Thursday, 31 July 2014

July Reads

As with June, I thought I would look at a theme to simplify the books that I review from July. This month I'm looking at the families in all of the books. Five this month, one of them took up half of the month and I didn't even finish it in the end.

Families in July

Dead Ends
Erin Jade Lange
Faber and Faber 03/07/14 Paperback
Review copy for Movellas
The first book of July!  It was actually Dead Ends that gave me the idea to have the theme of family for this month. My review of Dead Ends can be found here. Donated to the underground #booksontheunderground.

What Was Promised
Tobias Hill
Bloomsbury 13/03/14 Proof
Book haul (Bloomsbury)

A perfect book to think about family. This book follows three families who start in the Columbia buildings on Columbia road, the flower market. It is set after the end of the first world war. The links between the three families are solidified through their children who all play together, and through the generations we see how those early connections win out later on. The story also makes you think about what it means to be a family. Is it your history? Does blood relation make a family or not? and what family means to each of the characters.  I enjoyed this book, though it felt a little long at times.  I would not read it again, though I do recommend it. A cosy long read, Tobias Hill is a very good writer.

How To Be A Woman
Catlin Moran
Ebury Press 01/03/12 Paperback
Birthday Present
A hugely controversial topic for me personally. Why in this time would anyone not consider them selves a feminist? It is because of the small outspoken sect of women who give the movement a bad name. It therefore makes it very difficult for the run of the mill woman to admit to being a feminist. A misunderstanding of feminism. A more accurate term would be a humanist. Where race, gender, sexuality or religion do not define. Man hating is not feminism, unfortunately that is what it is sometimes seen as. The display of hate or discrimination one way or the other is not acceptable. It is important to understand that this book is NOT a feminist manifesto, by any means. It is VERY well written, and very funny, but it is not doctrine and it would be a mistake to subvert your own views for Moran's.  Her opinion on sex in particular was very disturbing to me.  She evidently wants to be seen as a strong female figure in her family. However it did occur to me that rather than equality there was an element of submission in the presentation of her husband, I constantly pitied him.

One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Penguin 06/09/07 Paperback
Gift (Penguin Intern)
This book either gets five stars or one. For those who award five, a review of incredibly critical insight is written. For those who award one they apologise for 'not getting it'.  I will not apologise.
I get it. The passage of time, the reality of time, the madness of the human condition. The absurd. One critic called it  Dali in words. I loved passages of the writing. perhaps one paragraph in nine. But I could not finish it. Such importance was put upon the family, but we were raced through it. I lost interest in trying to keep up. Unlike Ulysses where the beauty of the language has to wash over you as you read it (and perhaps this is the downfall of translation) one hundred years of solitude read as a very dull timeline with extraordinary events chucked in. Other critics I read said: one hundred years of Boredom/Tedium/Torture. I am inclined to agree. I did not finish it and I would not recommend it.

Eat My Heart Out
Zoe Pilger
Serpents Tail 26/06/14 Paperback
Off The Shelf (Profile books)

I really enjoyed this one. Ann-Marie is totally bonkers, but she does have people who care about her. She has some weird philosophies. This book is a mad and frantic romp around London, so energetic and whirlwindy. More like how I see my own experience of it. The family in this story is actually Sebastian's they are the only people who unequivocally accept her for one reason or another. I thought it was important that a) she had a refuge and b) she didn't abuse it too much. Donated to the underground #Booksontheunderground

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Dead Ends Review

I recently reviewed Dead Ends by Erin Lange for Movellas. Here it is!

‘Dead Ends’ by Erin Lange is a story about friendship, family and fathers. My alliteration skills astound even me. It might be suggested that Dane, Seely and Billy D are an unlikely friendship group because they are all so individual; The school fighter, the rock chick and the kid with Downs syndrome. But I think that that is a very 2-dimensional view of them as characters. Lange builds people not characters.

Billy D and Dane are brought together, essentially, because they live next door to each other. Thrown together by proximity, they become friends at first because they each have something the other wants and they stay friends because of their fathers.

Both of their dads are MIA, while their useful friend Seely has two. While we don’t ever meet Seely’s parents, Lange introduces a subtle discussion of same sex parenting. While other authors might have used Seely’s “struggle” on how she deals with other people’s views of her having two dads. Lange actually uses Dane as society’s mirror; he struggles at first with how to react. He teased Seely to cover up how uncomfortable he was, but eventually he realises the fact that while she has two dads, he and Billy D don’t have one between them and he cannot begrudge anyone that kind of luck. Dads are important, even the missing ones.

Seely often seems weak to me. Even though Lange has said that she was her favourite character to write. She is definitely a minor character and shows up at appropriate moments to supply a place to hang out/ a car/; a double helping of pseudo father figures. She is unique and clever, sassy and “different” from the other girls at school. I didn’t see her as a “strong” female character; I just thought she was a girl – a useful plot device that just happened to be female. I think she easily could have been a boy, but I expect Lange would be accused of the story being overly male-centric.

The true strong female characters are Dane and Billy D’s mothers. Fiercely protective, hardworking, single, fighters. I read them both as incredibly nuanced and brilliant women. I love that they both had flaws, a quick temper or a secretive nature. It was because of this that they became the most realistic of the characters. Lange can write strong female characters, but it seems, only if she’s not trying and just stumbles on accurate and poignant, normal women.

The comparison to John Green probably comes from the quirk. From riddles and treasure hunts to famous last words, from okay? Okay, to ‘it’s a metaphor’, John Green always has an underlying quirk to his writing. ‘Dead Ends’’ quirk is the funny place names and the riddle/test that Billy D’s dad apparently left for him. ‘Dead Ends’ is a maze and Billy D and Dean are looking for something: Where is Billy D’s dad, why did he leave, who is Dean’s and why are Billy and Dean who they are? So many questions and Lange answers them all.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

June Reads

I read 5 books in June, which is a lot for me. I'm very proud of my self for this excellent reading record.  I've given a theme to this month's reviews where I'm going to talk about the protagonists of each book and review them, hopefully that will shorten the reviews up.

The Leading Men and Women of June

Popular: A Memoir
Maya Van Wagenen
Penguin 15/04/14 Paperback
Bookhaul (Movellas)
Maya, the author of the memoir struck me as a very interesting girl; both in the book and on BBC Radio Four Women's Hour. She documented the effect on her life by following a 50s guide to popularity in the modern day. She got new 50s inspired clothes from thrift stores and every month, studied a new chapter. The most interesting of all was sitting at a different lunch table every day. Here, she made friends with all of the people in her high school, expanding her friendship group. She asked each new group what they thought being popular meant, and whether they thought of themselves as popular. No body did. It was a very unique social experiment and was an easy summer afternoon read.

The Land Where Lemons Grow
Helena Attlee
Particular books (Penguin) 03/04/14 Hardback
Stanfords Bookshop (Covent Garden)
This heady mix of travel writing, history, biology and social anthropology was a joy to read. The Citruses of Italy are the main characters of this book, but also the people who look after them. The elderly man who maintained a limonaria or lemon house in the northern mountains every winter by carefully regulating the temperature with fires to drive away the frost. The stubborn and yet still fragile characters of Italian lemons have a tumultuous history in the early days of the mafia.  The importance, the rise and decline, and the reflection of the Italian people through their interaction with the fruit is all wrapped up in this sensuous book. A summer/holiday read preferably somewhere where the possibility of procuring a lemon sorbet is at your fingertips.

Throne of Glass
Sarah J Maas
Bloomsbury 02/08/2012 Paperback
Bookhaul (Bloomsbury)
The role of the female assassin is beautifully captured in Celena Sardothien. I liked that this whole novel was complex. She has a dark history and back story, her relationships, romantic and otherwise, are not clear cut or simple and the mysterious forces that run through the sub plot are complicated. I love that the other characters are constantly trying to figure her out, while the reader can see that Celena is just like every teenage girl in the world, trying to figure herself out as well. A YA read with a fantasy/action hybrid that keeps the pages turning. Bring on book Two. 

William Shakespeare
I really enjoyed re-reading Macbeth.  There are a number of books on my TBR which I ought to have read or have done, but cannot remember them. I studied Macbeth in school when I was in year 7 or 8 and I don't think I really understood it. I feel like I have absorbed more from the general Macbeth zeitgeist of being a literature student and talking about Shakespeare. But now I can genuinely say that I have read it all. I was very pleased that I still understood Shakespeare, I think a lot of people see it almost as a different language. I watched the movie, I've read it twice, and I've seen three school productions. Next stop: The Globe.

Don't Tell The Boss
Anna Bell
Quercus 19/06/14 paperback
Competition win (Quercus)

My review of Penny in Don't Tell The Boss can be read here.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Interning at Movellas

I was an intern at Movellas in June 2014 for three weeks. If anyone is interested in publishing internships Movellas is an awesome place to start. Movellas is a teen story-sharing community. In a nutshell, teens can write and publish their own stories on the site. Other teens read, comment and offer constructive criticism. The company has gone from strength to strength and now has over 250,000 active users a month. Users post 5,000 comments a day and there are 10,000 hours of daily engagement on the site.

So why choose Movellas? Well, there are a couple things that you want from an internship:

1) A really cool team. If you can't get along with the people that you're working with then it is really tough to drag yourself into work every day. I loved working at Movellas.  At the moment the team is in Soho, central London in a very trendy office. There are five members of staff who are all lovely and the benefit of being one of five is that the CEO of the company is there as well as your direct bosses. Publishing is a small world, so it is always good to be noticed by the whole company rather than just your manager.

2) Expenses. Preferably, you really want to be looking for paid internships, especially in London as it is pretty costly. But often expenses only internships might be the only thing available. Paid internships also tend to have a more rigorous interview process and want people with more experience.  Having said that, Movellas want good interns to work for them. They can be a great place to gain that experience. PLUS digital publishing is a very good place to start out and could give you the edge over other people. Movellas pay travel and lunch expenses which is V. generous considering it is all London prices. They were also understanding and flexible about peak times and peak prices.

3) Cool Factor. Movellas is swimming in cool. But what I mean by Cool Factor is totally subjective. you have to enjoy the work that you are doing and that means being interested in what the company is doing. Movellas has alot of exciting and new things happening at the moment and it was easy to be enthusiastic and pleased about the projects they are working on. You need this in any job, if you're not excited about where the company is going, you're unlikely going to enjoy your time there. For me that meant getting excited about Movella's engagement with their users.

4) Work. The worst thing in the world, is going into an internship and the whole experience being a waste of time. Movellas always have things for the interns to do, if you lend yourself to one particular skill or another, they will ask you to do more of it.

Movellas was such a great opportunity for me, I learned so much and highly recommend it as an internship placement. Movellas is awesome. As Google would say: +1

Here are just a few things I got to do while at Movellas:

I wrote a blog post introducing a Movellas author getting published on amazon:

A round-up for of 8 alternate endings to The Fault in Our Stars

Announced the winners of competitions: The Forever song.

My TFIOS movie review also featured on Movellas

Composed a quiz.

Was hilarious.

I proofread and edited the full manuscript of The Last Girl by Riley Shasteen. I also helped to publish it through Amazon Kindle.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Don't Tell The Boss - Review

Don't Tell The Boss
Anna Bell
Quercus 19/06/14 paperback
Competition win (Quercus)

I was very excited to win @thebookbar's twitter competition from Quercus to win a copy of Don't Tell the Boss by Anna Bell. They asked for what we definitely would not tell our boss. On that particular day, everyone in my office was out in meetings, so I worked from home. I mentioned (at 2pm on a Thursday) that I was working from home and still in my pajamas. My slovenliness was rewarded with a jiffy bag in the post. Thanks Quercus!

Don't Tell the Boss is the third in the series of 'Don't Tell' books, her first was
Don't Tell Penny, a tale of engagements. Her second is: Don't Tell the Groom in which Penny is getting married, and while muddled up in the mania of wedding planning, dreams of a Vera Wang wedding dress. The ensuing adventures mean planning a wedding in secret and on a shoestring budget. Book four's title has already been revealed as Don't Tell the Brides. Similar to Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic novels I'm hoping for book five to be, Don't Tell the Baby Sitter.

Now, I have not actually read Don't Tell the Groom but the third book neatly retells the story so that the reader doesn't feel left out. The telling of the first and second book is triggered at believable moments as if the characters are genuinely remembering what happened last year.  But Don't Tell the Boss can stand very well on it's own as a single piece, and I wouldn't say that you needed to read the 1st two in order to enjoy the third. This has been my first introduction to chick lit and I think that it was a good first book. While an easy read, the story is realistic, a reflection on the real life juggling act that we all have to put up with everyday.

As an aspiring Editorial Assistant, I was a little disappointed to see that there were some type setting errors which had slipped through the net. I noticed some clumsy grammar, and some very clunky sentences (mainly due to the exotic misuse of commas). There were also some contractions and missed spaces eg: 'Instead,they' rather than 'instead, they' which lead to a comma at the start of the line. There were also some fairly ugly instances of stacking, where words at the start or end of each line end up all being the same on top of each other. Hopefully though, most people won't notice those tiny details. That is just what my eye is trained for.

I love Penny, as a blogger, she is immediately close to my heart.  I'd recommend it for anyone planning a wedding, who has plenty of time. It is a good holiday read, perfect for the beach, maybe a pre-wedding get away.  I can probably guess that anxious girlfriends should NOT read Don't Tell Penny, as I can imagine the obsessive behavior sparking. Don't Tell the Boss seems to be very grounded though, perhaps because of the distinctly grown-up and career focused narrative. Every chapter (or most of them anyway) is headed with one of the character's blog posts about budget wedding ideas, short and sweet and and inspiration for my own.

Buy a copy of Don't Tell The Boss from Quercus here.