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.

Mr Rosenblum’s List by Natasha Solomons

Click for Waterstone's
Click for Waterstone’s

Tam’s second-hand bestsellers book finds…book #3

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!

Mr Rosenblum’s List

(Or friendly guidance for the aspiring Englishman)

by Natasha Solomons

 

Wow what a find – emblazoned with the banner “International Bestseller” and inside I find that this debut novel was translated into 9 languages. This was picked up for 99p so at the top end of my price range.

Solomons was inspired by her a pamphlet that was handed to her grandparents on their arrival in England as penniless immigrants. Jewish refugees fleeing from the fascist regime in Berlin were encouraged to make every effort to become British and to erase every trace of their Germanic antecedents. The pamphlet entitled “Useful Advice and Friendly Guidance for All Refugees” exhorted the refugees to refrain from “making themselves conspicuous by speaking loudly, nor by manner or dress.” It also offered such sage observations as “The Englishman greatly dislikes ostentation…he attaches great importance to modesty…(and my personal favourite) he values good manners far more than he values the evidence of wealth”

On arriving at Harwich dock in 1937 with other German Jewish refugees Jakob Rosenblum and his wife Sadie are handed a copy each of this leaflet and exhorted to study it with great care. In that instant Jakob believes that this flimsy piece of paper is indeed the key, the ultimate recipe for happiness, the rule book by which one could become an English gentleman.

Years pass and Jakob, now Jack, has lived faithfully by the guidance contained in that pamphlet, along the way he has added addendums and points of guidance based on his own acute observation. Furthermore he owns a thriving business, drives a Jaguar, even wears a Saville Row suit and his daughter has started her studies at Cambridge University, and yet, the ultimate badge of his Englishness is denied him. No matter how successful Jack Rosenblum maybe no English golf course will accept his application because he is Jewish. In a moment of inspiration Jack sees that his only way forward is to build his own course and so he sells their London home and buys a ramshackled cottage on a glorious Dorset hillside. The residents of the small village of Pursebury mock gently at this crazy man’s efforts and even unleash the mythical Dorset woolly-pig to try and drive him away, but slowly his utter determination and refusal to be beaten win him some grudging admirers and ultimately some true friends. From here on the book is a celebration of eccentricity and whimsy, the power of dreams and the beauty of the English countryside.

Given the current world climate the book is a stark reminder of the plight of refugees and the trials they face in trying to settle in a land and culture that is foreign to them. The book also shows that harmony is not achieved through living by a set of rules and that belonging is not about being the same as your neighbour. It’s charming, funny, whimsical and painful by turns and an absolute bargain at 99p.

5 bites, the description of Sadie’s Baumtorte process merits that!

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.

The Five Bite Books of 2016!

So we all know 2016 has been a bit of a bad year for a lot of people, we’ve lost far too many talented artists from all fields and the political landscape is more like a battlefield than a diplomats dinner party.

But there have been some bright points to the year too, and for all of us BookEaters out in the world there have been some delicious treats on offer.

So here’s a round-up of the books published in 2016 that brightened our year and got the highest accolade available – 5 Bites! There’s over 20 books in here so something for everyone but of course we’d love you to tell us about any that brightened yours!

The Core Of The Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

imageThe Handmaids Tale meets 1984 meets A Brave New World! BookEater Gem was in feminist dystopian heaven with this Finnish author.

Read our full review here.

The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle

imageAn old conman is out to do one last gig – he’s picked his mark, the elegant Betty does not know what’s about to hit her! But while we se the shades of his old life will we see his redemption?

Read our full review here.

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan

imageTwins Helen and Ellie swap identities one day when they are just seven, then Ellie refuses to swap back, she likes being the popular one. Years later she’s in a coma and her sister comes to visit…

Read our full review here.

River of Ink by Paul M M Cooper

imageA poet in medieval Sri Lanka accidentally inspires a revolution against an invading dictator. Epic notes of love and betrayal are grounded by human flaws and failings.

Read our full review here.

Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of A Fist by Sunil Yapa

imageThe stories of six different people caught up in a peaceful protest that turns violent. Homeless Victor ends up with the protestors while his estranged step-father is co-ordinating the police response.

Read our full review here.

The Trees by Ali Shaw

imageThe apocalypse arrives in the shape of trees smashing up through the earth like a tsunami. Adrian Thomas wife Michelle is away when it happens. He has to find her and a group of misfits help him.

Read our full review here.

Schtum by Jem Lester

imageBen Jewell is failing to cope with thebreak down of his marriage and parenting his severely autistic son. The ugliness of life is expose and made beautiful in this story.

Read our full review here.

Bad Analysis by Colin Knight

41aL2YZ5p8L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_This modern day thriller sees an aristocrat organisng an act of terror to be blamed on Britains Muslim community. Fast paced, well written and gripping from start to finish!

Read our full review here.

The Lubetkin Legacy by Marina Lewycka

imageThe author of A Short History of Tractors In Ukrainian came back with another corker this year – a love letter to London and to communities of all shapes and sizes.

Read our full review here.

The Vinyl Detective – Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel

Vinyl DetectiveA laugh out loud mystery, if you like Ben Aaronovitch and Nick Hornby you will LOVE this! BookEater Rachel devoured it in a single 3 hour sitting!

Read our full review here.

My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal

cover78296-mediumA young black boy is taken into foster care just before the Toxteth Riots, his white brother is adopted. We learn about family love and racism in England. Heartbreaking and life-affirming in equal doses.

Read our full review here.

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

5199g2QmCJL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_In 1889 Vincent Van Gogh entered the hospital of Saint-Paul-de Mausole after cuttin goff his ear. There he met and painted Jeanne Trabuc. This is an intimate imagining of her life.  Soft and poignant.

Read our full review here.

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

imageAnother Young Adult book that crosses over. In this world, when people sin or think about sinning a visible smoke rises from their skin. The Elite control their smoke but are they corrupt anyway?

Read our full review here.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

img_2276A main character that can’t be remembered is exceptionally hard to forget! An exciting thriller and a meditation on memory all wrapped into one.

Read our full review here.

The Muse by Jessie Burton

imageA young girl fresh off the boat from Jamaica discovers a lost treasure of the art world. But there is so much more to the painting’s story than at first it seems. Passion, art, race and revolution combine.

Read our full review here.

One of Us – The Story of a Massacre and It’s Aftermath by Asne Seierstad.

imagePainstakingly researched and unflinching. No book has ever made BookEater Gem sob so much yet she still believes everyone should read it.

Read our full review here.

Nina Is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi

image17 year old Nina’s partying is out of control, but then she has just been dumped and everyone parties don’t they? This 1st person narrative will have you in tears of laughter and sympathy.

Read our full review here.

Knights of The Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden

Knights of the Borrowed DarkA Young Adult book full of magic but well written enough for any adult. A different world and fights from Harry Potter. BookEater Tam could not put it down!

Read our full review here.

Himself by Jess Kidd

Debut Novel

A handsome dark-haired lad returns home to Ireland to try and uncover who his parents were and lay some ghosts to rests – actual ghosts that he can see!

Read our full review here.

The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox

Leda GreyBookEater Gem was captivated by story of reclusive star of the silent era. this book is drenched with summer heat and technicolours – a visual and emotional delight!

Read our full review here.

Midwinter by Fiona Melrose

MidwinterAn argument between a father and son who don’t know how to talk to each other leads to a bleak winter. Will the sun ever return? This book is a quiet read with a big emotional punch.

Read our full review here.

The View From The Cheap Seats:Selected Non-Fiction by Neil Gaiman

9781472207999This collection of essays from one of the BookEaters best loved authors is made to be dipped in and out of – great for brightening up bleak days!

Read our full review 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.

Unbound: Publishing for the Crowdfunding Generation

imagesEarlier this year, I reviewed A Country of Refuge edited by Lucy Popescu. This book caught my attention for two reasons. First of all, the aim of the book was to add a positive voice to the refugee crises, bringing together authors and poets to write about immigration through the centuries and Britain’s role in supportive those in need. But the second thing that intrigued me was that the book was published through crowdfunding, via website called Unbound.

Unbound is a crowdfunding site for literature. Founded by authors Dan Kieran, Justin Pollard and John MItchinson in 2010, the idea is simple. If you are a writer, you can pitch your idea to Unbound’s editorial team. Whether your book is just started, or finished and ready for editing, upload as much of your manuscript as you have and what makes your story special. If the editorial team think your pitch has potential it goes up on the site where readers get the opportunity to pledge money towards your idea. If it reaches the target, Unbound help edit and produce the book before selling them in bookstores through Penguin Random House. Work can be fiction or non fiction. unbound_temp

As a reader, Unbound allows you to support projects which strike a chord with you, making the reader an important part of the journey. It all sounds quite exciting.

The company owe a lot to author, historian and python Terry Jones who provided the company with their first book back in 2010. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength. The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth, funded through Unbound, was listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2014. They have also been shortlisted for Independent Publisher of the Year Award in 2013 and 2014

There appear to be advantages and disadvantages of the system for writers. You don’t need an agent, but your book can’t have been self-published previously. Unbound assist with the editing and the publishing, meaning a first time author gets practical help navigating through this potential minefield. And any profit is split 50/50 with the author, which is a higher return than many traditional forms of publishing. In addition to this, readers get to actively engage with your book.

Conversely, some critics have pointed out a low output in terms of publication: 97 books published by Unbound since its launch compared with 184,000 new and revised titles published by the UK as a whole in 2013. Add to this a high crowdfunded target (Dead Babies and Seaside Towns by Alice Jolly required £10,000 in order to be published) and it’s clear you need to have a lot of support as an author to get your work completely funded. 51dterj0y6l

But what is the process like for a reader? I decided to pledge my support towards one of the 295 books currently on the website. The main page shows thumbnails of each book which includes the name of the book, authors, logline and how far towards their target they are. By clicking on a link you are taken to the books main page which includes a synopsis, extract, author information and opportunity to ask the author a question before you pledge.

In addition to this, each book promises different rewards for certain pledge amounts with all supporters getting their name printed in every edition of the book. For example, by pledging £25 to A Long and Messy Business by Rowley Leigh, I would receive access to the authors ‘shed’ or their private blog which keeps supporters up to date with the author’s creative process. (which, by the way, is an offer open to anyone who supports this book) a 1st edition hardback book and e-book edition. A pledge of £500 would get me a 3 day kitchen-101 with Rowley as well as the perks open to those who pledge £25 (although the student masterclass is only available to the first 16 people who pledge £500.) Each book, each author will offer different rewards in the hope of attracting a higher pledge.

I pledged to support The Glorious Dead by Tim Atkinson, a novel about a group of soldiers who remained in France after the end of the first world war, burying the bodies of the dead abandoned by the roadside. For my pledge I will be rewarded with a special hardback edition of the book when it is published, a poppy badge and the knowledge that 10% of the proceeds of my pledge will be donated to forces charities. Not only that, but I have supported an author in helping get his work into the world, and that feels pretty good.

The process might not be successful for every author, but as a reader it does give you a more intimate connection with the book. If your chosen book doesn’t meet it’s funding target then your money is returned to your account as credit so you can try again. I am, however, positive that I will see my copy of The Glorious Dead soon!

 

References:

www.unbound.co.uk

Charles, David. (2016) Experiments in Publishing: Unbound Crowdfunding. Available at: www.davidcharles.info

Flood, Alison. (2014) UK publishes more books per capita than any there country, report shows. Available at: www.theguardian.com

Jolly, Alice. (2015) Crowded House: Why I Crowd Funded My Book. Available at: www.alcs.co.uk

Rooney, Mick. (2014) Unbound- Reviewed. Available at: www.theindependentpublishingmagazine.com

 

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.

There’s More Than One Winter’s Tale!

It’s that time of year when the Daily Express and other ‘newspapers’ are full of dire warnings about blizzards, polar vortexes and all kinds of other extremely wintery weather! And it’s also the time of year when we all secretley wish we could be snowed in and have to while away the time with a good book!

But more often than not all we get is a grey sky and a bit of drizzle but don’t lose hope – even if there’s not a crisp wall of snow outside you can always find one inside – inside the pages of a book that is! Here are some wintery recommendations for you (and one warning!)

Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin

cover92338-mediumCoincidently Fay Morgan and Nelson Nilsson have each arrived in Inuvik, Canada – 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle – searching for answers about a family member. Nelson is looking for his estranged older brother, Fay for her disappeared grandfather.  Another coincidence – these two men have an unexpected connection to one of the greatest enduring mysteries of polar exploration.

Through the frozen Arctic waste and the snowblinding passage of time this unlikely couple end up working together to try and figure out what could have happened to both men and in the process create a haunting story about obsessions, procrastination, the threat of war and the fear and pull of insignificance.

4 Bites

Thin Air by Michelle Paver

image1935, young medic Stephen Pearce travels to India to climb Kangchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain with his brother, Kits. No one has scaled it before, and this team of five are following in the footsteps of one of the most famous mountain disasters of all time – the 1907 Lyell Expedition. Only two of Lyell’s expedition made it off the mountain then, but only four of the five left behind were buried.

Charles Tennant, the last survivor of the 1907 expedition, warns Pearce not to climb, hinting of dark things ahead. But Pearce and the rest are determined. But when they find macabre mementoes of the earlier climb on the trail and the ocygen levels drop as they get higher, he starts to see things. Is it just oxygen sickness or is it something much more sinister?

I’m never likely to try and climb Kangchenjunga and quite frankly if I had been planning to this would have successfully scared me off! Not only are the cold realities of climbing made painfully clear but in the wildness wild things live – and sometimes those wild things are the result of human depravity – this book will give you chills in more ways than one. Though is has some stunningly beatuiful sentances in so you’ll get your fair share of breath-taking views from it too!

4 Bites

The Midwife by Katja Kettu

Runemarks by Joanne M Harris

runemarksFive hundred years after the end of the world and humans no longer worship the old Norse gods, their tales are banned, magic is outlawed, and a new religion rules.

But fourteen-year-old Maddy Smith was born with a runemark on her hand and though she is shunned by her fellow villagers because of it One-Eye teaches her the powers it gives her.

She is thrown amongst living gods still battling one another and in this snow-locked land and learns some surprising truths about herself.

I listened to The Gospel of Loki not long ago after reaing BookEater Kelly’s great review of it but I have to say I think this might be even better! Maddy is a great protagonist and from page one I could imagine watching this during Christmas holidays with snow outside and a fire burning in the grate. Joanne M Harris’ writing is richly visual … treat yourself!

5 Bites

When The Professor Got Stuck In The Snow by Dan Rhodes

professor-in-the-snowThis book from a couple of years ago thinks it is really funny. I didn’t.  The premise of it is Professor Richard Dawkins trying to get to the village of  Upper Bottom to give a talk to their WI but getting stuck in  the nearby town of Market Horten because of a blizzard. He has no choice but to take lodgings with the local Anglican vicar.

For me the problem with the book is how utterly comptemptous the author seems to be of all his characters. Admittedly I didn’t get far into it, I just couldn’t take being in the company of a sneering bully for longer than about half an hour – and by that I am referring to the author though he had painted Richard Dawkins as being exactly that. The fact that he had made it abundantly clear that this was the real Richard Dawkins just in a fictional story didn’t help. I’ve no doubt the man is as far from perfect as I am but this wasn’t gentle ribbing – it was character assasination.

0 Bites

NB I received a free copies of all these books through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

Previous reviews of Wintery books!

Winter’s Tale by Mark Halpern.

IMG_1352A couple of years ago I wrote a feature on this much loved favourite of mine (and of BookEater Tam’s) where I picked out just a few of the gorgeous sentances describing winter in New York around the turn of the 20th Century.  The story is magical and it’s a huge book so should keep you going through the long Christmas break this year – click here to see the feature and see if this could become your new winter tradition too!

Midwinter by Fiona Melrose

MidwinterA beautiful book of a father and son coming to terms with a past tragedy during a Suffolk winter.

Read more here!

The Gap of Time; The Winter’s Tale Retold by Jeanette Winterson

imageJeanette Winterson’s re-working of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale stays true to the structure of the original but it’s emotional resonance is completely different.

Read more 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.

It’s All About Me (And My Ghost Writer)!

Christmas is coming! How can we tell? Gingerbread lattes in Costa and Starbucks, reindeer shaped chocolate bars in the shops, mournful cover versions of classic songs accompanying emotionally manipulative adverts, and, of course, an absolute plethora of celebrity (and not so celebrity) autobiographies!

indexHonestly, I think there are hundreds of them around! Sportsmen and women, pop-stars, politicians, comedians- it seems like every one wants to tell the story of their life! Some people have even written more than one!

Autobiographies have always seemed a little self-indulgent to me. I’ve always felt that perhaps it is a little presumptuous of people to think that their life story is of importance to the strangers that they hope will buy their book.
But they are consistently on the best seller list particularly at this time of year. Strangers do want to read about the childhood of their favourite football player or the impact a bad marriage had on a well-known comedian and so on and so forth.

So what makes a successful autobiography? Why are these tales of how people ended up much richer and much more famous than I would ever want to be so popular?

Looking at the best seller lists, autobiographies tend to be one of the following:

  1.  Popular musicians, TV personalities and actors who have all overcome a difficult childhood (either poverty, a learning difficulty, a body image issue or a difficult family) to be the successful award-winning whatever that they are today.
  2.  Ordinary people who have suffered dreadfully at the hands of an abusive parent/sibling/romantic partner but who have overcome their troubles to become functioning and happy members of society.
  3. Sports stars/ astronauts/business people who realised reasonably early on that they had some talent in their chosen field and then spent years working their derrieres off, sacrificing social lives, family lives and the chance for love in order to reach the elite level.
  4. Ex-politicians trying to explain why actually they did a simply marvellous job and/or would have done a marvellous job if it hadn’t have been for that darned democracy

So really I can only draw the conclusion that autobiographies are so popular either because people love reading about how dreadful other people’s lives are or because they love the idea that nothing is impossible. That if these people who appear so successful have overcome the odds, then maybe they can too. That it is possible to beat the disadvantages that seem so insurmountable and to live out the dreams and aspirations that seem so far away.
I think you know which one I hope it is…

 

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.

Christmas is just around the corner!

Sorry, I know! I know! It’s still November! But with only a month until Christmas, I think a lot of us are turning our attention to inevitable question-  what am I going to get *insert name of difficult-to-buy-for relative/friend/co-worker you really didn’t want to get in the Secret Santa draw*?!

We’ve given you a few ideas in the past for the book readers amongst your circle of gift receivees but thought you might need a few more ideas…

shakespeare_parenting_
Click the link to buy (we’re not affiliated with the site at all)

Who better to give good advice on the difficult but rewarding job of raising tiny humans into somewhat decent people than the Bard himself? He had three kids and a quote for every occasion!
A good one for dipping in and out of.

 

bath-caddy
Click the link to buy (We’re not affiliated with the site at all)

Surely there can be no greater joy than relaxing in a hot bubble bath reading a book and drinking a cocktail/gin/hot chocolate? And this caddy is just the thing for making sure you don’t accidentally dunk your Jane Austen in the bath! She frowns upon those sorts of shenanigans you know! With space for a book and a glass, this is a bit of a luxury but I really want one!

 

glasses
Click to buy (still not affiliated…)

And for the supremely lazy book reader in your life… how about a pair of glasses that means they don’t even have to lift their head from the pillow?! This will revolutionise their lazy Sunday reading time but beware… they may get so comfortable they never leave the bed again!

 

libraryA fear of all book lovers is that they will lend out their prize possessions- the books they love so much they want to share- and then have to keep track of who has what and when and have they brought it back? What if they lose the book forever!!!
Never fear, the personal library kit will solve that dilemma and your favourite go-to person for book recommendations will continue to lend you their kick-ass books!

 

Just a couple of ideas to get you started here, but the possibilities for giving to book lovers is endless! And if in absolute doubt…. National Book Tokens FTW!

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.

Writings on Men by Men for International Men’s Day

As a confirmed feminist I know how to celebrate International Men’s Day – the way I celebrate everything else of course, by reading about it!! After all feminism is all about equality 😉

So in the last couple of weeks I decided to indulge myself with a copy of David Szalay’s “All That Man Is”, recently longlisted for  the 2016 Man Booker Prize. I also devoured Grayson Perry’s “The Descent of Man” and sampled an appetising Bite of Leslie Tate’s “Heaven’s Rage” All books dealing with modern manhood in different ways.

All That Man Is by David Szalay

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Click to buy on amazon

In All That Man Is Szalay introduces us to nine men. He shows each of them away from their home and striving to understand just what living means to 21st century man. But there the similarities end, each of them is at a different stage of life, each from a different place and each from a different class.

He starts with the youngest character and finishes with the oldest, showing men in all their glory. There are moments of hilarity, lust, anger and despair but one thing comes through again and again – muteness.

Szalay is an excellent scene and character builder and I think he deserved his long listing. There are places that the stories get a little frustrating as they are windows onto scenes in the lives of men so sometimes the stories don’t have satisfying conclusions or are not dealing with the most pivotal or shocking interludes but that’s OK. I imagine this would make a great audiobook as the different voices would come across a little better that way but I’d give it four bites.

The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry

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Click to buy from Amazon

I recently watched Grayson Perry’s documentary series about masculinity and found some of his insights fascinating so I jumped at the chance to read and review this and I wasn’t disappointed.

Written in Grayson’s distinctive and deprecatingly humours voice, he examines what is and what is not man’s ‘nature’. Splitting off what boys are socialised to do to be accepted as men and how they actually do differ from women (spoiler alert – we’re less different than you might think!)

Then he asks what would happen if we rethought what makes a man? He argues for a new ‘Manifesto for Men’ but insists that, for everyone to benefit, upgrading masculinity has to be something men decide to do themselves. I hope men read this book and go for the upgrade – as a feminist I want men to have happy fulfilling lives and there are definitely hints in here that point that way. I came away with the impression that talking to each other was vital, but that this should be something that got built in to men’s life in a way they were comfortable with i.e. Whilst doing something else.

5 Bites!

Heaven’s Rage by Leslie Tate

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Click here to pre-order

Leslie Tate’s book is more of a collection of essays on his own life as a man, and what an interesting and provocative life he has led. But having said that Leslie is an ordinary man in many ways and did not try to court the limelight, instead it was thrust upon him.

The section I read dealt with his ‘coming out’ as a transvestite. But he didn’t come out, he was outed savagely by a couple of national newspapers way back in the early eighties when such disclosures could easily have got him beaten or killed.

It then goes on to explore cross-dressing from a personal perspective and gender identity from a wider perspective. The author is clearly knowledgeable and thoughtful but the highlight of the story for me was his turning point. The day he started talking about it, opening up first to his Doctor and then to his wife.  A great final reminder that men should be able to talk and have their words and feelings heard

4 Bites

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 Most Prolific British Science Fiction Author You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

There is a British author whose name should be mentioned along with Asimov, Clark, Harrison and Heinlein. He was writing Science Fiction during the 1950s and 1960 for Badger Books. During that time, it is estimated he wrote around 180 books. The total number is unclear as no one’s really quite sure just how many.

He wrote under pseudonyms like…

Neil Balfort, Othello Baron, Noel Bertram, Oben Leterth, Elton T. Neef, Peter O’Flinn, René Rolant, Robin Tate and Deutero Spartacus. Names he used for novels include Erle Barton, Lee Barton, Thornton Bell, Leo Brett, Bron Fane, L.P. Kenton, Phil Nobel, Lionel Roberts, Neil Thanet, Trebor Thorpe, Pel Torro, and Olaf Trent.

His working life has been very varied, including…

  • working as a journalist on the Norfolk Chronicle and then as a van driver and warehouseman at Hamerton’s Stores in Dereham
  • a schoolmaster at Dereham Secondary Modern School from 1958 to 1961 and again from 1963 to 1967, and a Further Education Tutor based at Gamlingay Village College from 1967 to 1969
  • Industrial Training Manager for the Phoenix Timber Group of Companies in Rainham from 1969 to 1972
  • Head of English and then Deputy Headteacher at Hellesdon High School near Norwich from 1972 to 1979, and Headmaster of Glyn Derw High School in Cardiff from 1979 to 1989

The list goes on, so I’ll skip the bit about him being a Dan Grade martial arts instructor and a weight-training instructor.

Did I mention he is also a priest? He was ordained as a non-stipendiary Anglican priest in the Church in Wales in 1987 and is also a minister of the Universal Life Church. Oh, and a Freemason too!

Any guesses to who I am talking about? Perhaps if I mention that he was the host of Fortean TV in 1997, does that help?

I am of course, talking about…

The Reverend Robert Lionel Fanthorpe BA, FCollP, FRSA, FCMI, Cert.Ed

Lionel Fanthorpe
Image from Wikipedia

Fanthorpe was very prolific, in three years he wrote at least 89 books. He had to write to order for Badger books, he was sent the book’s cover and he had to fit the story to it. He was also limited to around 45,000 words per book. Fanthorpe would dictate to a bank of tape recorders and his and family would transcribe them. This would normally lead to very rushed endings as he wouldn’t be aware of just how many words he had left!

I first came across him as Pel Torro, Galaxy 666 and Force 97/X. They read like books of their time – the beginnings of space travel and atomic energy. Mostly, they are great romps and adventures with aliens, monsters and spaceships. As a kid, they were very entertaining!

In my own humble opinion, he really does deserve more recognition. Not because his output was outstanding or game-changing, but because he made a genuine contribution to Science Fiction. His stories, as many as there were, entertained a generation. They Introduced futuristic ideas in commonplace settings. Just how many went on to become scientists or engineers because of Fanthorpe’s work?

Reverend Robert Lionel Fanthorpe is still writing, on subjects like religion and supernatural mysteries. He is a confirmed biker and at 78 years old, I don’t seem him stopping any time soon!

I shall guard my collection of his work, they are my slice of British Science Fiction history. Not only that, after all this time they are still a fun read!

For more information…

 

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.

Second-Hand Bestsellers – Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm

You may remember that following my confession a few months ago about picking up bargain books at second-hand stalls I  made a bit of a challenge out of my vice.The criteria I set are:-

  • Each book must be bought secondhand for no more than £1
  • Each book must claim on its front cover that it is a bestseller, award winner
  • 12 books – one per month for a year

This is my Book #2. Do feel free to join me and share your second-hand bestsellers in the comments!

Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm- published 1977.

‘The Hugo Award Winning Novel’

Tagline – PLAY GOD: It’s the most dangerous game of all

Hugo Award Winner Locus Award Winner Click to go through to Amazon
Hugo Award Winner
Locus Award Winner
Click to go through to Amazon

Wow! This short book of just 250 pages is a brilliantly thought through vision of a post-apocalyptic rebuilding of the human species. A new society where a child is will never feel lonely or left out and is always one of a number of identical brothers or sisters. The idea of group telepathy was not new in 1977 and indeed was explored in John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos published in 1957.

The story starts shortly before the apocalypse and is set in the beautiful Shendoah valley. Famine and drought are causing international incidents, resources are being hoarded and countries are closing borders. Radiation in the atmosphere is high, pandemics are killing thousands daily and most countries are experiencing zero population growth. Those with foresight are realising that the masses cannot be saved and that human species is on the brink of extinction. The Sumner family is blessed with several brilliant thinkers, lots of wealth and plenty of fertile secluded land. The elders have planned ahead and stockpiled medical and computer equipment, generators, food, building materials, animals, seeds and tools and most importantly gathered together people with skills.

David has been studying in the field of cloning and when tests show that all the men have become infertile the full value of his research becomes clear. At first cloning of humans is vital for the survival of the species but in time sexual reproduction of the species is seen as inferior and those few clones who turn out to be fertile are removed from the society and used as breeding stock to carry the cloned fetuses.

Cloned and cloned again for the continuance of the particular skills of their forebear each new batch of identical sisters or brothers share an emotional and psychological bond bordering on telepathy that proves ultimately to make them not individual thinkers but one part of a functioning whole. In Wilhelm’s novel these groups of children are not sinister creatures with the ability to control the minds of normal humans as in The Midwich Cuckoos but groups of identically skilled beings. Specialism stifles diversity, the individual consciousness is lost as the group consciousness develops, and consequently free thinkers, unique skills and the ability to produce random ideas are eradicated from the new generations.

What makes us human? This becomes the central theme of the book as the decades pass and the new society realise that their continuing reproduction and therefore their very survival will depend on obtaining resources from the ruined cities. To leave their safe valley and go foraging hundreds of miles away in bombed out cities and radiation poisoned landscapes requires skills that these generations were not bred for. Their new utopia is in grave danger.

This book is not dark and violent as many dystopian novels are. It’s more subtle in its depiction of good and bad choices. At the end Mark, who is not a clone although both his parents were, says “You won’t understand this. No one’s alive but me who could understand it. I love you, Barry. You’re strange to me, alien, not human. All of you are… but I didn’t destroy them because I loved you.”

This novel is concisely written, not a word is wasted and yet Wilhelm’s descriptions of the desolate cities and the deep forests lack nothing. It is meticulously thought out and challenging. Presented in 3 main time frames she develops various protagonists as the new generations are introduced and the contrast between the individual and the collective deepens.

This book blew me away. I may not be a lover of sci-fi (though since the cloning of Dolly the sheep in the 1990s cloning has ceased to be fiction and has become a fact) but nevertheless I was immersed in this vision of the future. I can see why it won two awards and I recommend it whole-heartedly for anyone from YA up.

I wish it was longer – that’s my only complaint. I have to give it 5 bites

 

 

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.

By the Pricking of my Thumbs…

Hallowe’en has arrived. The pumpkins have been carved, sweets have been purchased and sit by the door waiting for the arrival of trick or treaters. But tonight isn’t about chocolate: it is a night when malevolent spirits roam amongst us. We BookEaters have gathered around the fire to tell you about our favourite type of evil creature: the witch!*

*Warning: Not all witches will be scary, some will be strong, brave, and others just generally not very good.

Charlotte:

img_1552Professor McGonagall is my favourite fictional witch. She is the perfect Head of Gryffindor House because she is brave, staunchly loyal to Dumbledore, and incredibly protective of her students. It is McGonagall who spots Harry Potter’s talent for quidditch, gives him the benefit of the doubt when he breaks school rules, and calls upon the defensive magical powers of Hogwarts in preparation for the final battle with Voldemort. She subverts every stereotype of the spinster cat lady. She is always strong-minded and fiercely independent. If you met her, she would look you in the eye and tell you the unvarnished truth.

Kelly:

img_1551My first real encounter with a truly terrifying witch was whilst reading The Witches by Roald Dahl. What could be scarier than witches that hated children? Bald, with clawed hands and toe-less feet, they have created a new way to rid the world of children, who smell to them like dogs droppings. Their plan? To turn the children into mice, which the adults will then kill. Making parents unwitttingly kill their own children! Horrific! It’s up to our hero narrator, who has overheard their plans during their annual meeting in Bournemouth, and his Norwegian grandmother to stop them. I don’t think I will ever forget the terror I felt when the Grand High Witch first reveals herself. A book that lives long in the imagination!

img_1553My all time favourite witch, though,  has got to be Granny Weatherwax. For me, she is one of the best characters from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and no list of the best witches would be complete without her. Granny is strong willed, fierce and not to be messed with! She’s a mentor for the younger Witches in Lancre and The Chalk, including Tiffany Aching and isn’t afraid to tell them exactly what she thinks. Fellow witch, King, Vampire or general mortal, Granny treats everyone as an equal- one who knows less than she does!

Gem:

WitchesI’ve almost finished reading about New York in 1880 – home to two young(ish) witches. Adelaide Thom can see the secrets of the soul and Eleanor St. Clair is a healer and keeper of spells. They run a Tea Shop catering to Manhattan’s high society and when Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment, it soon becomes apparent that she has magical talents of her own. Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. But though there are men like Dr. Quinn Brody, who respect the talents and intelligence of the three women there are also men convinced they are evil. When Beatrice disappears they must decide if she has simply fled or if something more sinister has happened.

I love the time and place that this is set in – in the background there are women fighting for the vote and men exploring science. The old world and the new are colliding but through this turmoil the characters still shine through. It’s hard to pick a favourite witch out of these three, I’m just hoping it has a happy enough ending to open the door to a sequel!

 

Rachel:

I do love a good evil witch! Particularly those witches who actually aren’t evil! Given the problematic treatment of ‘witches’ throughout history, it’s always nice to see portrayals of witches as not inherently evil.

I couldn’t decide on my favourite witch so have opted for two.
manon-blackbeakFirst up is Manon Blackbeak whom can be found in Sarah J.Maas’s Throne of Glass series. A member of the Ironteeth witch clan, she has long white hair, gold eyes and, disturbingly, retractable iron teeth and claws. She’s also totally badass. Like, seriously. A fascinating character who is vicious, cruel, thoughtful and reflective, her questioning of her motives, actions and moral compass make her a flawed and multi-layered character. And she rides a dragon*

*not actually called a dragon in the books but near as makes no never mind!

 

mildredSecondly, Mildred Hubble! Oh Mildred, they call you The Worst Witch but you really really aren’t. You’re marvellous. You’re very clumsy but you mean well and you can’t help but get in to all sorts of pickles! I particularly enjoyed it when you turned your headmistress’s sister into a snail! You’ve got loyal and kind friends, an entertaining rivalry with another witch and you’re nice to cats! You’re definitely not the worst!

 

 

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.

Black History by People Who Lived It

For this feature for Black History Month I wanted to read the most authentic stories I could, and so I researched into the most powerful arguments that had been made by former slaves for abolition so that I could hear their voices across the years and better understand what it was really like to suffer as they did. This post will review five of the most famous classic narratives.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

harriet-jacobsWritten in 1861, this is a memoir which tells of a house slave’s efforts to emancipate herself and move to the free states from North Carolina. Confusingly, the protagonist of this story is known as Linda (this was a pseudonym Jacobs used in the book to protect loved ones). The overwhelming obstacle Linda faced was a profoundly possessive master, Dr Flint who treated her cruelly but would not sell her at any price, to any bidder, under any conditions, even when she convinced white friends to attempt to buy her through intermediaries. Whilst she never tells the reader that he actually violated her, the spectre of it hangs over much of the early part of the book. The aspects of slavery that she condemns the most in the book are the ways in which it destroys the moral integrity of families through splitting up the black community as people are sold, and allowing slaveholders to freely compromise the trust in their own families through gratuitous and often unwanted sex with the black women who served them. Even as she suffered, Linda never became downtrodden, although she had to go into hiding for many long years before finally escaping. Dr Flint tried to squash this feisty single mother’s dreams of freedom in every possible way, and I rejoiced when he failed. Her happy ever after ending with her children by her side is one I won’t forget.

The History of Mary Prince

mary-princeOf all of the books I read, this 1831 account of slavery in the West Indies was the most horrifying. Some of the depraved torture experienced by Mary Prince and her fellow slaves really took a strong stomach to read, and the wounds she received due to the working conditions she was forced to submit to in Turks and Caicos were almost nauseating. This is a very short book that you can read in a day but it takes a long time to digest what it really means and how it makes you feel. The ultimate disgrace is the presence of a number of validating letters by white people which the publishers of Mary’s time felt it necessary to include alongside her own words. Even after her death this phenomenal woman was not being credited enough for her formidable strength and forbearance, even though she was nearly disabled through hard labour and the injuries she received when she reached England in the company of the family that owned her. I cried when she finally and fatefully walked out of her horrible mistress’s house and took herself to the Anti-Slavery Society offices in London.

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup

twelve-years-a-slave-9781476767345_hrFamously made into an award-winning movie, this was the book that I had looked forward to reading most. Northrup was a free black man tricked by duplicitous acquaintances into travelling from his home in New York State to the slave states. Once there he was kidnapped, whipped into submission and sold as ‘Platt’. He ended up in Louisiana working as a carpenter, picking cotton, and cutting sugar cane. He had many brushes with death. Northrup is very psychologically aware as a writer, and he dissects the angels and demons in the natures of the whites in the American South throughout this account with great skill. His description of Epps stands out as an exceptionally perceptive piece of observational writing. Master Epps was truly a monster, beating his slaves half to death to please his jealous wife, and then making them dance for him after he came home from a night of debauchery. He still had the gall to scold Northrup after his representatives from New York arrived with the papers proving he was always a free man. Towards the end, you have a clear sense of Northrup’s mission – he was writing for the ones who were left behind – for the voiceless, and those living in the shadow of whips and irons. Few plantation slaves were educated enough even to read so we are blessed to have his account which is a riveting read. As ever, the book is better than the film, even though it was written in 1853.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

frederick-douglassWhen Frederick Douglass published the story of his life in 1845 it went on to become the most famous slave narrative ever published, because after he escaped to the free states, Douglass became a campaigner well known for his oratorical genius. This is quite a polemical piece of writing, as you would expect. The creative ways he fought to claim his right to learn to read would shame many of today’s schoolchildren! Among other things, he hid reading materials, asked little boys on the street what words meant and copied the letters he saw on the timbers that were used in the shipbuilder’s yard where he worked. Through sheer grit and skill he also got the chance to earn his own money to fund his escape (the details of which, disappointingly for us, have been withheld in the interests of the safety of those involved). Sadly he ended his life still officially ‘a fugitive’ but to have bought something that should never be a commodity in the first place is something this thoroughly principled man should never have had to do anyway.

The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano

the-interesting-narrative-by-olaudah-equiano‘My life and fortune have been extremely chequered, and my adventures various’, Equiano says in the closing paragraph of his 1789 work. The interesting narrative is truly what he says it is: a totally fascinating account of an extraordinary life. Equiano was an international traveller, entrepreneur and jack of all trades, and one of the first literary celebrities. This narrative takes us through his capture in Nigeria and journey to traders on the coast. From there he sailed to the West Indies, the U.S. and then London, where his early loyalty to his sea captain master led him into a life as a travelling sailor, at first in bondage, and later as a free black man. He visited many countries in Europe, and even sailed north of Greenland on a nearly doomed expedition to try and find a passage to India. There are some incredible ups and downs in this story, as he won and lost people he trusted, coming across at every turn the prejudice of white people who betrayed, try to kill him and steal from him and kidnap him to be sold back into slavery. His account of survivor’s guilt and spiritual conversion take up a reasonable chunk of the end of the book but notwithstanding this, if you are looking for a white-knuckle experience, this is the book to go for.

Historically it was often the forcefulness of the unvarnished truth of those speaking of their own suffering, and their witnessing to others sufferings, that brought it home to average reader how great the evil and injustice of slavery was. These accounts analyse from experience the terrible human cost of a system of economic inequality that benefitted the privileged few at the expense of the pain and death of millions. Reading these books has been a really enlightening experience, not just because I have come to appreciate the bravery it took to write them in the face of great prejudice, but also because they have without fail gripped me until the very last page. Often these accounts finish with the final triumph of their authors achieving freedom through their own determination, courage, intelligence and resilience. That said, some writers discuss how it is a bittersweet moment for them too because they taste liberty whilst being aware that so many people who were just as worthy as them had never known and would never know what it was like to be in control of their own lives and fortunes.

Charlotte Kearsley
My love of reading began when I was very young, and quickly took over my life. On trips to Brighton, my family would see me start walking faster at the sight of the major bookshop in the centre.
I’ve lived in many places since, including London and Rio, and still insist on visiting bookshops as soon as possible! I normally head for literary and historical fiction first, then pick out the quality thrillers. If I’ve time to spare I’ll browse the biography and travel writing shelves. When I’m not spending time with books or books-in-progress in one way or another, I works in the public sector and crafts.

Vultures by Chinua Achebe

It’s taken me many years to fully appeciate poetry. For a long time it’s always seemed slightly out of my reach: hidden meanings lost inside elegant language that I couldn’t decipher; that my IQ or levels of sophistication weren’t enough to really understand poetry. Years of perseverance have changed my mind, and I have discovered the poems of TS Elliot, EE Cummings, Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy and seen how poetry can reach in and grab the soul. But I will never forget the first poem that I fell in love with.

img_1543I was sitting in a GCSE English class, anthology open, divided into groups to discuss the meaning behind the poem we had been allocated. Our group had been given ‘Vultures’ By Chinua Achebe. He was an author and poet I had never heard of before (although at 15 there were a lot of gaps in my literary knowledge). He had written Things Fall Apart 40 years before my GCSE year, and Vultures, which appeared in the anthology, Beware, Soul Brother, 13 years after that, but this was my first encounter with his work.

For those of you who haven’t read this poem, I urge you to. It is about the boundaries between good and evil, how often these things are not simple black and white, but varying shades of grey. How even the most evil characters have the capacity for love inside of them.

Achebe talks of the vulture, his grotesque appearance and behaviour.
his smooth
bashed in head, a pebble
on a stem rooted in
a dump of gross feathers.”
“Yesterday they picked
the eyes of a swollen
corpse in a water- logged
trench and ate the
things in its bowel.
Yet, the vulture’s feathers are “inclined affectionately” towards that of its mate.

img_1544The language is so strong, from the description of the vultures themselves to the idea of love tidying up a corner of a charnel house and falling asleep and the “fumes of human roast clinging rebelliously” to the hairy nostrils of the Commandant at Belsen. It is dark, both in subject matter and in style, with the “greyness and drizzle of one despondent dawn” being almost pathetic fallacy, the personification of the themes of the poem.

It ends with the eternal battle between optimist and pessimist: do we celebrate because there is love inside all of us, no matter how small, or do we despair, because love can be overwhelmed so easily by hate. A question which resonates as much in our modern society as it did in Nigeria in the 70’s.

Vultures

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.

Black History Month: A Resource Guide To Black Science Fiction & Fantasy

This month is Black History Month. A very important celebration that looks back at the contributions made by black people all over the world. A chance to remember their struggles for acceptance and the need be treated equally, to learn of their stories and to understand how their lives were affected by indifference and hatred.

But I am a white man, living in a white culture with little experience of the struggles they have experienced over the decades. To my mind, that disqualifies me from spouting any further on that side of things. Though I do have an opinion and that is to say, it’s an unjust World we live in and change is well overdue.

I could talk about black Sci-Fi authors of the past, people like Octavia E. Butler, Nalo Hopkinson and Charles W. Chesnutt. There are many black authors who have contributed to the fine body of literature that is Science Fiction.

Instead, I’m going to give you a list of resources where you can find out more about past, current and future black authors. You will learn an awful lot more by discovering for yourself the contributions made than by revealing my own inadequate knowledge.

For Black History Information

Posts About Black Science Fiction Authors

Websites For Black Science Fiction

Black Science Fiction Authors

Black Science Fiction and the Media

Until I started doing the research for the links above, I had no idea what colour skin Samuel R. Delany had. In fact, that’s true for the majority of the authors that I read, I have no idea what colour they are. Besides it doesn’t matter to me and it shouldn’t matter to you. All that is important is that you read, buy books and support new and current authors. Go to it!

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.

Eight Books That Love The Bookish Life!

We all know that us readers love books, and most writers are readers first and foremost. So what can be better than a book that pays homage to other books? Here we have eight books that indulge that passion for books in different ways.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

RBWRSara, a 28 year old book shop assistant from Sweden, arrives in the small town of Broken Wheel in Iowa to visit Amy, an elderly resident of Broken Wheel, with whom she has developed a close pen pal relationship based around their mutual love of books. She has high hopes for the visit and is therefore stopped in her tracks somewhat when, upon arriving at Amy’s house, she walks in to Amy’s wake.

Unsure of what to do, Sara accepts the townspeople’s offer to stay as it ‘was what Amy wanted’. She ends up opening a town bookshop with Amy’s vast book collection, with the proceeds going to the town. Sara prides herself on finding the right book for everyone, finding that one ‘gateway’ book that will open the doors to a reading journey for everyone. These journeys not only change the town but also Sara herself. Read Full review here.

The Word Exchange

imageSet in modern day New York but a New York where books, libraries, and newspapers have already become historical items. Instead  entertainment is streamed to handheld devices known as Memes.  And don’t worry if you can’t remember what all the words on your Meme mean – these devices are smart enough to prompt us with words we can’t recall. Of course not quite everyone is in thrall to them, Anana has endured numerous lectures from her father -the chief editor of what is going to be the last ever edition of the North American Dictionary of the English Language. And now she’s starting to suspect that the growing “word flu” pandemic as being spread by them.  See full review here.

The Storied Life of A.J Fikry

9780349141077A.J. Fikry owns the only book shop on Alice Island and an extremely rare copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s Tamerlane.

Neither is bringing him any joy since his wife died. Then one night, when he’s passed out drunk, Tamerlane is stolen.  Shortly after a baby is left in his shop with a note from the suicidal mother. A.J does the right thing and calls the police straight away, but without quite knowing why,  A.J decides to adopt the baby and his life is turned inside out.

The story follows A.J and his new daughter through her growing up in his bookshop, him falling in love and the solving of the mystery of the missing copy of Tamerlane. Read the full review here.

Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book store

imageHip graphic designer Clay Jannon has lost his job as an award winning web designer. A mixture of desperation and curiosity, has driven him into working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

Mr Penumbra is charming and affable and Clay quickly decide to use his marketing skills to attract more customers. The few the store has come in regularly, but they never seem to buy anything. Instead these ‘members’ borrow bizarrely obscure volumes from the back of the store, and it seems that each book leads them to the next in a very specific order. Intrigued, Clay embarks on a complex analysis of the customers’ behaviour.  But when Mr Penumbra discovers this investigation he sets him on a path to a far bigger secret. Read the full review here.

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

78769-coverGiambattista Bodoni, an older man who wakes from a coma with just a few scattered memories, mainly of things that he had no strong emotional attachment to. He tries to return to his old life with his family around him but soon he feels he has go back to his past in order to be able to really live in the present. This is a journey through the books, music and films of his childhood, a childhood dominated by the rise of Mussolini and Second World War.

Read the full review here.

How To Find Love In A Bookshop by Veronica Henry

imageNightingale Books, nestled on the high street in the idyllic Cotswold town of Peasebrook, is a dream come true for booklovers.

But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open. The temptation to sell up is proving enormous – but what about the promise she made to her father? Not to mention the loyalty she owes to her customers.

Read our full review here.

The Reader On The 6.27

cover78254-mediumGuylain Vignolles hates working at the book pulping factory, one particularly odious co-worker regularly gloats when feted books are destroyed, books he knows Guylain would like to read but hasn’t.

But he has but one pleasure in life. Every evening he has the job of descending into the jaws of the pulping machine where he rescues a few precious pages that have got stuck to the sides of the machine. Then every morning, sitting on the 6.27 train, he reads them aloud, something that all the passengers enjoy. Read the full review here.

The Little Paris Bookshop

Bookcover paris bookshopFrom a barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a ‘literary apothecary’. A bookshop from which he prescribes the right books to soothe the troubled souls of his customers.

He is a man that loves books and reads them greedily, but not selfishly. To quote “Whenever Monsieur Perdu looked at a book, he did not see it purely in terms of a story, retail price and an essential balm for the soul; he saw freedom on wings of paper.”

When he unmoors his  floating bookshop and sets off for Provence, along with an uninvited panicking bestselling author, he learns that books have ways of connecting people in ways he hadn’t imagined. Read the  full review here.

So you have Eight recommendations from us but which book full of books do you recommend? Let us know in the comments below or over on our Facebook Page 

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.

Hello from a new Book Eater!

Hello everyone!

CharlotteI’m really thrilled to be introducing myself as a new Book Eater, and joining an online community of like-minded people. Based near Bury St Edmunds, I am fundamentally a reader who loves variety – literary and contemporary fiction, classics, quality thrillers, historical fiction, travel writing and biography. I have also been known to read the occasional history book or essay collection. Creative writing manuals are a niche interest of mine, as is fiction about other countries, or by writers from other countries. I like to be pushed as far out of my comfort zone as I can (although not necessarily all the time), and this comes from a similar place as my passion for travelling. I think a little wanderlust does us all good, and books have always been the cheapest and best escapism. And you don’t need a visa! To start the ball rolling, I wanted to tell you a bit about the books I loved as a child, the things that attract me to books, and also I wanted to confess to you some of the wonderful books I own and have never got around to reading.

When I was a child I often chose books from the past. I usually thought that if it was in the Puffin Classics range, it was bound to be good, as everything I had read so far in the range was good! I loved the imperious heroines of ‘The Secret Garden’ and ‘A Little Princess’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I re-read ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott many times, although I was never tempted by the sequels. My copies of ‘What Katy Did’, ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘Pollyanna’, all written around the turn of the 20th century in the USA are now very tatty and well-loved, and perhaps helps explain my love of contemporary American fiction now. The Diaries of Anne Frank, the Chalet School books, and the complete works of Roald Dahl were also favourites, but I would always skip the tonsil operation in ‘Boy’.

The things that attract me to books are the promise that every book holds that my mind will be broadened and in some way I will grow, and come closer to understanding whatever I am struggling with (‘The Novel Cure’ has recently been a great resource for me). The mention of different countries or different periods of history is particularly appealing, especially if they are far flung places that would cost a lot of money for me to see myself. I also love classics, particularly by writers I haven’t had chance to try before, and I hope I’ll often be sharing my experiences with you via Throwback Thursdays. When I went to Bournemouth on holiday this year I wrote down a list of books that I didn’t want to forget, just from browsing the shelves of a bookstore. They were ‘Song for an Approaching Storm’ by Peter Froberg Idling, set in Cambodia, ‘Tanamera’ by Noel Barber, set in Singapore, and ‘The Lover’ by Marguerite Duras, set in French Colonial Vietnam. A classic by a writer I have never read before was ‘The Power and the Glory’ by Graham Greene, set in Mexico.

On to more books I have not read! I am quite ashamed that I have never got around to the ones on this list, as many of them are real classics, and even books that have changed the world, but in the interests of sincerity, here they are. I have walked past these many times on my shelves but I have not read:

Any books by Leo Tolstoy (including ‘Anna Karenina’ and ‘War and Peace’)

Any books by Thomas Mann (including ‘Death in Venice’ and ‘The Magic Mountain’)

‘Moby Dick’ by Herman Melville

Anything other than ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘David Copperfield’ by Charles Dickens

Around half of Hemingway’s works

I have had 2 abortive attempts at Dostoyevsky, both with ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ and ‘Crime and Punishment’ and feel pretty bad about abandoning both of them around 100 pages in. ‘Oh! Those Russians!’ as Boney M would say! Perhaps I should just…try…harder! (Someone get me a Russian coach!!)

In modern fiction, I have only read one book by Orhan Pamuk, who is a Nobel-prize winning genius (I have no good excuse) even though I own four of his books, and I have read nothing at all by Sebastian Faulks or Jonathan Franzen despite having collected their complete back-catalogue. I think I am afraid they will be a let-down after all the anticipation!

I think the Book Eaters will help me to keep focussed on expanding my mind, now that university is a (cherished) memory, and help me meet the reading challenges ahead. I feel like I’m beginning a journey already just by telling you all about it. I hope we’ll get to know each other better, and that I’ll be able to contribute something too. I have a lot of book-related plans and dreams, one of which is writing and publishing one myself one day.

All the best

Charlotte

 

Charlotte Kearsley
My love of reading began when I was very young, and quickly took over my life. On trips to Brighton, my family would see me start walking faster at the sight of the major bookshop in the centre.
I’ve lived in many places since, including London and Rio, and still insist on visiting bookshops as soon as possible! I normally head for literary and historical fiction first, then pick out the quality thrillers. If I’ve time to spare I’ll browse the biography and travel writing shelves. When I’m not spending time with books or books-in-progress in one way or another, I works in the public sector and crafts.