Thursday, 27 August 2015

July reviews

Robert Mason
Corgi 24/08/1984
Borrowed from S

I'll start by saying that I am proud to have stuck with this book to the end. It did pass my initial 50 page test, which generally means that I ought to persevere. It has taken a full month to get through which should suggest that it isn't one that directly pulls me in to read it. What I mean is, if I love a book and it is really up my street, I make reading my number one recreational activity. Everything takes a back seat to curling up with that brilliant book. With Chickenhawk, I had to force my self to pick it up.

That is not to say that once I was reading I didn't enjoy it. The story follows Bob Mason in Vietnam from his initial training to fly a helicopter, a sweaty, and frustrating couple of opening chapters which surprisingly held my attention despite all of the details about helicopter controls. It speaks for the writing that something so alien can become dramatic and interesting to anyone.

My worry about this review has been that this is my dad's favourite book. Its my boyfriend's ONLY book and it has to be considered a 'boys book'. It's about war, it's non-fiction, its machines and guns and helicopters and death. Sadly there is no female that I would be okay with suggesting this book to. Even if I praised the excellent writing, the easy reading, the amazing and captivating story, I just know that it's unlikely that any of my female friends would take the time to read this book. So I'm in this strange place, I wouldn't recommend it to girls, because I don't think they would enjoy it, BUT I did enjoy it and I surprised myself by enjoying it so maybe I should be recommending to men AND women.

I feel like I am being sexist by suggesting that this isn't a book for girls and it is only the fact that I desperately needed a book one night and got sucked in that I read it. I struggled to pick it up with the lure of other books winking at me and the only reason for that is because the subject matter just isn't what I would usually go for, I just don't find it that fun to read. Its a huge bundle of contradictions. It's a great book, I'm glad I've read it, but I don't immediately need to read it again.

Chickenhawk is an incredible true story that makes the Vietnam war more interesting than ever before. Its strength comes from the authentic memories of the author and the detailed and nuanced writing that makes each combat flight a cumulative build up of one mans experiences. There are some really hair raising moments and they're brilliant to read. It takes a talented author to introduce characters in such a way that immediately invests the reader and through each character we see the brutal and harrowing nature of war.

Of course war and killings and an under equipped army and politics and gorilla warfare is disturbing, you cant walk away from some of the images that Mason relays in his book. But the story is also an incredible experience, the men are so incredibly funny and their relationships have a depth beyond the wise cracking veneer.

I'm sorry it took me so long to read it, revealing my general struggle to read out of my comfort zone. I assume most girls wont want to read this book, but I think that women, and men SHOULD.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Selling Out

So many of my classmates of the 2013 graduating class still harbour the ambition to become authors, journalists and publishers. I also still have that ambition but with our arts degrees and the pressure of living back at our parents' or suddenly burning through that last scrap of student loan sometimes the only option is to bite the bullet and get a job that doesn't immediately shout "dream opportunity".

I think it is important that graduates remember that their career is a long road, they could be in full time work for the next 50 years so it is not the end of the world if the first couple of jobs are not ideal. Everything takes time and in the grand scheme of things you only need to be at each stepping stone job for a year or two before it is acceptable to move on.

The other thing to remember is that transferable skills are everywhere. There are so many stories about my classmates not having enough office experience leading to them missing out on that application. My advice would be to aim for as close to the dream job as possible or for as similar a role as possible which will make the next step an easy transition and make the most of every position.

On the other hand maybe I am defending that route because it is the one I have been forced to take. I hope that this new job will be a stepping stone to my next. I certainly consider it to be more appropriate than my last. My new role is at a publisher of sorts and getting used to a company with a similar culture is helpful.

Always remember make the best of your situation, particularly if it is not exactly where you want to be and that should be enough of an armour against the accusation of selling out or selling your soul to the wrong industry. We've all got to climb the ladder from somewhere, why not let it be from a steady job that pays on time.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Books On The Underground

Every day thousands of people use the underground and so many of them are readers. It's the main place I browse for my next book by taking a look at other people's choices.

How great would it be if that person handed the book to you or left it on the seat? As you pick it up to shout after them you see a black circular sticker on the front cover.

I came across Books On The Underground on twitter about a year ago. They are an amazing organisation run by two book lovers. It's a very simple concept, you finish a book you love and you put a BOTU sticker on it and leave it on the tube for someone else to read. They also do promotions with publishers and authors to get books seen.

Everyone can get involved by emailing them to get your own stickers. I posted recently that I have trouble getting rid of my books once I'm ready to let them go. This is a slow but very satisfying way to do it. Why not definitely give your books a good home on the tube? Ofcourse you can just leave books lying around anywhere but I THINK that Books On The Underground have got some kind of agreement with TFL that the books are left where they are and not tidied away by staff.

Its a brilliant idea and one that is being taken up by a few different companies. I know a bag/wrapping company that makes bags designed for reuse with an online website that lets you know where your gift bag has travelled. Similarly books that travel the world being read over and over again with the help of a sticker on the front cover. And of course, the little free libraries that are starting to spring up around residential areas.

This is not a sponsered post, I just want as many people as possible to know that this exists and is a great way to share books. The larger the Underground library becomes the more likely it is that you will find one of these gems yourself. I've sent 6 books out on their journeys already.

Visit @BooksUndergrnd on twitter to see everything that they get up to and send them pictures of the books you leave! Order your stickers now and start sharing your books with London.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Man Booker Shortlist Prediction! 2015

Last week the Man Booker long list was announced. The shortlist is coming out on the 9th of September so I've put it in my diary and I am on the look out for my invite to the announcement night. Just a heads up to any publishers reading... I would love to go.

So I've had a couple days to peruse the list and secretly reading reviews at work... in my lunch hour of course. The shortlist is always a bit more interesting than the long list and definitely gets the most prestige so I am really looking forward to the decisions. I thought I'd take the lull to think about my predictions for the short list, based purely on reviews.

There have been a lot of articles about the US books on the list dominating and elbowing out the opportunities for the smaller (only a bit) UK market of authors. But to me it looks like a really good spread, and I'm excited. But that's just my opinion, any way here is my first prediction of the Man Booker short list. It is ALSO my new Amazon wish list in case any of you want to get me a present; or maybe I'll buy my self a lil present or six.

1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Seemingly pinned as an early favourite, this story looks like it might be quite intense based on the trauma suffered by one member of a group of four room mates travelling to New York. Sounds a bit like it might be one awful memory after another but everyone seems keen.

2. The Illuminations by Andrew O'Hagan
The only UK book that I'm interested in, purely for personal reasons as it centers around a character with dementia, which my grandmother had for many years. The novel looks into the way we remember and I think it sounds like a touching story that I would love to read.

3. The Chimes by Anna Smaill
Dystopian, alternate London, mind control. I mean, it sounds great and I think this will be the one that finds its way into teen hands very quickly. I love any book that takes place in a city I know even if it's an augmented reality through the story so I can't wait for this one. It seems like the only different story that doesn't follow the usual Man Booker style which means its a great story and well written to catch the judges eye.

4. Sleeping on Jupiter by Anurdaha Roy
An abused young lady returns to her village in India and examines violence, through her relationship with three older women. Very female centric I am fascinated by this one. I find the topic really interesting, I've enjoyed several books based in India and I think this one will do well in the press which means it could be a strong contender.

5. The Moors Account by Laila Lalami
From the perspective of a slave on a ship on its way to conquer Florida. I love historical fiction so this one should be interesting, I'm intrigued where the story will go.

6. Lila by Marilynne Robinson
Everything changes when a woman walks into a church. I know nothing else about this story but I love the idea that everything can change with two people meeting in that setting.

I hope to see at least a few of these on the final shortlist and I will endeavour to read some of them before the 9th of September. Fingers Crossed for all the authors.