So You Want To Own A Book Shop?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Train Reading…

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

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

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

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

So what are my go to train books?!

 

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

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

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

 

 

PridePrejudice423x630Pride and Prejudice

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

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

 

60471Coming Home

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

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

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

 

gracelingGraceling

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

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

 

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Be More Terry

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

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

Be more…questioning

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

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

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

 

04_terrypBe more… honest

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

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

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

 

Be more… political

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

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

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

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

 

pratchett1_3230196a-largeBe more… Cat

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

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

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

 

Happy Birthday Sir Terry, we miss you!

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

Brilliant Book Nooks!

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

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

Cosy Book Nooks!

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Colourful Book Nooks!

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Contemporary BookNooks!

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IMG_2461   IMG_2476    IMG_2462

Classical BookNooks!


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

 

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

What a Way to Go!

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

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

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

Murder most Vile

Electrocution!

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

Lawn Mowers!

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

From lawns to earth and the Four Elements!

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

But enough with gruesome murders what about …

Mercy Killings

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

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

Self-sacrifice.

Click here for Waterstones link
Click here for Waterstones link

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

BOOK BATTLE! The Cursed Child

Who would ever have thought it would come to this?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kelly: I loved Scorpius!

Draco and Scorpius from Pottermore
Draco and Scorpius from Pottermore

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

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

Wow what an exciting sequel. #snooze #evaporatedmagic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kelly: Affecting in what way?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel: Wasted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kelly: I do get what you mean.

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

SPOILERS APPROACHING!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kelly: Maybe it was a turkey baster?!

Rachel: Ewwwwwww!

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

Rachel: Still fits in with the theme

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

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

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

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

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

all-cursed-child-cast

 

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

In Celebration of Mums- 5 Great Literary Mums!

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

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

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

In no particular order….

MWMolly Weasley (The Harry Potter Series)

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

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

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

‘NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!’

 

MDMrs Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility)

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

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

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

 

MM

Marmee (Little Women)

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

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

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

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

 

ap

Amelia P. Emerson (The Amelia Peabody Series)

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

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

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

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

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

 

MF

Mrs Frisby (Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh)

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

And thanks Mum! You’re ace!

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

Second hand Best Sellers – The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

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

So here’s the Criteria:-

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

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

12 books – one per month for a year

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

 

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

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

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

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

It marginally scrapes 2 bites because of the imagery.

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

A baker’s dozen with Patrick Gale

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

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

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

How do you organise your writing day?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How long does your research normally take?

About a year.

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

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

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

Do you play musical instruments other than the cello?

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

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

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

What authors do you read for pleasure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Women’s Day

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

Tam:

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

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

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

 

Gem: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

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

Kelly:

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

Rachel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Re-read, Re-think, Re-review…

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

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

tht

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

Hear Hear for AudioBooks!

Headphones on the old book..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Books to Turn You Japanese

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

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

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

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami

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

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

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

Read our full review here.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

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

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

Read our full review here.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

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

Read our full review here.

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

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

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

Read our full review here.

Star Sand by Roger Pulvers.

image

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

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

Read our full review here.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

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

Read our full review here.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

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

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

Read our full review here.

The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby

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

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

 

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

The Hit Book and The Sequel!

Rebel Of The SandsRebel of The Sands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_2388Traitor to the Throne

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

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

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

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

 

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

Mental Health & Creativity, The Hidden & The Celebrated

depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia Woolf

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

Ernest Hemingway

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

Walter M. Miller

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

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

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

Tennessee Williams

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

J.K. Rowling

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

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

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

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

New Year, New Books!

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


img_1564Norse Mythology
by Neil Gaiman

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


img_1571Into The Water
by Paula Hawkins

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

img_1569Macbeth by Jo Nesbo and New Boy by Tracey Chevalier

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

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen img_1567

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

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

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

In The Name of The Family by Sarah Dunant img_1566

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

img_1568House of Names by Colm Tóibín

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

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

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

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.