Friday, 26 February 2010

A week in the life..

Well... Hello little blog. Hello blog pals. It feels like ages since I have actually sat down to write a Proper Post Full of Things.

Seeing as a stuuuuuupidly busy work week has meant that reading has been reduced to a few pages before I fall asleep on the bus, I thought I'd just share some of the things that tickled my bookish taste buds last week.

First up, was last Saturdays brilliant Guardian article on writer's top ten tips in the Review section. They are all good in their different ways, but my personal favourite (as someone who pretends to write for a living - yep someone pays me and everything) was Roddy Doyle's.

Here are the first five...

1 Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

2 Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph

3 Until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it's the job.

4 Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.

5 Do restrict your browsing to a few websites a day. Don't go near the online bookies – unless it's research.

I'm not sure how many of you saw this, but I would definitely recommend a gander. Fascinating stuff.

Monday meant work but also a meeting and discovery of my new favourite reading spot in London. Sketch may be one of the most ridiculously pretentious places in town, but it's tea room, with it's Alice in Wonderland like frivolity and comfy sofas and oh-so-pretty cakes makes it the perfect indulgence if you want to escape the gloom. A girl can dream..

'scuse the crap photo... was trying to do it subtly, in that, 'I'm totally not overwhelmed by this. I come to here all the time' kinda way...

Tuesday meant a trip to the Design Museum for the Brit Insurance Designer of the Year.
This rainbow book pile made me happy.

As I was wondering/running manically round London town this week, it did get me thinking. It would be really interesting to plot a route around the important literary places... it can seem as though you're never far from something you've read in a book.

If anyone has a particularly good one, whether it's in London, or you're home town, I'd love to know. Maybe we can start a bit of a virtual map...

Anyhoo, apologies for this bitty, long post... have a super week!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Book Oscars nominations!

Good evening and welcome to the 2010 Book Oscar Nominations!

So firstly, apologies for being so technically incompetent. The plan was to get all of the polls into this post, but as yet that is totally defeating me so for now, please find them to your right... yey!

Also, due to slight complications vis a vis the global blog link up network (a bit like Thunderbirds) I am only releasing the first few lots of nominees tonight. I quite like the idea that the suspense will build up for best male and female characters... it's like the real thing. Sort of.

Anyway, here they are! (Points right) At this point I would like to offer huge thanks to, Books in the City, Paperback Reader and The Ideas Bakery for taking their time to share their favourite books with me. Muchly appreciated ladies.

And for the eagle eyed amongst you I haven't forgotten... here are the Book Cover Design Nominees for your approval...

I hope in the next few days to get all of the nominees into one post but for now.. let the disagreements and infuriated whynotthisamazingbook? posting begin!

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Book Oscars 2010.. ta daaaa!

It seems at the moment you can't go anywhere without someone talking about awards season. Which made me think, why not host our very own version of the Oscars here in blogland?

The idea is super simple.

I have approached some of your most popular blogs to ask for their nominees for the five main categories. Over the next weeks you can vote for the recipient you think deserves the 'Oscar' the most. Then we have a grand unveiling ceremony of the winners!

The categories are.

Best female character in a novel
Best male character in a novel
Best film adaptation of a novel
Best Cover Design
Best fiction

The only rule is that the books must be from this past year. That's it.

Voting will open tomorrow hopefully, I'm just sorting out a nice header you can plop on your blogs too.

Right I'm off to buy a frock....

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Through the letter box...

I was very excited to wake up this morning to find a mysterious package lying on the doormat. On closer inspection it turned out to be a new proof from the lovely Lee at Picador, (thank you!) which is pretty much the nicest way to get up on a Saturday.

It's called The Ice Age and it's the debut novel by American Kirsten Reed. Aside from the fact it has quite possibly the loveliest cover, the name Jack Kerouac is bandied around on the back which makes it doubly intriguing.

I'm just about to finish Aldous Huxley's A Brave New World (review to follow) so timing is perfect.

Apart from that I've been planning a bit of inter blog fun so keep your peepers open for an exciting (hopefully) announcement soon!

Have a fab weekend. x

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Books and flowers with Cath Kidston

The queen of polka dots and duchess of flowers, Cath Kidston, has started a book club. Or in her words,

"... we are launching our brand new bookclub and we would love for our customers to get involved. Simply tell us about the books you love and why. The best reviews will then be printed in the Cath Kidston magazine and you could even have your favorite book with your review on sale in our shops and on our website. Simply email us your favorites at"

As someone who tries very hard to keep the Kidston side of her personality in check, ("How divine, a darling cake platter..hello trees, hello sun, my, what a sweet tea-towel you have there...") I am naturally thrilled at the prospect.

I'm off to look for suitably splendid book to review. And in the spirit of research I may also put my polka dot pinny on. Maybe.

Ps. Remember to click on my 'follow me' button if you would like to be the lucky new owner of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Bribery and corruption aka Book giveaway time!

So. After a month of faffing and fiddling, the new blog is starting to take shape and I’m starting to think about finding some people to read it.

Like Pageturners genius master plan to get members to her fab blog, I have decided to launch a bit of an appeal. Unlike her I am happy to offer a bribe.

I have been lucky enough to be given two copies of the next book off the shelf, Maggie O'Farrell's heart rendering account of madness and incarceration, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.

One of those copies will be winging its way to one of my followers two weeks from today, on the 3rd of March.

The idea being, tons of you will click on my little 'follow me button' between now and then. Then I pick a name from a hat and voila! someone gets a shiny new book.

And ‘coz I am feeling full of the joys of spring I will also be putting a Surprise Thing in with the package.

Let the rush slow trickle begin!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Bluest Eye

"Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that is was because Pecola was having her father's baby that the marigolds did not grow..."

And so Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye begins.

Set in Ohio in the 1940's, the story is narrated by Claudia MacTeer, both as young black girl growing up against the backdrop of the american midwest, and later on in life, as an adult looking back on her childhood. Parts are also narrated by an omnipresent third party.

Claudia remembers the autumn Pecola Breedlove comes to stay, her family having been put 'oudoors' with nowhere to go after her father sets fire to their home and is sent to jail. Believing herself to be ugly, Pecola's most fervent wish is to have blue eyes. Unloved by her damaged parents and surrounded by a lack of hope, she is bullied and has few friends.

Despite being the main protagonist, Pecola's character is the one to remain the least developed, perhaps as a way to reinforce the idea that she becomes a font for the shortcomings of those around her; a reflection of a brutal world.

As the story continues we learn that both her parents also had damaging and abusive upbringings. In the afterword, Morrison explains that she felt it important not to dehumanize the characters who ruin Pecola: this she achieves marvelously. (Though she herself, is unsatisfied with her depiction of Pauline Breedlove.)

The novel reaches it's peak with the rape of Pecola at the hands of her father. Not only does it represent the central point in the novel, for me it brought together all of the separate threads of narrative that Morrison weaves up to that point. It showcases her incredible ability to explore the complexity of seemingly simple, brutal events; to not only move you, but to make you question why you are moved.

In the aftermath of the rape and Pecola's subsequent pregnancy, it is through Claudia's childlike, innocent desire for Pecola's baby to survive that Morrison deftly shows societies ability to turn a blind eye. Pecola, transparent for much of the novel, simply disappears from the adults view.

My thoughts

The Bluest Eye is a stunning examination of societies perception of beauty and the importance we place on appearance. Written by Morrison in the 60's it has obvious racial implications, but there are still lessons to be learnt today, in our (hopefully more equal) society. It's certainly not a light read, nor an uplifting one but Morrison's rhythmic, almost poetic writing carries the reader through and captivates from the start.

The Bluest Eye may be a smaller in size than some of her more famous novels, but don't be fooled. It packs a heavy punch.

Tuesday Teaser...

Inspired by Page Turners post about Should be reading's Tuesday Teasers idea (keep up...) here is my very own teaser, a sneak peak into my most recent read, Toni Morrison's, The Bluest Eye.'

'They come from Mobile. Aiken. From Newport News. From Marietta. From Meridian. And the sounds of these places make you think of love. When you ask them where they are from, they tilt their heads and say "Mobile" and you think you've been kissed."
Page 63

If that has you suitably tantalised (god this is sounding like a saucy show!) keep an eye out for my review.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Do look now...Daphne De Maurier on iplayer

Afternoon folks!

Hope you all had lovely loved up Valentines, whoever you were with. Heathcliff, Mr Darcy.. Tarzan?

My last iplayer announcement got some lovely responses so I thought I would share another recommendation. Until this friday, Daphne Du Maurier's Don't look now is available here on BBC iplayer.

I haven't had a chance to have a listen but I am sure it will be great. I will be too busy writing up my next review... Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye.

If anyone has read it recently i'd love to hear from you... it has definitely stayed with me.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Book stairs for Book people

Happy Friday !

In response to a comment left by A Bookish Space yesterday, I have dug out some pictures of this rather splendid storage solution for those of us who can’t bear to chuck out books.

Worry not my fellow book fans, just turn your traditional boring stairs into…. book stairs!

Totally. Brilliant.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Waiting for Columbus

"Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can't see what's round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend"

- Bruce Cockburn

Set in contemporary Spain, in the town of Seville, the plot follows the story of an anonymous stranger. Found semi naked and unconscious in the treacherous Strait of Gibraltar, he is taken to a local insane asylum where he claims to be Christopher Columbus. Yes, the 15th century explorer…

Here he attracts the attention of Nurse Consuela, who slowly begins to unravel his mystery as he tells her stories about his life. The deeper she involves herself in Columbus, she realises her professional concern is becoming muddied with personal feelings as she slowly becomes more entangled in the surreal narrative that Columbus weaves around them. As his story develops, Consuela starts to piece together the true reasons for Columbus’s break with reality and the horror he is running from.

Simultaneously, a young Interpol officer, Emile Germain, is searching Europe for a missing man, following a trail that eventually leads him to Seville, and to Columbus.

Trofimuk captured me from the first. He holds the readers attention effortlessly as he takes you from modern day Spain, to the 15th century/ dream-like state that Columbus inhabits. The surreal quality of these ‘reminisces’ is worn lightly, Trofimuk is never heavy handed with his hints about Columbus’s past life. Instead they are intensely sensual and evocative. (Trofimuk’s descriptions of wine and food are sublime…) Half way in and I think I was almost as in love with Columbus as Consuela. And this is, ultimately, a book about love. All-consuming, passionate, deep, scarring love in all of its complicated glory.

As the book draws near to the end, I felt I was dreading it with Columbus. As his stories become more fractured and real life (mine and his!) starts to interrupt, the truth is slowly pulled out.

I finished Waiting for Columbus in tears. I loved it.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Ehem... a Margaret Atwood announcement

A quick public service announcement for any Margaret Atwood fans. The BBC's spoken word station, Radio 7 has made a 10 part series of her ground breaking novel, The Handmaid's Tale.

So far the first four are available on BBC iplayer, keep your eyes, or ears, peeled for the rest!

Now all I need is an excuse to leave work, go home and spend the next five hours on my sofa, pot of tea at hand and HUGE imnotonadietanymore slice of cake... do people still get shingles??

Chaos or chronology?

Having embarked on this little project, I find myself looking at my battered Billy bookcase with a slightly more critical eye.

Firstly, allow me to try and paint a mental (haha) picture of my little library. For starters library is an overstatement. Nine shelves with no obvious cataloguing, or apparent attention to detail would be fairer. But look closely and a very laterally minded person would make out brief patches of order. There’s the section of books about the Tudors. But as two of them are part of the rather brilliant Shardlake series, I felt as though fellow detective Cadfael would feel at home here too. Ditto DCI Rebus.

Naturally Rebus would definitely prefer the company of any Scottish books I have, and look, here’s Peter Pan. (Well, the author’s Scottish and quite frankly, Neverland? Where was I going to put that?)

Next up, Ross Kemp on Gangs. Oh no, wait that’s The Boy’s and therefore doesn’t count, but you can see where this is going.

I’d always been quite happy with my logic until an extremely scientific poll conducted at work this lunch time brought out some very interesting (and a couple plain weird) opinions on how a Book Shelf Ought To Be.

There was a good smattering of the usual halfhearted alphabetical and chronological types and a couple for whom books we’re obviously more of prettythingstoputonnicefurniture, who arranged books by size and colour.

My lovely next - desk neighbour has a similar idea to mine, albeit slightly more regimented. She orders her books by author and whether she thinks they would have liked the authors they are put next to. I quite like this.

And all of this, I suppose, begs the question how do you arrange your books?

(She says presumptuously presuming anyone reads this guff…)

Still waiting for Columbus....

Ooops, oh dear and silly whatzit.

I have almost definitely not kept to my new year resolution to write regularly. In my rather pathetic defence I have been a little over busy at work this past week and so my only reading time has been on the bus in the morning. Columbus is still here on my desk, but I'm nearly there, so review to follow soon.

In the meantime I thought I'd share a conversation I had with my work pals earlier today....