join her Aunt in the Sultan’s city but her new friend has other, even more dangerous plans.

I found I was turning the pages of this book really quickly and I was halfway through before I’d even realised that I’d started it properly! I’ll admit that I still wasn’t completely sold on the mix of Wild West and middle-eastern fantasy but there was so much action and drama that I got caught up anyway.

Slowly the characters started developing and by the end I was hooked. Then book two landed on my kindle…

IMG_2388Traitor to the Throne

It’s difficult to talk about this without giving too much away so suffice it to say that the adventures have led Amani to an exciting but perilous situation. Then she is kidnapped and sold to the Sultan and things get a whole lot more dangerous.

The second book is longer and to begin with I found it a little irksome. As with most sequels it spent a fair bit of time referring back to things in the previous book, useful if it’s been months since you read the first, but not for those of us that finished the first book only the previous day!

But after a hundred pages or so the story really got going. And the second book has a lot more moral meat in it than the first. Often second books can drift a bit or feel like they are full of filler material but not this one. This one is considerably more interesting than I’d expected.

4 Bites for each book … here’s hoping the last book lives up to them when it comes out!

 

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Mental Health & Creativity, The Hidden & The Celebrated

depression

A couple of things come together recently that have inspired my writing of this small piece. The first is that in the last few weeks the UK Government has been discussing it’s plans for dealing with the important issue mental health.

The second is that I’ve been sorting through my book collection, preparing to sell a few to make some space. I decided to research one of the authors and discovered that he died early in his career – he suffered from depression and took his own life.

Mental health is a complex subject, there are many types of disorders, differing causes and plenty of literature and research on how best to deal with it. What fascinates me is the way that mental health is perceived by society as a thing to be hidden, yet we celebrate the creativity of those who struggle with their internal problems.

There have been many research projects looking in to the possible connection between mental health and creativity. From the entry Creativity and mental illness on Wikipedia

Particularly strong links have been identified between creativity and mood disorders, particularly manic-depressive disorder (a.k.a. bipolar disorder) and depressive disorder (a.k.a. unipolar disorder). In Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, Kay Redfield Jamison summarizes studies of mood-disorder rates in writers, poets and artists. She also explores research that identifies mood disorders in such famous writers and artists as Ernest Hemingway (who shot himself after electroconvulsive treatment), Virginia Woolf (who drowned herself when she felt a depressive episode coming on), composer Robert Schumann (who died in a mental institution), and even the famed visual artist Michelangelo.

Debates over mental health issues and the connection to creative ability are not over, there’s a long way to go as yet. However, it can be seen that there is, in many cases, a correlation. Even if creative ability is not directly tied to mental health, it can interfere with the ability already present.

Of all the differing mental health conditions, we are perhaps more aware of depression, both unipolar and bipolar. Some of the greatest works of art has been created by sufferers of depression. But still, it’s a hidden condition that’s shunned by society, to such an extent that we are not even aware that the works we admire so much have been created by people who suffered so much. Maybe it’s time that we admired the person along with their troubles, their strengths and what they have achieved.

Virginia Woolf

“Woolf had her first bout with depression at the age of 15, battling it throughout her life — even being hospitalized in 1904 to treat the illness. Her creativity was frequently compromised by intermittent mood swings punctuated by sleeplessness, migraines and auditory and visual hallucinations” (source)

Ernest Hemingway

Depression, borderline and narcissistic personality traits, bipolar disorder and, later, psychosis coalesced to create Hemingway’s personal hell. Rather than turning to physicians or therapists for help, Hemingway used alcohol, engaged in risk-taking sportsmanship activities and wrote to cope. The author’s mental and physical health deteriorated so rapidly during the last years of his life — primarily due to alcoholism — that he finally accepted electroshock treatments in 1960. (source)

Walter M. Miller

I mention this author because the only book of his published in his lifetime, A Canticle for Leibowitz, has been very influential on Science Fiction and also a story I thoroughly enjoyed.

Miller was born in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Educated at the University of Tennessee and the University of Texas, he worked as an engineer. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps as a radioman and tail gunner, flying more than fifty bombing missions over Italy. He took part in the bombing of the Benedictine Abbey at Monte Cassino, which proved a traumatic experience for him. Joe Haldeman reported that Miller “had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for 30 years before it had a name”…

In Miller’s later years, he became a recluse, avoiding contact with nearly everyone, including family members; he never allowed his literary agent, Don Congdon, to meet him. According to science fiction writer Terry Bisson, Miller struggled with depression, but had managed to nearly complete a 600-page manuscript for the sequel to Canticle before taking his own life with a firearm in January 1996, shortly after his wife’s death. (source)

Tennessee Williams

Playwright Williams, who wrote classics like The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire, suffered depression all his life, battled drug and alcohol addiction, and was briefly institutionalized in 1969. He was also deeply affected by his beloved sister Rose’s struggles with schizophrenia. (source)

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling’s life may sound like a rags-to-riches fairytale — unemployed mother writes bestseller, becomes billionaire — but she’s been frank about the severe depression underlying her experience, even talking about it on Oprah. She also created the famously horrifying Dementors to capture how depression really feels to a sufferer. (source)

There are many more authors who have battled their way through their own personal problems. Depression has either hindered or sparked their artistic abilities. While we celebrate their work, let’s remember that there are people around us now who are in need of our support and understanding.

If you need help or want to know more about mental health issues in the UK then check out these UK charities, SANE and Mind.

Bob Toovey
I started reading Sci Fi at around age 8, I've never looked back since. I was highly influenced by my father's reading choices at the beginning. I soon branched out to many different authors and Sci Fi genre's. Early influences include Asimov, Clark, Simak, PKD and other 'golden age' authors. On occasion, I like a good spy book and currently finding early religious history a fascinating subject – despite being an atheist.

New Year, New Books!

With Christmas over for another year, many of us have book tokens burning a hole in our pockets. They must, of course, be spent wisely, so it’s time to have a nose at the publishing year ahead and pick out some of the books we are most excited about.


img_1564Norse Mythology
by Neil Gaiman

Fans of Neil Gaiman will know the importance of mythology within his work: from Sandman to American Gods, Anansi Boys to The Sleeper and The Spindle. In his own words: “what is important is to tell the stories anew, and to retell the old stories. They are our stories, and they should be told.” In this new book, Gaiman will focus on the gods of Asgard, from their beginnings through to Ragnarök and retell the stories in what I’m sure will be his own distinctive way. Published on February 7th.
( Also look out for the TV adaptation of American Gods which premieres this year- on Starz in the US and Amazon Prime in the U.K.)


img_1571Into The Water
by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train shot Paula Hawkins to international stardom and sold millions of copies worldwide. It’s no surprise then that her next novel is highly anticipated. Into the Water focuses on the separate deaths of a teenage girl and a single mother whose bodies are found at the bottom of the river that runs through their town. Penguin Random House inform us that this will be “an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptive mess of emotion and memory.” It’s published on May 2nd.

img_1569Macbeth by Jo Nesbo and New Boy by Tracey Chevalier

We BookEaters have been gobbling up the offerings from Hogarth Shakespeare with frenzied speed, so we are very excited that we have two new books to look forward to in 2017. Nordic crime writer and general polymath, Jo Nesbo recreates Macbeth which is to be published on April 2nd. Tracey Chevalier, author of the bestselling novel Girl With a Pearl Earring, retells Othello in 1970’s Washington DC which will be published on 6th June.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen img_1567

Already described as a must read for anyone in political office, this book surely should be essential reading for everyone. A collection of stories spanning twenty years explores immigration, family and love. Viet Thanh Nguyen has won multiple awards for his writing, including the Pulitzer in 2016. This, his latest book, is published on 7th February.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Reasons to Stay Alive was one of the most important books I read last year, and I have been telling anyone who will listen to me about it ever since. How to Stop Time is his latest adult novel and is out in July this year.

In The Name of The Family by Sarah Dunant img_1566

Three years ago I read, and loved, Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant, a book about the Borgias that made it into my top 5 books set in Italy. I’ve been waiting patiently for the sequel ever since. And here it is. In The Name of The Family is set in 1502 and introduces Niccolo Machiavelli to the lives of the ruthless, dynastic Borgia family. For me, Sarah Dunant is the best novelist on the Italian Renaissance. It’s published on 2nd March.

img_1568House of Names by Colm Tóibín

The story of Troy and the ancient war between the Greeks and the Trojans has been retold down the millennia, influencing a multitude of authors. Colm Tóibín, bestselling author of Brooklyn (amongst others), is the latest to reimagine the tale, this time from the point of view of Clytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae. This book tells the story of a woman betrayed, and driven by vengeance to commit murder. Due for publication on 9th May, it’s set to be an extraordinary read.

So have we whetted your appetite? What books are you looking forward to this year?

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting "Naughty Amelia Jane" by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.