Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is the publishing industry selling out?

Recently, the new trend for celebrity novels and autobiographies, has filled the best seller book lists. This has made me consider whether or not the standards of publishers has diminished and are they only backing these types of books knowing that they will make a big profit, rather than choosing to publish quality writing?

There are some intelligent and extremely well written books out amongst the rubbish and I understand that times are hard for publishers. However there are so many undiscovered writers out there with great stories to tell, who are being overlooked by publishers, simply because they may not give them an instant cash injection.

I found this interesting article which talks about this issue. I'd be interested to hear your opinions on whether or not, you think that the publishing industry is choosing style over content.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Feature: My Favourite book Covers

You may be looking at this book and wondering why I have chosen to include it as one of my favourite book covers? Well I agree the cover is rather plain, but this is one of my most treasured possessions and I have to include it.

This is a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel 'Treasure Island' which was awarded to my grandad at a school prize day in 1935. I was lucky enough to be given this a few years ago, I suppose because my grandad thought that I would appreciate it most being the bookworm of the family.

I love the soft leather cover it has and I'm not sure what the golden shield on the front signifies, maybe it was the school's coat of arms, but it looks really elegant. I would never dare to actually read this book, because it has such sentimental value. However, I have braved a look inside and its colour illustrations are wonderful.

I appreciate some of the modern book covers available nowadays, but in my opinion, you can't beat the quality of an old leather bound book.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

'The Time Traveler's Wife'- Review

Publisher: Random House


Length: 518 Pages

Opening Line:
'Claire: It's hard being left behind.'


I had some reservations as to whether or not to read 'The Time Traveller's Wife' by Audrey Niffenegger. There has been so much hype about this novel, that I thought maybe it was going to be another one of those 'throw away' novels that has over saturated the best seller lists lately.

However, the story of a time traveller whisking back and forth through time intrigued me so much, that I decided to give this book a go. I was not disappointed.

During the first half of this book, it delivered the fantastical story that I anticipated, but it became so much more than that. It tells the story of Henry who at the age of 6 discovers that he has a rare genetic disorder, which means that he involuntarily travels back and forth through time. On his journey he meets Claire, a young girl who in the future, is his wife. This book is about the struggles and problems they face dealing with Henry's condition and it tells of a love that defines time and space.

This book is intelligent and beautifully written. Audrey Niffenegger is able to take a subject such a time travel and make it plausible. The relationship she creates between Henry and Claire unnerved me at first, due to the fact that Claire is a child and Henry in his forties when the first meet. However, after understanding the concept of the situation between these two people, Niffenegger creates a wonderful tenderness between the two characters and it draws you in.This book deals with intense love, loss and longing.

Also as a person with Spina Bifida, I was particularly interested in the way that this book dealt with disability. It highlights some of the difficulties disabled people have to face when dealing with their identity, their place within society, relationships and the implications of having children. I feel that this was sensitively handled, however the only criticism I have is that during this book whenever people became aware of Henry's condition, they seemed to accept it and move on. In my experience, this isn't always the case. Some people don't want to accept people's differences and problems can arise. So I feel that maybe this book could have dealt with this issue slightly better.

Another criticism is that I felt that it was a bit rushed towards the end of the book. Although I can appreciate that ending a book so extraordinary as this one is difficult, it would have been better if ends were tied up a bit less quickly.

At times during this book, it did read like a chick-lit book and I thought that this book which started off so well, was going to be a disappointment. However, I was happy to see that Audrey Niffenegger was able to be moving, without being formulaic and predictable.

Niffenegger is able to make the reader laugh and cry seamlessly and I found that I was lost in the book completely. Normally I skim read parts of a book, however I wanted to read every word and was sad when I finished the book.

As you can tell from this review, that I love this book. It is original, quirky and is able to pull on my heartstrings without being over slushy. I highly recommend this book.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Interesting Link

Those of you who have been following my blog will know that recently, I reviewed 'Brighton Rock' by Graham Greene. Whilst surfing through the net, I came across an interesting site which I thought that I would share with you. It's a study guide for 'Brighton Rock' which is predominately aimed at A-Level students, but it breaks down the characters, themes and issues raised throughout the novel. I thought that it might be interesting to those who is inspired to read this novel.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Feature: My Favourite Book Covers

My next selection for 'My Favourite Book Covers' is Philippa Gregory's 'The Other Boleyn Girl'. In my opinion, this is one of the most sumptious and uber tactile book overs, I've ever seen.
The photo on here doesn't do it justice because you can not see the embossing on the title and the gold on the author's name. The thing I love best about the cover, is the golden embossed detail in the figure's dress and head dress, it's simply gorgeous. This is not just a book to be read, but also to be touched because of the wonderful quality of the front cover.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

'Brighton Rock'- Review

Publisher: Random House

ISBN: 978-0-099-47847-8

Length: 282 Pages

Opening Line: ' Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.'


Firstly, apologies if you were expecting a review on Octavia Butler's 'Kindred'. I have recently joined an online book group and after a lot of trouble with Play.Com (see previous posts) I received my copy late and had to ditch my plans to review 'Kindred', in order to finish 'Brighton Rock'. I promise that I will post a review on 'Kindred' some time in the future.

The book 'Brighton Rock' is set in Brighton during the 1930's where a chance meeting between journalist Fred Hale and barmaid Ida Arnold, leads to Fred's unexpected death. Ida then takes in upon herself to investigate the truth behind the mystery and this leads to a story of gangsters, violence, deceipt and undying love between Rose, a naive, innocent waitress who is manipulated into the sordid world by Pinkie,a 17 year old rookie gang leader.

For me, this was a book that I neither liked nor disliked. I found it interesting.

Starting with the positives, I thought that this novel was PACKED with atmosphere.Graham Greene uses descriptive narrative to illustrate to the reader how/ what a character is thinking or feeling. He also uses wonderful contrasts between the image of Brighton as a family seaside resort and the darker, dingy world of the gangsters. This gives distinctions between the two social layers of the town. I'm not usually a fan of books with a lot of description in them, but I think that this was one of the best things about the novel.

I also like the way in which Greene plays with stereotypes. Throughout the book, the author twists the reader's perception of certain characters, particularly Rose and Ida. Also the symbolism used throughout the book is interesting, because Greene uses the ideas of the good/evil, religion/ sin through his characters to focus on deeper concepts.

On the negative side, I found the conclusion of the mystery rather flimsy. I felt cheated that I was drawn into the mystery, only to feel as if 'what was the point?' I also question why Ida felt the need to get involved in the investigation, when it hadn't much to do with her anyway, as she and Hale were relative strangers.

Also, whereas the descriptions of the landscape and seaside evoked feeling and depth, the majority of the characters left me some what disappointed. I felt that they were not as fleshed out as they could have been. The gang members were not developed enough to connect with them and they left me a little cold. The most disappointing were the female characters. Even though Greene uses these two characters as a play for stereotyping, I think that Greene could have made more of this to make the two more interesting.

At the beginning of the novel, Ida is perceived to be the one who is driving the story forward. However instead of following her throughout her investigation, for me she became a bit part character, who appeared and reappeared when the writer felt like it. Also, Rose had a lot of potential to become a intriguing character. She is perceived to be someone who 'butter wouldn't melt in her mouth', but during the book it is revealed that she isn't as innocent as she seems. However, instead of persuing the idea and making her a more sinister character, this just fades into nothing and I feel that if this were explored more, she could have been an exciting character.

The most fleshed out and intriguing character throughout the novel, was Pinkie. He reminded me of a sinister version of Holden Cauldfield, although instead of hiding his naivety of life and sexuality through putting up a front with intellect, Pinkie hides his through violence and manipulation. Holden did have redeeming features about him but Pinkie is selfish, calculating and evil. I think that within the character, I felt that Greene was commenting on the concept of the human concious and sub-concious mind and the fine line between a person's perception of right and wrong.

Overall this novel is not without flaws, but I thought that this was an entertaining page turner.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Feature: My Favourite Book Covers

Firstly, apologies for not updating the blog in a few days, I've been busy with art work and trying to get through 'Brighton Rock'.

I thought that I would try out a new regular feature on the blog called 'My Favourite Book Covers.' Regular readers of the blog will know that it's not just words that attract me to books, but the lure of the front covers. So I thought that I would share some of my favourite book covers and explain a bit about why I like them.

To start, I thought that I would begin with this one:

I discovered 'Memoirs of a Geisha' by Arthur Golden, whilst in the library a few years ago. I had returned my books and was looking for some new ones, without any ideas as to what I wanted to read next. However, when I saw the striking image of the Geisha girl with her porcelain skin contrasting against her jet black hair and painted red lips, I knew I had to read this book because I thought that the girl looked both innocent yet mysterious and I wanted to know more about her. To be honest, I had no idea what a Geisha girl was at that point, but as I read the story I was drawn into the mysterious, exotic world of the Geishas and I found that the front cover matched the impressions that I got from the image of the girl.

'Memoirs of a Geisha' is now one of my favourite books and if it wasn't for its front cover, I may have left this fantastic book unread.