I’ve never needed any encouragement to read books! When very young I recall looking at the pictures, longing to read the words beneath. Of course there were lots of children’s books, my favourite comic, all read to me. One set of four books though fascinated me, weighty tomes, even more so for four-year-old me, as I lugged the encyclopaedia, one at a time, from the shelf, to my bunk bed, and sat intensely perusing the images, running my fingers under the words, imagining their wisdom. Occasionally I would ask my older brother to decipher some of the script … although I made sure never to avail myself of his help too often. I did not want to tire him with my neediness!
Over the years I’ve kept numerous notebooks of the books I’ve read, made various lists, created my own small reading challenges. However, it was only though blogging that I discovered the plethora of reading challenges out there! All are wonderfully inventive and so tempting. However, I’ve only taken up a main one so far, the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Here you set your own target for the number of books you hope to read in that one year and duly note each one down when finished and possibly add a review. This challenge not only encourages more reading, but is accessible to other members to look at and it is also an excellent record of books read! My biggest haul one year was 91, the least 52. Still, I met my targets and it is interesting to see how the reading fluctuates. Some bloggers are a tour de force in this challenge and Jacqui Murray at worddreams… managed to read a phenomenal 222 books last year! Congratulations!
Some other challenges are centred around genre, or a famous book, or even the alphabet.
The ‘When Are You Reading?’ challenge intrigued me straight away by the concept of reading a book set in twelve different eras. Not too ambitious, effectively a book a month, this is one I think I can manage. It’s not too difficult to discover a book for the later timelines and as you will see I am already well on the way to completing four time periods. However, what can I read for the pre-1300s 1400-1599, etc? The mind boggles. I may have to turn to Chaucer for one. Do you have any book recommendations to help me out for any of the eras?
To take part you need to read a book set in each of the following eras, and it is up to you to determine which these are. The suggestion is to choose a year where the largest part of the action or the most important event occurs.
Below are the time eras and I have filled in some with the books I have read/nearly finished for four of the timelines.
1300 – 1499
1500 – 1699
1700 – 1799
1800 – 1899
1900 – 1919
1920 – 1939 The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell… still reading – an Ebook – NetGalley
1940 – 1959 Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk … still reading Ebook
1960 – 1979
1980 – 1999 Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (read January 2019) Paperback
2000 – Present This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay (read January 2019) Paperback
I must admit I rarely tackle four books simultaneously, however the books themselves are so diverse, and owing to the style and content ensured I needed a change of pace and variety.
The dark gothic mystery of ‘A Devil Aspect ‘ by Craig Russell is not my usual genre but asked by the publisher to review this on behalf of NetGalley I could not refuse. Set mainly in the 1930s in Czechoslovakia it is an intense, at times terrifying book. One far too frightening to read at night! Yet the ideas, the merging of the current political instability with the madness of the six homicidal lunatics is intoxicating. These criminals are incarcerated in the bleakest of prisons and a young psychiatrist travels to see them and unravel their secrets. Meanwhile, in Prague a new serial murderer is at large, his crimes so barbaric it seems they could only be committed by the Devil himself. The city of Prague is incredibly atmospheric and captured in all its layers of beauty and darkness whilst the characters are vivd and intense.
Many thanks to Barbara at Book Cub Mom for introducing me to ‘Youngblood Hawke’ by Herman Wouk; when it made her most favourite book ever I just had to read it. Do take a look at her review here.
It is a worthy literary opus and runs to nearly 800 pages in paperback. I’m finding it utterly compelling, wonderfully descriptive and the book reaches into the mind and emotions of the young writer, his early success, the crazy ensuing life, battle to control his sense of self. It recreates the era brilliantly but I need an occasional rest from it and hence my more modern books of the past two weeks.
One of these is ‘This is Going to Hurt’ by Adam Kay This a factual book about the ‘life of a junior doctor: 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you.’ I read this book in 24 hours and haven’t stopped talking about it since and there is now a queue in our house to read it next. Although at times hysterically funny the book is ultimately a serious indictment of the numerous governments and their (mis-)handling of the NHS over the years. I feel deep despair at the lack of respect and treatment of the medical staff from the highest level. Whilst laughing at the insanely comic situations (some in graphic detail) I am not sure anyone considering starting a family should read the book – it would have terrified me. Not for the faint-hearted but a very well-written book portraying the harsh reality for NHS hospital doctors.
“Tuesday, 5 July 2005 Trying to work out a seventy-year-old lady’s alcohol consumption to record in the notes. I’ve established that wine is her poison. Me: ‘And how much wine do you drink per day, would you say?’ Patient: ‘About three bottles on a good day.’ Me: ‘OK . . . And on a bad day?’ Patient: ‘On a bad day I only manage one.” ― Adam Kay, ‘This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor’
What books are you currently reading? Are you participating in any Reading Challenges? Would you be tempted to take part in ‘When Are You Reading’ challenge? If so, please click here to learn more and sign up!
It only takes one event to change a life. What is that action, decision, occurrence? Whose life is affected? Changed forever?
In this eclectic mix of 21 short stories, flash fiction and poetry the pendulum swings between first love and murder, from soul-destroying grief to reconciliation. The tales veer from the sweet satisfaction of revenge to new beginnings, from heart-breaking miscarriages of justice to heart-warming Christmas misadventure.
One common thread binds them all; the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life; they’re all extraordinary.
Open your hearts and minds as The Storyteller Speaks.
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To purchaseThe Storyteller Speaks
The Storyteller Speaksis availabe as ebook or paperback on the following Amazon links.
‘The Storyteller Speaks’ by Annika Perry brilliantly illustrates how short stories can capture your heart, transport you to the scene of action and submerge you in the emotional journey of the characters. Her stories are a little above your expectations…a lot has to be discerned, which she leaves unsaid and therein lies their magic. Only few can create it.
The symbolism of Chillies in my Handbag is chilling, the agony that the words hide slowly spills out as Perry writes in the style of dual timeline, lending a touch of realism to the story, keeping a firm grip on the reader’s attention, actually hinting at profound matters of domestic strife. Carl’s loss too unravels itself gently as you keep wondering where is he heading in snow and who is constantly whispering “keep safe” in his ear. It is the style and the exquisite language that raises this book above an average storybook.
My heart missed a beat when Jake and Ellie got lost in the shroud of mist and snow and it sank with each shout for them. Such is the effect of Annika’s style of writing! It is difficult to pick up a favorite one from this collection of stories because all of them strike some chord somewhere as they are based on varied themes, each one connects us with the complexities of life, giving a subtle message that we are mere puppets or mute spectators in many situations that we wish to control.
by Balroop Singh
Perry’s debut book is a beautiful read. The twenty-one selections in The Storyteller Speaks are primarily short stories, with a smattering of flash fiction and poems. The author states in the afterword that the thread binding the work together is “the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life,” and this insight is clearly borne out in her book. It’s what captivated me as I read.
The stories are all quite different, some dark and some lighthearted, though most are filled with the deep emotions of ordinary people as they navigate disappointment, loss, redemption, healing, and love. These are feelings that will strike a chord with most people, even if the circumstances aren’t quite the same. Most of the tales felt “quiet” to me, personal, as if I was looking beneath the outer appearances of a person into the rich pathos of their inner lives.
I tried to pick favorites as I read, but had to give up; there were too many. I recommend this book to anyone who loves short stories and wants to feel moved by the strength and courage of the human spirit.
by Diana P.
Writers may exaggerate the negative and write dystopian fiction. They may exaggerate the positive and write utopian fiction. In this fascinating collection of short stories, the positive being brought into greater relief is our ability to choose integrity and kindness rather than degenerative and uncaring mindsets and actions. Each story is a core sample of a human moral issue, a history of resiliency and loss, exposed to the light.
In most of the stories the characters are challenged by a tragic or potentially damaging event outside their control; in a moment, their lives are changed drastically, forever. Some of the characters have caused their own dilemma. They go on in a fog or struggle with painful memories and swings of emotion before they reach the tipping point: how will they respond? And it is to their credit they reach this tipping point, because it is done through conscious moral effort. But whether tragedy has come to them or they have made their own mistakes, they eventually recognize the situation through a severe exercise in honesty. This honesty springs from valuing the best sense of who they can be and become. They often draw on enriching relationships with other people and humanizing traditions. Then they go beyond: they make amends. By taking this action, they rise to a new level of moral and ethical consciousness. This is portrayed in clear-eyed fashion, showing how difficult it is to do, and yet liberating.
It is more than interesting for stories like these to be told; it may be necessary for our adaptability and survival, for our thriving as a species. The same could be said for the negative. In fact, these stories blend both in a new and perceptive way.
The flaws in her writing and story composition are small quibbles. For instance, just when I thought the stories would all be similar samples, there was a radical change. It is my hope Annika Perry will continue to hone her craft as a writer. She may yet give us an iconic work.
by Mary Clark
The Storyteller Speaks is a collection of short stories, and a couple of poems too, about life, love and death. This is the debut book of Annika Perry and she has certainly managed to write a lovely selection of very different stories.
Chillies in my handbag is a story of a woman’s gradual disillusionment with love, her married life and even her child. The Mother’s inability to protect her only son from entering the traditional boarding school attended by her husband and his father before him, sets him on the road to becoming everything she has come to dislike in her husband. The son’s gradual reshaping of himself, a round peg, to fit into the traditional square hole is interesting. Will the Mother finally rebel against the dictates of her husband and if she does where will it all end?
The man on the flying trapeze is a rather interesting poem about a trapeze artist who finds himself in an accident situation. The format of the poem was rather unique with each stanza reading almost like a limerick. I did enjoy this very much.
Smouldering Shame was another tale than fascinated me with its very likelihood in the set of circumstances. A tale of a woman whose life suddenly comes unraveled because of the secret activities of her husband. He is a man who cannot see the blessings in his life and, as many older men do, seeks more excitement in his retirement than is on offer in his home with rather disastrous consequences.
A couple of the stories could definitely have continuations. I think the author may have quite a bit more to tell us about these characters. I really enjoyed this book. I think Annika Perry has a lot of potential as a writer.
by Robbie Cheadle
My heart and mind were opened as the author promised in her “About the Book” section at the end of this marvelous collection of short stories. I’m generally not a reader of short stories, because I like the longer process of getting to know a character for an entire novel. But Perry gives full stories in a short story format that touch the reader while allowing the reader to imagine the before and after of the characters’ lives. The stories aren’t all happiness and light, some are edgier and sad. But they all give out a light through the expressive language used by the author. Also, each narrator is different in these stories, and the point of view can be first person or third; Perry switches it up. I took my time reading this collection, because each story is unique, and I liked spending some time with each one after I’d finished reading it. Well done, Annika Perry!
by P. Wight
The sub-title of this book is no overstatement. “Powerful Stories to Win Your Heart” is entirely apposite. I found the majority of the short stories fascinating and moving.
Annika writes succinctly, engaging the reader from the outset. She’s quick to paint a scene and I immediately felt I was “right there” with the characters. Scenes include a kitchen, a bedroom, a classroom, the inside of a car, even a prison cell. And she soon pulled me into each story with a turn of phrase that quite often injected a bit of suspense into the plot.
Topics cover the whole gamut of human experiences. Gambling debt. Redundancy. A fatal accident. A loveless marriage. A petty argument with long-lasting consequences. Injustice. Theft. Suicide. And much more. Likewise, be prepared to experience a range of emotions. Regret, joy, fear, horror, relief, shock, happiness …
I’ve been a fan of Annika’s blog voice for many years and particularly her ability to say so much with so few words in the short stories she often shares. Annika has a way of saying just enough to engage readers without giving too much away. She dribbles out clues. I hang on every word, wondering how it will unfold. I want to know–but not too fast because I’m enjoying the verbal journey. I need to saver every paragraph, every parsed thought, every surprise conclusion.
In Storyteller Speaks, Annika provides an eclectic mix of short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. All of these are character-driven explorations into the raw feelings so often part of everyday events and yet, through Annika, I see them in a different light.
by Jacqui Murray (Vine Voice)
The stories and poems in Annika Perry’s debut book are indeed compelling. Each one evokes various emotions from everyday life. I’ve followed Annika’s blog for awhile now, so I wasn’t surprised at how wonderful the final outcome turned out to be. The cover alone is stunning! She has her magical way of playing with words to pull the reader in, but keep one hanging on until the end. However, not all of her writing in this book is lighthearted; some is pretty dark. There were times when I smiled, moments when I was horrified, and occasions for tears. The beauty is that with each turn of the page to a new story or poem, the reader is pleasantly surprised. With this being said, it was difficult to choose favorites, but I managed to pull out a few: Chillies in My Handbag, Bouquet of White, A Rare Passion, Stars of Wonder, and Loss of a Patriarch, which personally resonated with me because of my father’s passing last fall. Another bonus to this creative compilation was the About the Stories section at the back of the book. I really enjoyed reading how each story was born. Overall, anyone who chooses to read this wonderful collection of short stories and poems will not be disappointed. This was a wonderful start to Annika Perry’s writing journey, and I’m sure I’m not alone in anticipating new publications from this amazing author.
by Lauren Scott
This is a brilliant collection of stories and poems. Each one offers a poignant message, sometimes uplifting, sometimes heartbreaking. What is consistent throughout is the command of the language, the eloquent turn of phrase, and the obvious passion behind each tale. There truly is something for everyone in this collection. I was particularly drawn to two stories: the last one, as it reminded me of my own grandfather, and the handbag story, which broke my heart (no mother should have to live through that). The author information at the end of the book was a lovely addition to the piece. I’m looking forward to more from this author.
A really well composed collection. Varied too, with no common theme – a bit like a box of chocolates. Several beautifully-written scenes based on the author’s own life – ‘The Whiteout Years’ and Loss of a Patriarch’ are examples. A heart-breaking story about miscarriage of justice – ‘The Green Cage’. An oddity based on an unsolved crime – ‘A Rare Passion’. The author writes with skill and emotion, not afraid to experiment with her writing by throwing in the odd limerick-type poem (‘The Flying Trapeze’) to tell a story.
I enjoyed this collection from beginning to end.
by Roy McC
This abundant collection of stories is well-written and an affecting read. The stories of everyday life go straight to the heart; some nostalgic, some reflective, some uplifting, and some heartwarming. I enjoyed reading this book, and the notes at the end about what inspired some of the stories.
by Khaya R
Annika Perry is a natural storyteller, a wordsmith of great talent. She writes at times with the language of a poet, at other times with the sharp and daring strokes of Picasso.
Sheer light infuse her pages;
Darkness where the soul cries.
Annika’s Anthology consists of stories filled with depth and entertainment. Joy and grief. Romance and thriller. They all share a deep care and love for their characters. The pace is unhurried, yet entirely without superfluous words. You are left totally absorbed in the events and settings.
How does she do it?
All I can say is … Annika, keep on writing.
I am hungry for more.
A wonderful book filled with meaningful stories. It would make a great gift.
by bernadette laganella
The appeal of short fiction is that it offers a glimpse of a character’s life, a problem, a twist and a quick finish. Annika Perry’s debut collection, The Storyteller Speaks, makes good on this promise in her newly published book of fiction and poetry.
Perry gives the reader twenty-one distinct stories about the daily challenges of marriage, children, friendship, family and loss. Her characters are knowable and likable, even the ones who find themselves on the bad end of a decision. Many of her stories depict the author’s upbringing in Sweden and the United Kingdom, yet show a universal understanding of family and relationships. And even though the stories are separate, the reader begins to develop a sense of community, as it seems as if some of the author’s characters might know each other.
Several standout stories will stick in the reader’s mind because of memorable characters and conflicts. In “The Whiteout Years,” a young widower wonders how he can let go of the heavy burden of guilt. Likewise, a young mother faces a very different future in “Sophia!” after a bizarre and tragic series of events. In one, there is a sign of hope. In the other, an unknown challenge.
Other stories finish with a warm feeling of love and friendship. In “Friends Forever,” Perry’s characters overcome a long and painful break and in “Role-Playing,” happiness is a given when old friends reunite.
But Perry isn’t afraid of exploring difficult or dark subjects. In “The Game,” children playing a seemingly harmless game discover the frightening power of their diversion. And in “Smouldering Shame,” Perry’s characters confront betrayal and a sorrowful tragedy. In “A Rare Passion,” a young man acts on impulse and immediately sees the folly of his decision. Can he fix his mistake in time?
Despite difficult subjects in many stories, Perry offers a strong overlying message of hope, love and family, as shown in her final story, “Loss of a Patriarch” in which a family finds peace and comfort after a beloved father and grandfather dies.
The Storyteller Speaks is a touching look at the challenges of life and relationships, an excellent debut. I look forward to reading more from this promising author.
by Book Club Mom
Having been a follower of Perry’s blog for a number of years, I was thrilled when she announced she was releasing a collection of her short stories. I knew anything she published would not disappoint. The Storyteller Speaks is a mix of poetry, flash fiction and short stories. Each piece is brilliantly written in a way that only Perry can do. She’s a beautiful writer who knows how to draw the reader into a story. I’ll look forward to more work in the future from this talented author.
by Jill Weahterholt
I think this book is a good read. Annika Perry is a perceptive observer of the human condition, and has a gift of harnessing the humdrum minutiae of everyday existence and bringing it to life in short, concise, well told stories. She also includes the occasional entertaining poem and limerick to further demonstrate her talents and add to the variety. As a bonus, Ms Perry includes notes at the end of the anthology, explaining her motivation for writing the stories, many of which, directly or indirectly, are borne out of her own experiences.
by Mark Charlton
Wonderful really wonderful. Beautiful stories that are moments of pure escapism. The characters make you want to know more and the simple but beautifully written stories are both moving and engaging. Thank you.
by Hayley Smith
Perry’s 21 stories are reflections on grief, love, murder and the extraordinary details of ordinary life. Her descriptions shine. Perry’s voice is one that sticks with you long after the stories have been read. They are emotional pieces. Moving. Honest. Filled with love and imagination.
Enjoyable and thought-provoking.
By Carol Balawyder
I am a big fan of Annika’s blog and “The Storyteller Speaks” does not disappoint. It is a well written and eclectic mix of stories from different genres that will indeed “win your heart.”
“The Whiteout Years” is poignant and beautifully written and “The Game” is both short and spooky. I particularly enjoyed “Kew a Rare Passion” based on a true story, and “Loss of a Patriach,” on the loss of Annika’s dear grandfather known as Morfar.
I believe both Morfar and Mormor will be incredibly proud of their grand daughter.
by Brigid P. Gallagher
The Storyteller Speaks is an electric collection of 21 short stories, flash fiction and poetry that makes for an entertaining read. These stories cover a wide range of situations such as love, murder, revenge, misadventures, injustices and grief.
The author bares her soul and grief over the loss of her Morfar and Mormor in the story, “Loss of a Patriarch.” She keeps the readers on edge and guessing until the end of some of the stories as in “Sofia.” She has an innate ability to use her words sparingly and dribble out little clues to keep the reader hanging on her every word until the end of the stories.
At the back of the book the author shares her inspiration for each story. It’s evident that she uses daily experiences in her life to create intriguing and fascinating tales.
This is a commendable beginning book for this talented author who will be one to watch for future books.
This is a wonderful collection of short stories. The author does such an excellent job of bringing her characters to life, it’s like pulling back a veil and stepping into their worlds. The flow of the writing is beautiful, the descriptions especially vivid. I rode emotional highs and lows along with the characters, swept up in their tales. Some are simple, some complex, all engaging. There are many gems in this collection, but I believe the first and the last are my personal favorites. The back matter in the book–which explains how many of the stories came to be–made the tales all the richer. I look forward to more work from this talented new writer!
by Mae Clair
A compelling collection of short fiction. Each story engages right from the start, and keeps delivering surprises as the character is developed and the action unfolds. Every piece is powerful in its own way. My favourite is Chillies in my Handbag, and I don’t want to give the plot away, but enough to say this: it’s a perfect illustration of Annika Perry’s talent and skill in capturing the deepest moments of the heart. From hope and loss to a joyful decision. From ambition and small joys to quiet desperation, then a calm and certain decision to change one’s life. Highly recommended.
by Cynthia Reyes
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Annika Perry has also written a novel, Island Girl which is in its final editing stages as well as two, as yet unpublished, books for younger children.
Don’t worry, these books aren’t being mistreated – as always my garden provided the perfect backdrop to the photos.
For one reason or another I read mostly on Kindle these days, so it’s a perfect excuse to share my recent unusual paperback and hardback purchases. A spending splurge in the past weeks has seen me with a pile of seven pristine books. Don’t they all look so tempting!?
Although I must admit, I’ve delved into a couple, most are unread and I thought I’d write a bit about the reason for the purchase as well as including the blurb from each. Enjoy!
Three acquisitions followed encounters with the authors and it was an honour and delight to meet them all. Furthermore, who doesn’t love autographed books with a personal slant!
Elisabeth’s Lists by Lulah Ellender Still to Read
It was a pleasure to chat briefly to Lulah after her talk along with her agent and publisher during the Essex Book Festival. There is an increasing trend for fictional biographies and this book slots neatly into that genre. Reading about Elisabeth’s Lists I just had to listen to Lulah’s talk about her journey to publication. A journey that became increasingly fraught and heartfelt as she faced the loss of her mother.
On the face of it, Elisabeth’s lists seemed rather ordinary – shopping lists, items to be packed for a foreign trip, a tally of the eggs laid by her hens. But from these everyday fragments, Lulah began to weave together the extraordinary life of the grandmother she never knew – a life lived in the most rarefied and glamorous of circles, from Elisabeth’s early years as an ambassador’s daughter in 1930s China, to her marriage to a British diplomat and postings in Madrid under Franco’s regime, post-war Beirut, Rio de Janeiro and Paris. But it was also a life of stark contrasts – between the opulent excess of embassy banquets and the deprivations of wartime rationing in England, between the unfailing charm she displayed in public and the dark depressions that blanketed her in private, between her great appetite for life and her sudden, early death.
Disposal by David Evans Still to Read
My writing group was lucky to have David Evans come and chat to us about his writing and to listen to our work. Following an interesting and productive morning, I bought one of his books but was warned NOT to read on a plane if I was a nervous flyer! (I am!)
August 1976 and it seems as though the long hot summer will never end. Early morning at Clacton on the north Essex coast, a light aircraft takes off from the airstrip but struggles for height and crashes into the sea. First on the scene, Sgt Cyril Claydon pulls the pilot’s body from the wreckage. But something else catches his eye. A bulky package wrapped in black plastic is on the passenger seat. Returning to investigate, he makes a grim discovery – another body. And so begins a series of events that puts him and others in danger as he is drawn into the investigation, having to work alongside DI ‘Dick’ Barton, a man with totally alien attitudes. Can they work together?
Sleeping Through War Jackie Carreira Still to Read
Being advised by a fellow writer in the UK to do a book signing event in a bookshop I decided to visit one first. Having read about Jackie’s Carriera’s book I couldn’t wait to meet the author. We had a lovely long chat, discussing at length the events in 1968, glancing through a folder of newspaper front pages from the year (great tip!) and discussing her thoughts behind the book. A chap from Holland joined our conversation and I feel this was a meeting that could have lasted for hours.
Set against the backdrop of real, world-changing events, these are the stories that are forgotten in the history books.
The year is 1968 and the world is changing forever. During the month of May, students are rioting and workers are striking across the globe, civil rights are being fought and died for, nuclear bombs are being tested, there are major conflicts on every continent, and war is raging in Vietnam. Against this volatile background, three women strive to keep everything together.
Rose must keep her dignity and compassion as a West Indian nurse in East London. Amalia must keep hoping that her son can escape their seedy life in Lisbon. And Mrs Johnson in Washington DC must keep writing to her son in Vietnam. She has no-one else to talk to. Three different women, three different countries, but all striving to survive – a courageous attitude that everybody can relate to.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman Read
I’d seen but steered clear of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine for months. The title and hype alone made me unsure and I was not enamoured by the blurb. Then I read yet one more glowing review and I succumbed! During the first couple of chapters I nearly gave up but I’m glad I persevered as I’d have missed out on a terrific novel.
Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live.
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway Read
I was intrigued by this book after reading a review by Robbie (which can be seen here). The very same day I found myself in a book shop. I wholeheartedly concur with Robbie’s passionate review and must agree that ‘The Old Man and the Sea is one of the most amazing books I have ever read.’ I can’t wait to reread it soon!
The last novel Ernest Hemingway saw published, The Old Man and the Sea has proved itself to be one of the enduring works of American fiction. It is the story of an old Cuban fisherman and his supreme ordeal: a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Using the simple, powerful language of a fable, Hemingway takes the timeless themes of courage in the face of defeat and personal triumph won from loss and transforms them into a magnificent twentieth-century classic.
The Scandal by Fredrik Backman Read
Wow! Double and triple Wow! This is a masterpiece. I have just finished the book and am blown away by the writing, the concept, the story, the characters. It is a literary tour de force and a huge step up from his other books. I was hooked, in awe, shocked, moved. A brilliant study of human psyche.
My only bugbear is how the title has been changed! Sold in America as Beartown (which is the direct translation from the original Swedish), it is currently being marketed in the UK as The Scandal. The change seems totally unnecessary!
As an aside, the other day I noticed NetGalley were offering pre-release copies of his latest book out in June entitled Us Against You, also set in Beartown. Not having much hope, I applied to read and review it – imagine my yelp of joy when I was notified I’d been accepted. This is now my next read!
In a large Swedish forest Beartown hides a dark secret . . .
Cut-off from everywhere else it experiences the kind of isolation that tears people apart.
And each year more and more of the town is swallowed by the forest.
Then the town is offered a bright new future.
But it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act.
It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who’ll risk the future to see justice done.
Who will speak up?
Could you stand by and stay silent?
Or would you risk everything for justice?
Which side would you be on?
The Joy of Mindful Writing by Joy Keyword Still to finish
My head seems to be spinning with the everyday at the moment and at times I feel as if my creativity is being swamped with ‘things’. This book title spoke directly to me with not only promising to find the joy of writing once again, but also inspire creative awareness. Its dreamy idyllic image on the textured hardback cover, with the old-time single-colour spine proved irresistible . I still have to try any of the exercises but have found the ideas and questions poised thought-provoking … I just had’t realised I needed to set time aside to write! I will get to it, I’m sure!
Embrace the process of writing and the rich potential of conscious creativity and mindfulness with this enlightening insight into mindful writing. Exploring how writing mindfully can create deeper connections with your words, your characters, and yourself, this carefully crafted manual invites you to embrace the writing process as much as the completed work; plotting out sparkling stories with a Zen-like awareness. Through meditative exercises, engaging anecdotes, and astute notes on perception, imagination, and focus, author helps you to flow, flourish and lose yourself in writing. Containing 20 mindful writing exercises, this unique guide explores how conscious writing creates mindful awareness, offering a fresh angle on shifting writer’s block.
Havey you read any of these, and if so, what are your thoughts on them? Are you enticed by the descriptions to buy any of these books? Have you had an opportunity to splash out on books recently? What tempted you? And why? I look forward to all your comments; it’s a brilliant excuse to chat all about books!
Jill Weatherholt set us a lovely challenge on her latest post and one I was immediately tempted to carry forward.
She linked to a POSTwhich was one of her favourites to write and did not relate to the number of likes, comments or views.
Jill’s favourite post celebrated friendships and particularly nicknames. It was impossible to forget her ‘Jilly Bean’ nickname acquired at college. In my response nearly two years ago, I mentioned that I felt neglected at school as I was only ever only known by my name. At university this changed. Finally, I gained not only one nickname but a ‘fair collection’ as I’d written to Jill. I was quietly chuffed! Even if they weren’t the most flattering.
Of course, my Swedish heritage was picked up early on and many letters from my best friends started out ‘Turnip-Top’! During my first year, stress and poor diet resulted in some hair loss. Not one to keep shtum I mentioned the strands of hair collecting on my hairbrush. After a few weeks my nicknames had extended to ‘Yul’ (actor), ‘Duncan’ (swimmer) and ‘Sinead’ (singer) – all whose common factor was their baldness. I was not reassured but learning to laugh at myself taught me an invaluable lesson.
Now, to Jill’s challenge. Would we do the same? Think of our favourite post and write about it. How could I refuse?!
With nearly two hundred posts over three years, whilst not burgeoning, this is not an insignificant number and would be unwieldy to glance through on WordPress. Luckily I have a shortcut in place!
Every few months I have been saving my posts on Scrivener. This started out as I never could work out how to save the blog and I am slightly paranoid that all the work will just disappear in a jiffy! I spent a contented hour scrolling through my posts, creating a shortlist of ten before narrowing down a winner!
Apart from writing, I enjoy throwing myself into research. Posts which require a lot of information harvesting and sorting, before collating into an article accompanied by photographs are pure bliss!
The 17th-century Kindle post ticks all the boxes. First and foremost, it’s all about books and tiny ones at that. Secondly, they are very old and delicate ones; my imagination was captured by the idea that someone created a portable library all those centuries ago – hence the Kindle in the title. Thirdly, the research was intricate and fiddly whilst the images served up a colourful visual feast. What wasn’t there to savour? I hope you enjoy reading the post as much as I did writing it! As this was posted in my early days of blogging it should be fresh and new to most of you. HERE is the full post.
Finally, I might be a bit absent from blogs in the next couple of weeks as I am not only continuing with my writing work but have also received an invitation to talk to a creative writing group at a private school. I was contacted by them following my recent newspaper interview which is available to readHERE.
As I’m preparing my talk, I’m gradually conquering my initial terror at the thought of the school visit and now look forward to chatting with the very keen and enthusiastic group of 11-16 years-olds as ‘an inspiring author’. Having heard briefly about their terrific work, I have a feeling it will be an afternoon of mutual inspiration.
I hope you have enjoyed my personal reflections and the link to my favourite post and that you will consider joining in and share your favourite blog post and explain why you chose it.
I got a tickle of excitement at being nominated for the Book Lover’s Tag – after all, as an avid reader and writer, there is nothing quite like a ‘chat’ about books!
Many thanks to Marje at mjmallon.com for tagging me; as well as being a writer who recently launched her debut YA/MG fantasy book ‘The Curse of Time’, Marje is busy on her blog reviewing books and running the writers support group she set up called the Authors/Bloggers Rainbow Support Club.
To the questions:
1.Do you have a specific place for reading?
Not at all…if I could only read in one place I’d barely finish a book! A book with breakfast is a treat, reading a chapter whilst at the doctor’s surgery happily passes the time. There is only so much scenery I can gawp at whilst on the train before out pops my kindle and I become engrossed in the novel, often rueing the punctual arrival.
Many know of my fear of flying which has to be faced frequently and I couldn’t cope without a book …several contented minutes will pass when I forget I’m 36,000 feet in the air with just a thin piece of metal and two engines separating me from imminent doom.
Lastly, my absolute favourite time and place to read is at night, snuggled up in bed, book in hand and being transported to other worlds (safely!) before drifting into dreams. Bliss.
2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Isn’t it odd how childhood habits that we could never imagine breaking become a sweet memory. When young I collected bookmarks from places we visited…a new bookmark would gingerly replace the one tucked in my book, which in turn would be added to the box under my bed. From castles to towns, from writers’ houses to cathedrals; these bookmarks were treasured and some used more than others – The Bronte Parsonage was a particular favourite.
Meanwhile, I looked at my mother’s torn pieces of newspaper or envelopes peeking out of her books with disdain. How could she? It just didn’t look right? Where were the bookmarks I ‘d bought for her? And now, years later, my books display said paper, my bookmarks have gone awol and ironically her books are full of pretty bookmarks! How times change!
3. Do you eat or drink whilst eating?
A book with breakfast is not uncommon and at weekends a quick read in the afternoon with a biscuit is a relaxing way to spend half an hour!
4. Music or TV whilst reading.
There is no way I could read whilst the TV is on…the chatter, action would be an instant distraction and it should only be on if watching. Music is another matter and can either be tuned out or a lovely accomplishment to a book.
5. One book at a time or several?
Until recently I read only one book at a time…nowadays though reading has become a luxury and I want to continue to read a lot of books. Whilst having a thriller on the go (which is too exciting for nighttimes), I’ll often be reading another fiction book as well as enjoying a non-fiction book a the same time.
6. Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?
I’ve partially answered this elsewhere but to clarify, whilst home is best, I can become equally hooked on a book whilst out traveling, visiting family and friends etc. In the end, it’s about how riveting, fascinating, thrilling, enjoyable the book is.
7. Read out loud or silently?
Always silently…I only read my own work out loud and this is an excellent way to listen to the cadence of a piece and spot those glaring errors which are easily missed when reading silently.
8. Do you read ahead or skip pages?
The reasons for skipping pages are diametrically opposed…either the story is so exciting, so enticing I can’t wait to read every word and am compelled to rush ahead…or the novel drags and I move forward hoping to become engrossed further along. In the former instance, I mostly manage to rein in my urge to skip ahead, in the latter I hope to find redeeming features quickly.
9. Break the spine or keep it like new.
Breaking a spine is like sacrilege to me!! Never never! Having had a few borrowed books returned in this state I’m now cautious to whom I lend books.
10. Do you write in books?
As a rule I never write in fiction books (although I did as a student), however, I will scribble notes in travel, spiritual and other factual books…often underlining or making smaller notations in the margins for later reference.
11. What books are you reading now?
Two books which I’m currently reading have been recommended by bloggers here on WP.
The first I’ve just started after recently buying it with birthday money and it is a book I’ve been very keen to read. Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’, which is also now a film, tells the story of nine-year-old Oskar Schell whose father was killed on 11th September in the attacks on the World Trade Centre. Oskar, a boy of many abilities which include being an inventor, natural historian, detective and percussionist, sets out to solve the mystery of a key discovered in his father’s closet and the search leads him through the lives of strangers ranging from history to the bombings of Dresden and ultimately a journey to inner peace.
The second book I’m reading was written in 1949 by Henry Beston and only completed under duress when his fiancee refused to marry him until he’d finished it. A two week sojourn on the extreme coast of Cape Cod turned into a year as the author became mystified by the mysterious surroundings and ‘The Outermost House’ chronicles his solitary year on a Cape Cod beach and the debut book quickly became recognised as a classic of American nature writing. Its poetic lyrical language enraptures my soul:
‘Autumn ripens faster on the beach than on the marshes and the dunes. Westward and landward there is colour; seaward, bright space and austerity. Lifted to the sky, the dying grasses on the dune tops’ rim tremble and lean seaward in the wind, wraiths of sand course flat along the beach, the hiss of sand mingles its thin stridency with the new thunder of the sea.’
Henry Beston writes of life as itself a ritual:
‘The ancient value of dignity, beauty and poetry which sustain it are of Nature’s inspiration; they are born of the mystery and beauty of the world.’
The final book I’m reading is for a book review for NetGalley – this is long overdue and I’m thoroughly enjoying ‘The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old’ by Hendrik Groen and this is one for all fans of ‘A Man Called Ove’.
12. What is your childhood favourite book?
Yikes, this and the next question have me scratching my head in total befuddlement – how is it possible to choose from a lifetime of books?! Instead, I headed to one of my bookshelves and selected three books from my childhood that I’ve re-read many times and which have given me years of joy.
‘The Hobbit’ by J R R Tolkien is easily in the top five.
E Nesbit books were a delight, innocent, childish and incredibly likable – and it’s hard to believe they were written over 110 years ago! The Bastable children are so memorable and I empathised with their efforts and failures at being good in ‘The Wouldbegoods’!
Lastly the courage and fortitude of the ‘Children on the Oregon Trail’ inspired me for years in this exciting and tense true-life tale of 13-year-old John Sager left to fend and fight for himself and his five siblings as they continued their trip alone to the west coast in the summer of 1844 following the death of their parents.
13. What is your all-time favourite book?
This is another impossible question but one of many favourites revealed itself as I scanned my bookshelf. My numerous readings of Jack London’s ‘Martin Eden’ never dulled my enthusiasm and adoration of this book with its skillful writing and striking character. I recall my complete awe and overwhelming emotion at the end…now that the book is out on my desk I fear it will not return to its place before I’ve read it again!
With which of these questions can you identify…or not? What are you reading at the moment? Which is your favourite childhood book? As always I can’t wait to read your comments.
I would like to invite all readers who enjoyed this Book Lover’s post to please consider themselves tagged – if you feel like answering these questions and post on your blog do link to mine so I can find them – I look forward to reading all about your bookish habits!
I’m a sucker for lists of all kinds. To do lists, places to visit list, present list but surely the best type of all is that of books! Books are always a huge part of my life and even more so during a holiday.
This Easter in Sweden was no exception and thanks to ebooks I’m no longer restricted by weight to the number of books to take along – just as well as together my son and I read sixteen books.
It was a literary fest and here are a few of the varied mix I read…with just a brief overview and the effect they had on me.
The book that carried me across the North Sea was The Legacy of Lucy Harte. I need a good, no, make that a great book, to ensure that I am distracted from the fact I am 30,000+ feet up in the air with only two engines keeping me safely there and a thin sheet of metal is all that protects me from the airless minus 50 degrees centigrade outside.
‘Maggie O’Hara knows better than most that life can change in a heartbeat. Eighteen years ago she was given the most precious gift- a second-hand heart, and a second chance at life.
Always thankful, Maggie has never forgotten Lucy Harte – the little girl who saved her life. But as Maggie’s own life begins to fall apart, and her heart is broken in love, she loses sight of everything she has to live for…
Until an unexpected letter changes Maggie’s life..’
The Legacy of Lucy Harte is a gem of a read and I was desolate when I finished reading it. I had immersed myself in Maggie’s, her family’s and friend’s lives and it was a wrench to say goodbye to them. The book was wonderfully written and at no point a maudlin story.
A good friend here on WP recently recommended the film Lion. I was all set to go to the cinema when it was removed from the schedule. That is so typical! l! However I saw the book available on Amazon and once I reassured myself that the book was written before the film, I just couldn’t resist this true-life story.
‘As a five-year old in India, I got lost on a train. Twenty-five years later, I crossed the world to find my way back home.
Five-year-old Saroo lived in a poor village in India, in a one-room hut with his mother and three siblings… until the day he boarded a train alone and got lost. For twenty-five years.
This is the story of what happened to Saroo in those twenty-five years. How he ended up on the streets of Calcutta. And survived. How he then ended up in Tasmania, living the life of an upper-middle-class Aussie. And how, at thirty years old, with some dogged determination, a heap of good luck and the power of Google Earth, he found his way back home.’
Lion is a wonderfully sweeping human real life drama; it is lovingly told, heart-breaking, tense and astutely emotionally honest. The main characters in Saroo’s life are wonderfully captured. The whole book is cinematic in its scope, brilliantly written and by the end I felt I’d seen the film! This is a book that caught hold of my heart from the very start and had me reaching for the tissues. Surely a sequel will be written soon.
Go Set a Watchman has been on my shelf for a year and after the, at times, vitriolic, discussions across the news and social media I had decided to leave this. However, my curiosity was piqued and at the last minute this is the only paperback that made it into my suitcase.
‘Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch – ‘Scout’ – returns home from New York City to visit her ageing father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past – a journey that can be guided only by one’s own conscience.’
The book is brilliantly written with the first part beautifully capturing Jean Louse Finch’s return to Maycomb and meeting up with family and friends, including her potential fiancee. However, about half way the whole book takes a sudden dramatic turn…and stays there. Whoa! Despite the comments I’d read I hadn’t expected the remainder to be a whole discourse on race in the 1950s and before. Like the slap she received from her uncle, I felt equally winded. As she argues for her beliefs I begin to feel her helplessness. I’m glad I’ve read it but can see why her publishers advised her to write To Kill a Mockingbird instead as indeed the first part of the book contains a lot of her memorable events which later find a central place in TKMB.
Frederik Backman is very popular at the moment and he found success after writing a blog for many years (there is hope for us all!) I had thoroughly enjoyed his A Man Called Ove. I was less fond of My Grandmother sends her regards and apologises.
However, Britt-Marie Was Here is my favourite of his books and as far as I’m concerned Backman has totally redeemed himself!
‘For as long as anyone can remember, Britt-Marie has been an acquired taste. It’s not that she’s judgemental, or fussy, or difficult – she just expects things to be done in a certain way. A cutlery drawer should be arranged in the right order, for example (forks, knives, then spoons). We’re not animals, are we?
But behind the passive-aggressive, socially awkward, absurdly pedantic busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams and a warmer heart than anyone around her realizes.
So when Britt-Marie finds herself unemployed, separated from her husband of 20 years, left to fend for herself in the miserable provincial backwater that is Borg – of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it – and somehow tasked with running the local football team, she is a little unprepared. But she will learn that life may have more to offer her that she’s ever realised, and love might be found in the most unexpected of places.’
Britt-Marie Was Here is deceptively simplistic in its style with a hidden far-reaching depth. The character of Britt-Marie and all whom she encounter are wonderfully crafted although it does take time to become engaged with them on a literary level. Britt-Marie’s world is odd, particularly with her OCD which dictates her life (I could identify with the obsession with lists, though!).
Do stick with the book as it is worth the initial effort and very soon her life and the lives of the inhabitants of Borg will win a place in your heart and mind. As they are changed by her presence of Britt-Marie, she is equally affected by their disarming behaviour. Hers and their lives will never be the same. I just loved this book and at times found myself cheering along for Britt-Marie, at times screaming at her (silently of course); Britt-Marie evokes a reaction from the reader throughout until the touching and deft finale.
My final three books all have one element in common – Sisters. At last it seems that the era of ‘Girl’ titled books are on the wane only to be replaced by a proliferation of ‘Sister’ related ones.
I hadn’t even realised The Lost & The Found was about two sisters, one snatched as young, until I started the book.
‘SHE WAS LOST…
When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister, Faith. Faith’s childhood was dominated by Laurel’s disappearance – from her parents’ broken marriage and the constant media attention to dealing with so-called friends who only ever wanted to talk about her sister.
NOW SHE IS FOUND…
Thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the garden of the Logans’ old house, disorientated and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Laurel is home at last, safe and sound. Faith always dreamed of getting her sister back, without ever truly believing it would happen. But a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated and paranoid, and before long she begins to wonder if everything that’s lost can be found again…’
This is YA book was recommended to me by my son and mostly so for its ending. The story is superb, well told, full of suspense building to a crescendo of twists. Wow! The first I was sort of expecting, not the second nor the heart-stopping third. I had to re-read it a few times…just to take it in. Finishing this book late at night is not recommended as a sleep eluded me for next few hours. This is an extremely powerful and one I finished within 24 hours!
Sister Sister is in many ways eerily similar to Cat Clarke’s book and alas only highlights its weaknesses.
‘Alice: Beautiful, kind, manipulative, liar.
Clare: Intelligent, loyal, paranoid, jealous.
Clare thinks Alice is a manipulative liar who is trying to steal her life.
Alice thinks Clare is jealous of her long-lost return and place in their family.
One of them is telling the truth. The other is a maniac.
Two sisters. One truth.’
In all honesty I would say this is the weakest of the books I read during the Easter break. A psychological thriller with few thrills. There were a moments of danger, but the story was clearly signposted, the characters deliberately vague to add to the confusion. It had me hooked to a certain degree however in the end I finished it as I wanted to read the end, see how the writer got there and if I was right. A good read overall, just not great.
Sister Sister also had the misfortune of using the same technique for one of the characters as Sometimes I lie in that one of the character is not telling the truth.
Sometimes I lie is another book recommended to me by my son and this is a compulsive read which such intricate twists my son and I ended up discussing them at length, referring back to the book to double check details.
‘My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me.
I’m in a coma
2. My husband doesn’t love me any more
3. Sometimes I lie’
This brilliant psychological thriller had me guessing until the end, satisfying in its twists and drama, great hold on the characters which are fully developed. My personal pet hate is the very final sentence which I know is supposed to be tantalising but it just isn’t logically possible!!
I read an article on Mslexia magazine about Twitter length stories and for fun I wrote the following loosely based around the themes of the last three books mentioned.
My long lost sister’s tatty teddy hung limply in the stranger’s hand, her gaunt eyes fixed on me.
Imagine writing a book only to have it safely stored unseen by anyone for up to 100 years.
This is the reality to which famous writers and poets are subjecting their work as part of The Future Library project.
It all starts with a forest of 1,000 trees planted near Oslo, Norway, which we will be harvested in 100 years and used to print a unique anthology – for people yet to be born! The anthology will be from books, poems or texts submitted by one author per year (one piece of work only) for the next 100 years and apart from its creator no other human being alive will have seen their work.
The creator of this living conceptual artwork is Katie Paterson, a Glaswegian visual artist. Trust is central to this project: trust that there is a future; trust that there will be a future that cares about art and the written word; trust that the work will be carried on; trust that writers have handed in complete work. After all – who is to know if only a sheaf of empty pages is handed over.
Katie Paterson says that ‘tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the 100-year duration of the artwork finds conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future’.
This is the beauty about this concept; it runs contrary to all expectations and desires of writers and readers. Often the writers battle to have their work read. Readers are always eager for an immediate access to the book.
The first contributor to The Future Library was Margaret Atwood with her piece entitled ‘Scribbler Moon’. That is all we and anyone knows about the book. Although it might be a poem, a short story. No one knows.
Will her name still be known 100 years hence? Will her grandchildren or great-grandchildren attend the unveiling of the anthology in 2114?
‘I am sending a manuscript into time,’ Margaret Atwood said at the time of delivering her work to The Future Library. ‘Will any human beings be waiting there to receive it? Will there be a ‘Norway’? Will there be a ‘forest’? Will there be a ‘library’?
‘How strange it is to think of my own voice – silent by then for a long time – suddenly being awakened, after a hundred years.
‘There’s something magical about it. It’s like Sleeping Beauty. The texts are going to slumber for 100 years and then they’ll wake up, come to life again. It’s a fairytale length of time. She slept for 100 years.’
David Mitchell’s book, entitled ‘From Me Flows What We Call Time’ is the second written text secreted within what is envisaged to be a specially designated room at the New Public Deichmanske Library, Oslo. Here the name of each writer and the name of their work will be on display in front of their work, hidden from view. The famous ‘Cloud Atlas’ author found the writing process liberating and thrived in knowing he wouldn’t be alive for criticism. Furthermore he added, ‘Isn’t the prospect of a berth aboard an Ark of Literature with fellow-passengers of this calibre not a tempting one?’’
He stressed the topic of trust and belief in the future in his eloquent speech about the project.
‘Firstly, the Future Library project is a vote of confidence in the future.
‘We have to trust our successors, and their successors, and theirs, to steer the project through a hundred years of political skulduggery, climate change, budget cutbacks and zombie apocalypses.
‘We have to trust that ‘digital archeologists’ will manage to get inside ancient USB sticks.’
Luckily the latter point has been taken into consideration and alongside an easily formatted version of the written work there will also be a printed paper copy. Belts and braces!
Will these writers find a receptive audience ten decades from now? What will the future generations make of the written words? How relevant will they find the stories? What will they make of the project?
What about you? What do you think of The Future Library?
Here is a video link to video link to Katie Paterson in Norway discussing her artwork, where she says she imagines the ‘tree rings like chapters in a book’.
I’m always on the look-out for bookshops with a difference. There are the cafe bookshops. More recently the one-book bookshop in Tokyo. However, these still have books and their covers clearly visible on a shelf.
Elizabeth’s Bookshop in Australia is turning the way we often choose our books on its head by wrapping up the books. Instead of ‘judging books by their cover’ the bookshop feels its policy allows the book to be bought for its contents and also encourages a diversity of reading genres by hiding the book covers. Neatly wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string, the book parcels line shelf upon shelf in one section of the second-hand bookshop. Upon each book is written a few key words about the book – its genre, main plot line. That is all. The rest is pot luck.
An employee originally had the idea to have a ‘blind date with a book’ and sales have mushroomed and the concept has been rolled out to all its six stores across Australia. The books are chosen by staff who also write on the covers. The customers often buy the books as presents for family and friends for special occasions such as Christmas, birthdays or Valentines. One major selling point is the ease and lack of stress in choosing a book as well as the sense of anticipation and intrigue of the ‘secret’ book held within.
I can just imagine the anguish felt by the publishers and authors. After hours of deliberation and huge expense their work upon cover design and blurb content is hidden by nondescript paper. However at the same time my interest is definitely piqued and I would happily embrace the ‘blind date’ books now and then. Especially since the books can be returned within seven days if they have already been read – the only main drawback I could envisage.
What about you? Have you ever come across this scenario in a bookshop near you? Would you buy such a book as a present? Or for yourself? As always I look forward to reading your comments.
Old books hold their own mystique; as if endowed with sacred properties, to be revered, protected, held in awe. I’m not talking about books from decades ago, rather those hundreds of years old. The Hortus Eystettensis is no exception.
This first edition botanical book was printed in 1613 and made the news this week as it comes up for sale at Christie’s in London. It is not the humungous value of the book (an estimated £ 1.2 million / $ 1.7 million) that I find astonishing, rather the beauty, detail and colour which is so staggering.
The drawings are as vivid and alluring as on the day they were created, the colours striking, bright.
The florilegium (latin for A Gathering of Flowers) depicts over a 1,000 varieties of flowers found in the gardens of the Bishop of Eichstätt and was commissioned by the bishop. The botanist Basilius Besler created the book along with a team of gifted craftsmen and altogether the task took him sixteen years.
The work generally reflects the four seasons, showing first the flowering and then the fruiting stages. There were two forms of the books. A cheaper black and white version with drawings and text for reference purposes as well as this more luxurious hand-coloured version on top quality paper without text.
The Hortus Eystettensis is unique in that is changed the face of botanical art overnight. Previous botany books had concentrated on medicinal and culinary herbs, which were mostly depicted in a crude manner. Besler’s book was of garden flowers, herbs and vegetables as well as exotic plants such as arum lilies. The drawings were reproduced on high-quality engraved copper plates by expert craftsmen before printing and the reproductions are almost life-sized in exquisite detail. The layout was unusual too and modern in its concept and artistically pleasing. The pièce de résistance however is the beautiful and delicate hand-colouring throughout the book.
‘If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.’ Buddha
Lovely Eve Messenger tagged us all for this more unusual book tag – ‘My Intimidating TBR’ Tag. I do like completing the tags occasionally and couldn’t resist giving this one a go. Like Eve, I’m encouraging everyone to join the fun and consider themselves tagged.
What book have you been unable to finish?
‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert
This is a book I was so excited to read, keen doesn’t cover it. I have read two thirds of it; found it inspiring, funny and wise at times. Then I will find a section which for me is annoying, cliche, blasé and undeserving of a such a good writer. For this reason alone I still have not got round to finishing this book.
Here is a taster:
‘The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one…when courage dies, creativity dies with it.’
‘The writer Rebecca Solnit puts is well: “So many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else, because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible, and the fun.” Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes – but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work.’
(PS. I recently finished her brilliant ‘The Signature of All Things’ and can highly recommend this book.)
2. What book have you yet to read because you just haven’t had the time?
‘Birds Without Wings’ by Louis de Bernieres
A while ago I read an interview with Louis de Bernieres of ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ fame. Whilst he appreciates the fame and success the book and later the film brought him, he considers his more recent novel, ‘Birds Without Wings’, the true classic and worthier novel. At 625 pages of intense and literary writing this is a book that deserves time and concentration so I’m still waiting for that perfect (many long) moments! This brief outline explains the scope and setting:
‘Set against the backdrop of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, the Gallipoli campaign and the subsequent bitter struggle between Greeks and Turks, Birds Without Wings traces the fortunes of one small community in south-west Anatolia – a town in which Christian and Muslim lives and traditions have co-existed peacefully for centuries.’
3. Which book have you yet to read because it is a sequel?
‘Our Own Country: A Novel (The Midwife Series)’ by Jodi Daynard
In March 2015 I reviewed ‘The Midwife’s Revolt’ and when I came across the next book in the series I could not pass up the opportunity to see whether Jodi Daynard keeps up the pace and emotion in her latest novel. I hope it does not cover too much of the same ground however.
‘In 1770s Boston, a prosperous merchant’s daughter, Eliza Boylston, lives a charmed life—until war breaches the walls of the family estate and forces her to live in a world in which wealth can no longer protect her.’
4. What book have you yet to read because it is a new release?
‘small great things’ by Jodi Picoult
As a great fan of Jodi Picoult I always keep an eye out for her latest book. Her current novel-in-progress, ‘small great things’, is due out on 8th November 2016 and along with her fans around the world I’m looking forward to this latest sure-to-be bestseller. As usual she doesn’t shy away from controversial weighty topics; this time it’s race.
‘Ruth, an African-American nurse, has worked at a CT hospital for nearly twenty years as a labor and delivery nurse. So when a young couple, Turk and Brittany, come into the hospital to have their baby, it is business as usual — until Turk calls in Ruth’s white supervisor after the birth. He says, “I don’t want her or anyone like her to touch my boy,” and pulls up his sleeve to reveal a Confederate flag tattoo: he and his wife are Skinheads.’
5. What book have you yet to read because you read a book by the same author and didn’t like it?
‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tart
It wasn’t that I didn’t like ‘The Goldfinch’; at times I adored it, wallowing in the long descriptive passages, caught up in the general premise. However, it was just TOO long and verbose. I’m tempted though to try and read another one of her books, particularly ‘The Secret History’. Once again the description is enticing but I’m torn.
‘Under the influence of their charismatic Classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality, their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.’
What do you think? Has anyone read this? Should I give it a go?
6. What book have you yet to read because you aren’t in the mood?
‘The Girl with all the Gifts’ by M. R. Carey
This book was a Christmas present and one I do want to read, that I keep meaning to read but somehow the moment is never quite right. Not one for night times, not one for sunny happy days, not one for low depressed days. Hmm…still I’m intrigued though.
‘Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.
When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.
Melanie is a very special girl.’
7. What book have you yet to read because it is humongous?
‘The Penguin Book of the British Short Story. Volume 1’ edited by Philip Hensher.
Having seen the editor of this short story collection talk in November 2015 at the Royal Society of Literature I truly meant to have read this earlier. Again it was a present and I can’t wait to read the stories contained within but its size has caused certain reservations within me. Not the 702 pages, rather its actual tome and tomb-like weight – having been spoilt with the light weight of a kindle and paperbacks it will be annoying to not be able to hold it with one hand, not to be able to snuggle up and be cosy to read in the evenings. However, I will tackle this soon…I mean it. Then there is always volume two to put on my Christmas list. I had to laugh when reading Philip Hensher’s comment in the General Introduction when he writes that: ‘This anthology could easily have become twice as long as it is’. Was that a threat?!
8. What book have you yet to read because it was a cover buy with bad reviews?
9. Which book on your TBR is the most intimidating to you?
‘Mason & Dixon’ by Thomas Pynchon
This book has been on my TBR since forever, quietly disappearing to the bookcase before finding its way back onto my bedside table. The book is the most intimidating I’ve ever come across. I just about get the first few pages but its style is so dense and complex; yet I feel I should be better than this. I read ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ by Pynchon as a student and was hooked. I want to do this one justice and might persevere – or maybe not.
Here’s a taster for you of the first sentence:
‘Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs, starr’d the Sides of Outbuildings, as of Cousins, carried Hats away into the brisk Wind off Delaware,— the Sleds are brought in and their Runners carefully dried and greased, shoes deposited in the back Hall, a stocking’d-foot Descent made upon the great Kitchen, in a purposeful Dither since Morning, punctuated by the ringing Lids of various Boilers and Stewing-Pots, fragrant with Pie-Spices, peel’d Fruits, Suet, heated Sugar,— the Children, having all upon the Fly, among rhythmic slaps of Batter and Spoon, coax’d and stolen what they might, proceed, as upon each afternoon all this snowy Advent, to a comfortable Room at the rear of the House, years since given over to their carefree Assaults.’
I hope you’ve enjoyed this selection; as always I would love to hear from you about some of these selections or about some of your own Intimidating TBRs. If you’re tempted, please do the Tag!