Wednesday, 27 March 2013

New books have arrived!

I got into work this afternoon and there was a bucket full of books that had just been delivered.
I love those days! 
It's so much fun to unwrap them all, especially if I have some orders of my own in the delivery!
And I did, some my orders arrived, very exciting!

2 of these we are doing for the Science Fiction and Fantasy book club at TLC BOOKS this year and 2 are on my 25 books to be read before July.

I still have 5 more books en route,
The Lies of Locke Lamora, Starship Troopers, The Dwarves, The Indigo Spell and The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow
3 of which are Science Fiction and Fantasy Bookclub books and
2 are on the 25 books to read before July list.
I can't wait for them to arrive.

Moving House

So I've been a bit distracted lately and haven't written many posts, I will try and catch up this week. This is why:-

I've decided moving house is like childbirth, as in, as soon as you see that wonderful, exciting new home, you completely forget all the stress of ringing around chasing solicitors and contractors, real estate agents and mortgage lenders, not including the packing and the cleaning of the old house!

Plus there's designing the rooms in the new house, choosing wall paper, paint, furniture, light shades and on and on and on...

The bloom is quickly wearing off for me.

I want more time to blog and read, well, more time to read really!

Though saying that' I can't wait to be in the house, once it's decorated (by someone else who won't paint everything but what they're supposed to be painting and has taste!), the furniture has been arranged, the boxes unpacked and most importantly, my study/library is ready and waiting for me to enjoy.

I'm a thinker not a doer, I plan not execute. 
Thank god for my wonderful husband who is all of those things!

Tournament of Books Semi-Final Round 2

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

Judged by Rachel Riederer who is an editor at Guernica and a writing teacher at Baruch College.

Well, I never expected the Sheila Heti book to get this far though Gone Girl is exactly where I expected it to be.
For me this round would normally be a forgone conclusion but as I said How Should a Person Be? is way further on than I ever expected so maybe I’ll be surprised!

Rachel felt differently as she had read both books last year and liked both of them. To her, she had a dilemma as she says below;
‘Each one totally consumed me and I recommended both to different people, and for different kinds of reading. How to choose? How Should a Person Be? follows the narrator/author Sheila through friendship, sex, art-making, and her anxiety about all of the above—it is a strange and brave hodgepodge of narration and transcription. Gone Girl is a methodically plotted mystery that alternates between husband-and-wife narrators: Nick telling the story of the days following his wife’s disappearance, and Amy’s diary describing their relationship until the day she turns up missing. Talking about them together is not even like comparing apples and oranges; it is like comparing sunglasses and ladders. They are both great, and when you want one the other is useless.’
She also felt both books were page turners.

So she decided to see how they both stood up to a second read.

‘Rereading Heti, I found myself freshly charmed by Margaux. As you might well expect from a book that calls itself a “novel from life” and has a title straight from the self-help section, it can get a little navel-gazey in there sometimes. And just when it’s getting to be too much, Margaux steps in to give voice to the eye-roll you were preparing. When the real-life person on whom Margaux is based decides to write her spinoff, I will buy all the copies.
But the whole book is not Margaux delivering calm takedowns to the self-satisfied, and I found myself craving more of her casualness and simplicity. I was not shocked or titillated by repeated blowjob references, I was not intrigued by the shifts in form and what they might mean.

With Gone Girl, I found that the absence of suspense let me slow down and notice enjoyable little details about the book that I’d missed when I’d gobbled it all down in my mania to find out what had happened to Amy. Most of all I appreciated the artistry of Amy’s diary and its trying-too-hard prose. It is bad! Which is to say, it is perfect for the diary of a character who writes magazine quizzes for a living. Reads one entry:
I’m walking along Seventh Avenue making a lunchtime contemplation of the sidewalk bodega bins—endless plastic containers of cantaloupe and honeydew and melon perched on ice like the day’s catch—and I could feel a man barnacling himself to my side as I sailed along, and I corner-eyed the intruder and realized who it was.
I found Amy’s bad writing really refreshing and fun—first-person narration in fiction is often so much more articulate and insightful than the character would actually be. Not every character in a novel is going to write and think with the dexterity of a novelist, and I love that Amy doesn’t.
I noticed and liked other details that I had slid past on my first plot-obsessed reading too: the recession-busted backdrop of abandoned malls and McMansions, Nick’s self-consciousness about being handsome, the couple’s shared unease about Amy’s money. There’s also a thread throughout the novel about the difference between how you seem to yourself and how you seem to even the people closest to you, and the challenge of not falling into predetermined roles.

Instead of trying to decide how a novel should be, I’m using art school rules and judging in favor of the book that accomplished all the goals it set for itself. I’m not 100 percent sure what Heti’s intentions were. Was she really going to tell us how to be? She made something new and fascinating, and she explored a big question. But I know for certain that Flynn’s intention was to captivate, thrill, and surprise, and Gone Girl does just that, perfectly.’

So what a surprise but I can’t fault her reasons for choosing the book.

Next up are the Zombie Rounds.

Tournament of Books Semi-Final Round 1

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson


Building Stories by Chris Ware

The first semi-final round was judged by Davy Rothbart who is the creator of Found Magazine and author of a book of personal essays, My Heart Is an Idiot, and a collection of stories, The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas. 
He does have a connection to Chris Ware, they were acquaintances for awhile though he hasn't seen him in 7 years. He admits this at the beginning but it does make me slightly skeptical on how you can judge without bias if you know or have known one of the authors. 

Unusually for this review, the judge utilized his friends and booksellers, to help him decide so I've included their comments in this review.
At first, I was, 'isn't that cheating?', but then I realised, this is supposed to be about the best books of 2012 and who better to judge that than all readers out there.

'How does The Orphan Master’s Son stack up against Chris Ware’s Building Stories? 
To compare two books so different in subject matter, style, and execution is a strange and difficult undertaking. How was I to pick a winner between two books I deeply admired?

After swearing them to absolute secrecy to preserve the sanctity of the Rooster, I shared my conundrum with a few trusted advisers.

First, I decided to consult some of my bookseller friends. The crucial, enduring role that indie booksellers play in literary culture cannot be overstated. When I want to know what book to read next, I turn to folks like Kevin Awakuni at Skylight Books in Los Angeles;  Kevin Sampsell at Powell’s in Portland, Ore.;  Ward Tefft at Chop Suey Books in Richmond, Va.; Benn, Rachel, and Maggie at Atomic Books in Baltimore;  or any number of other amazing booksellers who are equally passionate and knowledgeable about the books they set out on their shelves. 

And here are some of the comments he got back on each book:

Paul Blaschko at Boswell Books in Milwaukee:

'I recommend Building Stories like a maniac when people come into the store. My wife and I felt that we’d developed genuine relationships with the characters. While this in itself is not too odd (this happens a lot to us with fictitious characters), the odd part is that it felt like we were “meeting” and “interacting” with them in such a true-to-life sort of way. It was like we’d both met these people, and together, we were trying to piece together the stories of their lives.'

Erin Haire of Hub City Books in Spartanburg, SC:

'For me, this is no contest. I loved, LOVED The Orphan Master’s Son. Like, I wanna be it for Halloween. I thought that it was so original, it was a story that I had never heard, and the author’s voice was so sure. The image that sticks with me is from an early chapter, when the main character is sent on that fishing boat to do radio surveillance. He describes how the fishermen butcher the fish onboard and then dump the chum into the ocean. He describes how giant squid come up from the depths to feed on this chum, and his description was just incredible. I think Ware’s work is very cool and deserves props for quality and definitely originality, but as far as actual literary achievement, The Orphan Master’s Son is it for me.'

Isaac Fitzgerald, managing editor of The Rumpus: 
'The Orphan Master’s Son was hands-down my favorite read of 2012. A fantastical love story based in a horrifying reality. Reads like poetry, punches like a heavyweight.'

Hayley Imerman, Toronto (in regard to Building Stories):
'beautiful and heartbreaking.' 

Steve Almond:
'After a week of sloppy communion with Ware’s book, I'm ready to declare it one of the most important pieces of art I have ever experienced.' 

Dan Lewis, Minneapolis:

'When I go to sleep after reading Chris Ware, my heart aches. Who hasn't slept alone and longed for someone or slept with someone and longed to be alone? They say people who lie convincingly to themselves are happier in the long run. I believe Ware examines life and presents what it is like for those of us who can’t or choose not to lie about reality.'

Davy's personal opinion on each book is that Chris' 'interconnected stories are both exquisite and crushing'.

As for Orphan Master's Son, he found the book 'terrifying, darkly funny, and vividly imagined—despite its heaviness, I enjoyed Adam Johnson’s writing'.

This is how he, eventually, chose a winner out of these two completely different books.

'At a loss for how to select a winner, I decided to pick one favorite page from each book and read them over and over again to see which I liked better, a kind of prose cage match. 

From The Orphan Master’s Son, I picked a page in which Jun Do scoops rotted toes from the empty boots of a dying prisoner in a forced labor camp, unaware how close he is to undergoing a similar fate—it’s an absolutely vivid, lacerating, hopeless passage that won’t be easy to exile from my mind.

From Building Stories, I chose a gorgeous spread in which the building that houses the book’s characters actually begins to narrate for a moment:

'Who hasn’t tried, when passing by a building or a home at night, to peer past half-closed shades and blinds hoping to catch a glimpse into the private lives of its inhabitants? Anything… the briefest blossom of movement… maybe a head, bobbing up… a bit of hair… a mysterious shadow… or a flash of flesh… seems somehow more revealing than any generous greeting or calculated cordiality (say, if the tenants were to suddenly be born unto the porch and welcome the voyeur, hands increasingly outstretched) … the disappointing diffusion of a sheer curtain can suggest the most colorful bouquet of unspeakable secrets.'

This passage speaks so profoundly to our innate curiosity about the people we share the world with, the natural voyeurism that motivates us to read books in the first place, that it’s ultimately what has won this bout for Chris Ware. The Orphan Master’s Son has masterfully pulled back the curtain on life in North Korea—and, as Dennis Rodman’s recent unexpected visit seems to indicate, we may soon begin to learn much more about our planet’s most mysterious country—but Building Stories has pulled a curtain back on what it means to be human.'

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Tournament of Books 4th Quarter Final

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel


How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

The judge on this round was Saeed Jones who is the editor of BuzzFeed LGBT. 

Another round like Gone Girl, where it's assumed Bring Up The Bodies is going to win yet another award, a thought that also entered Saeed's head when these two books arrived.

Saeed 'felt as though I was being tested. This wasn't about reading a novel. It was about whether or not I would “get it.” '
As I would feel if having to read one of the most talked about books of last year, something I always try to avoid doing.

As for How Should a Person Be? He went in with no prior knowledge of this author and her work at all. 

He read the novels concurrently, moving back and forth every few chapters, which is how he usually reads, like myself. In this case though, it didn't really work as he felt that 'one novel kept asking me questions and the other insisted that it already had all of the answers.'

Here's an abbreviation of his run down on both novels.

'Mantel is an elegant and calculating writer. From the novel’s opening sentence—“His children are falling from the sky”—to a comedic scene in which Henry VIII falls asleep in the middle of a banquet to Cromwell’s confrontations with both the freshly dead and soon-to-be dead, Bring Up the Bodies reads like a gorgeous trap. It’s an interesting feat. We know, mostly, who and how this tale will end. As we hover just behind Cromwell’s shoulder, we watch him allow his prey to believe they are in fact the predators.
In contrast to Mantel’s brooding and complicated plot, Sheila Heti’s protagonist muses and moans her way through the pages. There isn't exactly a plot, so much as a movement through time, cities, and conversations. I’m not complaining. Heti’s experimentation with form as well as the deceptively comic nature of her writing thrilled me.
My initial fear that the gravity of Mantel’s novel would overshadow not only its competitor, but me as well, slowly dissipated as I read both books. Though I initially underestimated Heti’s comic novel, I felt as though I had crossed a threshold when one of her characters remarked, “You have to know where the funny is, and if you know where the funny is, you know everything.”
If I had to pick a turning point in my experience reading these two books, that was it. This wasn't just a funny, clever novel; it was a novel featuring women I felt as though I knew and questions I certainly have asked myself.
More than just “a novel from life,” Heti’s novel is a product of the kind of questions we ask ourselves in the company of our loneliness. 
It wasn't long before the distance between myself and Mantel’s characters began to seem an impassable expanse. Bring Up the Bodies is a force to be reckoned with, to be sure. But you can’t have a conversation with a force. You witness it, survive it, grapple with the awe of it.
Impressive as Mantel’s undertaking may be, I found it difficult to be moved by a plot that was ultimately a foregone conclusion. And, if we’re being frank, I’m not sure what I have to gain from yet another novel in which women are royal chess pieces. I was hoping to read a novel that I could engage with, mull over, and look in the eyes. How Should a Person Be?, it turns out, has beautiful eyes.'

I love an unexpected ending! I'm quite happy Bring Up The Bodies didn't win though it doesn't stand me in good stead on the Hungry Like The Woolf table, I've now dropped down to 8th place (unhappy face!) 

Friday, 22 March 2013

Tournament of Books 3rd Quarter Final

Tournament of Books 2013 3rd Quarter Final

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Judged by Kate Bolick who is a contributing editor for the Atlantic and a soon to be author. Her first book, Among the Suitors: On Being a Woman, Alone, is forthcoming from Crown/Random House, and her Atlantic cover story “All the Single Ladies” is in development with CBS as a TV sitcom.

I’m guessing no-one is going to be too surprised with the results of this round.
Though I’m intrigued to see what another judge says about Gone Girl, cos I yet have to agree with any of them!
I do love the fact that the judge did avoid Gone Girl like I did, purely because the whole world loved it and the plot sounded dull.

Here’s what she says about Beautiful Ruins.
It opens in 1962 in a sleepy Italian coastal village the size of an espresso cup, elegantly depicted in sentences as picturesque as the view, luring you with a hinted-at pathos that promises high literary experience. And then—flash forward—it’s modern times from the point of view of a grouchy assistant film producer whose 72-year-old boss, an industry legend, is so addicted to cosmetic surgery that his face looks “prematurely embalmed,” “glistening, vaguely lifelike.”
Scritch, scratch went my pen, making appreciative checkmarks.
And then it’s the 1960s again. And then you’re reading a World War II veteran’s (very good) unpublished manuscript. And so the story progresses with subtle feints and daring switchbacks, meanwhile unveiling a very convincing critique of Hollywood then and now, until all those seemingly unrelated characters…well, I won’t ruin it. Richard Burton playing himself is a highlight.’

Whereas she saw Gone Girl as being very obvious and blunt however…
‘And then—I wish I could pinpoint the moment this happened—the book hijacked my life! Oh the tension, oh the dread. My pulse quickens just remembering the merciless suspense! I read nonstop, guiltily avoiding other deadlines. My stomach felt queasy. I was reminded of the distinct sensation that is getting involved with a guy who tells you up front he’s not looking for anything serious and then confuses you by being really serious in such a way that you want the manipulation to last forever. As a friend, writer Amanda Fortini, recently tweeted, “Gone Girl should come with a warning label: ‘Abandon work and sleep all ye who enter here.’”
And yet: Just because a book makes your heart speed up and ultimately culminates in a totally shocking denouement doesn’t mean that it’s great.’

Damn it, another convert!


Still not doing too bad in the table on Hungry Like a Wolf

Tournament of Books 2nd Quarter Final

Tournament of Books 2013 2nd Round Quarter Final

Building Stories by Chris Ware
May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes
Judged by Caity Weaver who is a writer for Gawker and mental_floss. She lives in Brooklyn and reads on the train. 
Now we’re into the quarter finals we are seeing some very different books faced off against each other which makes judging them very hard, I can only imagine!
I do not envy Caity judging these two books, one is my favourite book this year and the other would be if I could ever get around to getting a copy! Purely cos it’s in a box!!  
Appearance-wise, I agree with the judge that you feel very clever reading May We Be Forgiven,  purely based on the cover!
As for Building Stories, she really loved the fact that you can throw a chapter or two in your bag as they are so small!
She felt that ‘the intriguing thing about Building Stories is that its plot isn’t—at least not on the surface.
The main character of the narrative (though there are many, including a bipolar bee and an old stone building) is an unremarkable young woman whose life we observe through Ware’s detailed (and often impractically sized) artifacts. We view all the rooms in her Chicago brownstone simultaneously, as we would a dollhouse. We view her from above, like a spider on her ceiling, and read her through the thoughts of other characters. We travel backwards into her past and ahead into her future. Her trajectory is not exceptional (marriage and baby), yet it is incredibly compelling. The drawings are intimate; the loneliness is poetic.’
As for ‘May We Be Forgiven, it’s the story of Harold Silver, a childless professor abruptly called upon to step into his younger brother’s shoes (figuratively as an ersatz father, literally when he sets up camp in his brother’s home and begins wearing his clothes, a detail that always struck me as odd) (personally I loved that part of his personality! But I’m not judging this quarter final!) after George Silver, a successful TV executive, is removed to various rehabs.
Caity felt that after all the excitement of the first half of the book, it was far too calm whereas I loved that part!
She thought ‘the characters and situations of Building Stories felt much more realistic, cartoon renderings though they were. Its lines provided a much smoother read—at least in a literary sense.’
While both novels had their shortcomings, the winner, then, is unquestionably Building Stories, for its ability to convey more humor, tragedy, and emotion in a comic about a bee getting trapped in a soda can than an entire novel was able to with storylines about murder, money, and suburban swingers nights.
I completely disagree though I have never read Building Stories so I should really shut up!

New House!!

Not sure who to blame for the new house we've just bought!

I'm thinking it's Tournament of Books' fault, or A M Holmes at the very least!

I was so desperate to read her book thanks to the review on Book Riot and Tournament of Books that when the library called on Friday morning to say the mobile library has a copy in, I got on my bike, faced huge hills and an hour bike ride to reach the bus in a place I've never been to before. I couldn't bear to wait until the following Thursday when the bus was back at my house.

I picked up the wonderful, wonderful book and headed home but thought I would explore a little, cos I'm a glutton for punishment and my legs weren't already killing me! 
Next door to the library bus was a set of new houses, 4 for still for sale, so I mentioned it to my husband as we like to at least look at houses but generally, they are too small for us.

Well, we saw it on the Saturday, again on the Sunday and put an offer in on Monday morning.

So thanks A M Holmes for writing such a fabulous book that I had to go to such lengths to get it and thanks to Tournament of Books for letting me discover it.

Now I have a new house!

Book Review for Fantasy Book Club

City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

So I chose this book for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Bookclub with no idea what it was about, a risk I know! 
It wasn't what I expected but I enjoyed it. 
It took me a little while to warm up to the main character, Nisha, as I felt she was a little young for 16 years but then halfway through the book she seemed to grow up a lot.
It only took me 2 days to read it and I wasn't reading it exclusively, (I have 2 other books on the go at the same time) so it's an easy book to read once it gets going and not too complicated. 
I really liked the idea of The City of a Thousand Dolls, I thought that was really interesting. 
The story itself tied up far too easily at the end for my liking, all the explanations on the space of a few pages.
However, the book did introduce all the characters and the world well and I'm looking forward to reading more set in the Bhinian Empire. I'm hoping to find out more about Nisha's parents.
How many others saw the sune twist coming far earlier than we probably should have done?

BTW, kudos to the publishers, the book, without the paper-cover, looks fantastic on my bookshelf! And I loved the prints around the edges of certain pages throughout the books.

(terrible pic I know! something wrong with my ipod, I think!)

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Book 3 of 25 - The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts

The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts

Everyone needs some cheese in their life and Nora Roberts is mine. Her books are so comfortable, you know what to expect, you know you are going to love the characters and the storylines, and I especially love it when there’s a bit of magic and mystery in there somewhere.
The Perfect Hope is the last book in a trilogy based around the author’s own inn, (of course the Inn is on my places to visit list next time I’m in the US!). There are 3 brothers (all sexy of course!) and 3 women (all pretty), eventually they all end up together, one book at a time. What I love about her characters, is that they are like us, the men swear, drink beer, fight with their brothers, the women, like shoes, wine and sexy men. They are relatable but there’s just enough gloss to make the book feel like a fairy tale. I love the way I get so caught up in the characters, which sometimes I forget I’m not them for a second if I get distracted whist reading!
I liken the feeling I get reading her books to the same feeling I get when sitting down to a bowl of my favourite cream of tomato soup in my pyjamas after a long day out in the cold! Warm, cosy and yummy!

2013 Tournament of Books 8th Opening Round and the 1st Quarter Final Round

Tournament of Books 8th and last Opening Round

This is the  last opening round of Tournament of Books 2013 and will be judged by D.T. Max who is the author of ‘The Family That Couldn’t Sleep’ and ‘Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace’.

Arcadia starts off in the late 60’s in a commune somewhere in Western part of New York State and finishes in 2018 all told through the eyes of a boy called Bit.

How Should a Person Be? is fictional but also partly autobiographical. The main character, Sheila, is a twenty-something playwright who finds herself unsure of how to live and create. When Margaux, a talented painter and free spirit, and Israel, a sexy and depraved artist, enter her life, Sheila hopes that through close--sometimes too close--observation of her new friend, her new lover, and herself, she might regain her footing in art and life.

D. T. felt that ‘in most senses of the word, Lauren Groff’s Arcadia is a better novel than Sheila Heti’s’ with some ‘nice moments, nicely captured, such as ““Gingery Eden, her pregnant belly enormous, cracks a bottle of pop over the hood of the Blue Bus and rubs her back when she stands. The dazzle of her white teeth under her copper hair makes Bit want to dance.”
However, Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? was so much more enjoyable for D.T. He felt there was more truth in the way it was written and it was funny, something he feels is underrated in fiction.

So for D.T. the winner had to be How Should a Person Be?

The next round is the quarter final round and will be judged as such;

March 19   The Fault in Our Stars v. The Orphan Master’s Son judged by Stefan Beck
March 20   Building Stories v. May We Be Forgiven judged by Caity Weaver
March 21   Gone Girl v. Beautiful Ruins judged by Kate Bolick
March 22   How A Person Should Be? v. Bring Up The Bodies judged by Saeed Jones

Judged by Stefan Beck, who has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Sun, the Weekly Standard, the New Criterion, the Barnes & Noble Review and other publications.

For me personally, I think it’s a no brainier on who wins this round but let’s see what Stefan thinks.

To start with he felt they were two of the most entertaining books he’s read in ages. His idea of the target audience for each books made me laugh ‘Fault is YA lit designed to make brainy teens cry themselves to sleep, while Orphan is brainy spy lit designed to make middle-aged Stratford subscribers drink themselves to death.’ Though, he did agree that their appeal is far wider than that.
By now we all know what The Fault in our Stars is about two kids with cancer and The Orphan Master’s Son is about surviving in North Korea.

He felt the two main characters in The Fault in our Stars, ‘Hazel and Augustus, with their sarcasm (Augustus calls losing a leg “an excellent weight-loss strategy”), tough-minded philosophizing, and occasional vulnerability, are terrific and Green’s genius is to make Hazel sound superficially like a teenager (her cancer-ruined lungs, e.g., “suck at being lungs”) but mostly like an individual, with personality and interiority, fear and love, and vast reserves of wonder and gratitude.’

For Stefan ‘Adam Johnson’s plot of Orphan is too byzantine to describe in even twice the space I have here, but that’s just as well. The less you know going in, the more thrilling the ride—and, in any case, the plot is but a small The author has not only interviewed defectors but visited North Korea himself hence how ‘he captured the ugly spirit of a place ruled by secrecy, mythomania, and brutality.’ One thing Stefan particularly loved was the ‘North Korean nightmare for comedy, albeit of the coal-black variety, and makes the DPRK look ridiculous as well as evil. Whether it’s the Greek chorus supplied by propaganda loudspeakers, the disastrous diplomatic mission to a Texas ranch, or the Dear Leader’s dialogue, Orphan earns more laughs than most books actually trying to be funny.’

The Orphan Master’s Son, as I expected won this round and goes through to the Zombie round.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Tournament of Books - 7th Opening Round

Round 7th’s judge was Jack Hitt who writes for the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, and Rolling Stone.

Both books are works of historical fiction based on true events.

HHhH is set in World War Two and is all about two Czechoslovakian parachutists who were sent on mission by London to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Nazi secret services. His boss is Heinrich Himmler; everyone in the SS says 'Himmler's brain is called Heydrich', which in German spells "HHhH".

Bring Up The Bodies is Hilary Mantel’s second Man Booker Prize winning historical novel about Thomas Cromwell. In this book, he watches as Henry VIII falls in love with Jane Seymour whilst still married to Anne Boleyn.

Neither books hold any interest for me but they have been hugely popular over the last year so ignoring my negative point of view, let’s see what Jack had to say on them and who went through from this round.

Starting with HHhH, the book is written as fiction but has a lots of facts throughout the book that are narrated but it’s unknown if the narrator is supposed to be the author or not.  I’ll quote him here ‘The tone of the narrator’s offstage whispers comes off, eventually, as stiffly posed, and can range from querulous to snarking to twee. They are like those imitators of David Foster Wallace who riddle their story with sardonic footnotes, full of winking ironies; after a while, it just seems like a whole lot of winking. Sometimes the narrator can sound like a sophomore in a lit class: “Sometimes I feel like a character in a Borges story.”
Even the weedy issues of how to tell the story persistently emerge amid its shards. At one point, the narrator reads a novel related to his story and marvels at a blunt transition sentence that reads, “1920 had just begun.” The narrator adds, “I think that’s brilliant.” A few pages later, a riff on Heydrich’s early life ends, “It is November 9, 1918.”
But in the guts of this story is a breathtaking thriller and we never get to be simply seized by the details of it.
It’s as close to a true heroic epic as there ever could be, and yet the snarky rhetorical apostrophes about history are, finally, frustrating, because some part of any reader yearns to be seduced by story.’

As for Bring up The Bodies, he was lured in from the beginning by the story itself to the way she can shape a sentence such as this one ‘He is not a man wedded to action, Boleyn, but rather a man who stands by, smirking and stroking his beard; he thinks he looks enigmatic, but instead he looks as if he's pleasuring himself’,
He felt he wasn’t distracted by worrying about the facts of the story and was seduced by the way Hilary Mantel writes.

So, not surprisingly, Bring Up The Bodies won this round.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Sunday Book Reviews

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of A Window And Disappeared 
by Jonas Jonasson

Weird, yes, that's probably the best description for this book.
Funny too, and I am now completely confused about world historical events.
It certainly wasn't boring in respect that there was always something going on.
However, I'm still not sure if I loved it or not. I'm a bit ambivalent about it really.
It was average on the writing front and whilst the story itself was fun, it was a bit like a fairy tale in a way, which isn't a always a bad thing but for some reason the fact that Allan seemed to have lived this blessed life really started to grate on me after a while.
I would recommend it if you like light, funny books and it's the perfect book for travelling.

  May We Be Forgiven by A M Holmes

I had to read this book after reading the reviews, so I picked a copy up from my library and sat down on a Saturday afternoon with it. 
I was engrossed from the start and unless I'd read it previously in the reviews, I would never have noticed there were no chapters, in fact I would have stayed up all night reading if my eyes hadn't starting blurring over.
I love Harry and I felt sorry for him too. It really annoyed that the writer kept making all these bad things happen to him. It did start to irritate me a little by the middle of the book but nowhere near enough to stop reading.
There were some great little moments in the book that had me giggling out loud, much to my husband's annoyance, he just didn't get it and got sick of me quoting my favourite lines to him after a while.
I wanted to slap Claire's lawyer, kill George and I wished Nixon never existed as I got thoroughly sick of hearing about him. Politics can be so boring!
I thoroughly enjoyed joining Harry on his journey and only wish the book was longer as I didn't want it to end.
Please, please read this book-it's brilliant!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Friday Stories

 Every Friday I'm going to post short stories, poems and, possibly, some extracts from my novel attempt. I warn you, I am not brilliant at this so if you have a weak stomach for crappy writing, move on now!

Also, I am rubbish at grammar and quite frankly don't care either! I write as I think regardless of the sense it makes. 
And I love exclamation marks.

blackness dropping on you with a roar 
as if you have no right to be here
to be alive
suffocating blackness
cloying foulness
enveloping all things
darkness bellowing out
ripping at your senses
all you can taste, see feel, smell and hear is dust
leaving you alone, blinding you
choking you
blistering your skin,
all you can hear is the dust,
all you can smell is the dust filling your nose
all alone, but surrounded by others
somewhere, maybe,
a touch, a hand,
takes yours, takes you away
darkness lightens
the thundering whimpers away
for now


(Also known as The Great Dust Storm)

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Tournament of Books 6th Opening Round

Well, yesterday's discussion went off on The Morning News with even 'Ivyland' author Miles Klee getting in on the discussion!

Tony Horwitz, the judge today is an author and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and he will be weighing up between 'The Song of Achilles' by Madeline Miller and 'Beautiful Ruins' by Jess Walter.

'The Song of Achilles' author has taken the story of Troy and Patroclus and spun her own take on their relationship and their involvement in the battle of Troy.
'Beautiful Ruinsbegins in 1962 on the Italian coast and moves onto Hollywood. An Italian man falls in love with a movie star as she arrives in the Italian town and goes to find her 50 years later.

Both, in some small part are historical romances.

Tony, straight away, couldn't buy into the romance of Achilles and Patroclus but he did feel that she wrote her battles with much more conviction than her love scenes. The battle of Troy was when he really started to enjoy the book. He struggled through the first half and raced through the second half.

He was, however, captivated by 'Beautiful Ruins' from the start. To quote Tony; 'Walter is masterful at interlacing storylines, and he draws characters so indelibly that I was engrossed by all of them'
There was a character introduced at one point that seemed to cause the book to' lose steam midway through' though.
The book was a little too sweet and had a Hollywood ending compared to the 'tragic roots' of 'The Song of Achilles'.

In the end, he says this; 'So this round goes to Beautiful Ruins, one of the best-crafted and most pleasurable novels I’ve read over the past year.'