Thursday, 25 August 2016

Circus Books

I have spent most of the summer in a park with several sets of Poi, two hula hoops and music playing. I've been watching you tube videos of Poi lessons and Hula lessons on you tube and have been doing some serious practising. I love the way both of these skills feel. Essentially I want to join a circus and am just working my way up to that. Cirque de Soleil eat your heart out.

It got me thinking about where this interest came from...There are a number of books that take place in a circus or involve a circus in some way. It's a mysterious and dangerous place, full of magic and the unusual, but everyone there can perform their elements flawlessly. In an Olympic year with all eyes on the gymnastics, the acrobats still hold our fascination (Or is it just me?).

It's an escapist theme. Run away with the circus and leave reality. but as my mum always told me, to run away, you have to have something that the circus wants. What will draw the crowds. In all of these books the characters are hunted and exploited for their uniqueness. Wings, hair, fantastic beasts, all of these books have something going on that takes the reader away from reality.

Circus elements are often used in dreamscapes, a magical escape with a touch of mania thrown in for a hint of the nightmare. What is our fascination with seeing the weird and wonderful as if it has been pulled from our own subconscious?

Here's a list of books that feature the circus, if you don't want to disappear with the circus just yet, escape with these books. Or try some circus skills in the park.

Nights At The Circus - Angela Carter

Water For Elephants - Sarah Gruen

Tipping The Velvet - Sarah Waters

The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters - Michelle Lovric

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

Thursday, 18 August 2016

6 Cool Books for the Heatwave

Obviously, this particular list is targeted at my readers in countries that actually HAVE heatwaves. We had two here in the UK, each lasted about two days. Currently writing this in the office with a rain storm fully raging. It's August! I always feel that if things are going badly that tucking your nose into a book will help. Here's a list of books that take place in Summer that might warm the place up a bit.

The English Patient
The quintessential desert book. Its less about the heat and more about everything else of course, but I think of the sand sticking to your sweat in the desert and cutting your skin and the burn scars. It's a brilliant story and the setting keeps me thinking about the sun.

To Kill A Mocking Bird
I cannot get the description of the scene with the rabid dog out of my head. To me it captures the heat of the book so perfectly, the view of the dog at the end of the street, behind the screen of the heat as it rises off the road. Atticus Finch's sweaty hands. The glasses that slip from his nose.. - Brilliant.

The Famous Five Series
If lashings of lemonade and boiled eggs doesnt make you want to go for a summer adventure then you have not read this series. A highly enterprising bunch of teenagers get involved in the most jolly scrapes. What I really liked about these books is right at the beginning of each one there is a good reason why they are all together. in the similar way that a rainy day keeps the Narnia children inside one afternoon. There is always a reason why they have to stay with an uncle or go to the seaside or what ever. It's a real summer and the books are just part of their rich an colourful lives at school etc.

I Capture the Castle
Coming of age some time soon? This is definitely one to pick up. Over the summer two girls figure themselves out. It definitely takes you on a journey that could lead to you sorting out your own life this summer

After The Flood
One of the most difficult to read books I have ever read. I have a review of it here. The tension of the book is driven by the heat of the summer and the descriptions of the sun and the bleached washed out and mounting danger is a brilliant technique by the author, Sarah Perry. Saying that, it was difficult to read because it is very verbose text.

The Poisonwood bible
Set in Africa this true story sticks with me with its descriptions of what it is like to have malaria fever while in Africa. The image of the sisters wilting in the heat stays with me. I really enjoyed the book in general but it fell down in that because it's a true story, there is no real ending and it went on too long into the lives of the characters after the climax of the story. Still it makes me think of being too hot!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Man Booker Short List Wish List

I have been listening to the Man Booker Podcast to get me in the mood for the prize giving excitement. There are 13 on the long list this year, the list is available here. However, from the summaries and reviews from the judges, these are the 6 that I am hoping make it onto the shortlist this year in a few weeks time. I've also relied heavily on this article.

The Schooldays of Jesus
JM Coetzee
I think this one will definitely make it through. Coetzee is the only author to have won the Man Booker prize twice. Even if it doesn't win, it is just too exciting to have the possibility that he might with three times and I think it will make its way to the shortlist this year. It's out in September, which makes it difficult to predict as few people have read it. One of the judges describes it as "baffling." Not sure if that's a compliment or not... I think its a strong contender and would not be upset to see it on the list this year.

Serious Sweet
AL Kennedy
This one really caught my eye. It is her eighth novel and is described as lyrical. I particularly like that it is set in London and over the course of 24 hours. The British Before Sunrise? (but better obviously). It definitely makes my wishlist this year and I hope it makes it onto the shortlist. The author is a tutor at Warwick University.

All That Man Is
David Szalay
The favourite to win! Has some controversial points in that it is nine linked stories. some debate if it's even a novel at all... INTERESTED MUCH? I am.

His Bloody Project
Graeme Macrae Burnet
The only crime novel on the list. It is said to be the most surprising on the list by the guardian. I'm not sure if it means because it is a crime novel or because it is published by a small independent publisher. Either way it is said to "transcend its genre" and that sounds like a great read.

Work Like Any Other
Virginia Reeves
Is one of the debut novels on the list, and is a historical novel set in 1920s Alabama with a very interesting plot line. It is one of my worries with first time novelists that they will not have developed their style to an enjoyable level yet. Similarly great ideas get crammed into one book when really they need a sprawling three book series, which is harder to sell. So what you get is great ideas that feel rushed and poorly thought out or worse, badly edited. Here's hoping this one does well.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing
Madeline Thien
My Chinese culture interest comes in here with this book that tells a woman's story about her experience of the cultural revolution. It peaks my interest more than the rest, and is the kind of book I would pick up any way.

Good luck to all of the authors! These are the ones that I really hope make it to the short list. I will review my TBR list once the shortlist comes out.

Rest of the list
The Sellout - Paul Beatty
Hot Milk - Deborah Levy
The North Water - Ian McGuire
Hystopia - David Means
The Many - Wyl Menmuir
Eileen - Ottessa Moshfegh
My Name is Lucy Barton - Elizabeth Strout

Thursday, 4 August 2016

July Reviews

I've really got into the grove of reading these past few months. I'm making more effort to have my book with me at all times, and I'll admit, the kindle is really helping with that. being able to finish one book and immediately switch onto the next is great. Plus it fits in nearly all my bags. I might be a convert!

The Moth
Serpent's Tail 07/08/2014 Paperback
Internship Haul
I picked up this book from my internship at Profile, and largely chose it because the marketing was absolutely brilliant. They did gorilla marketing where they did up the shutters of a bookshop and all sorts of other really cool stuff, like High vis cycling jackets. Anyway, it was a total whim and it sat on my shelf as a book of short stories for ages.
The title The Moth comes from people sitting on their porches telling stories while the moths hit the bare bulb above them. The idea of oral history is kept alive by The Moth which is an event held in New York where speakers come on stage and tell their true life stories, usually around a theme or prompt from the organisers.
The book is a collection of these stories set down. Some I had heard before, as the show is recorded and released as a podcast. I liked re reading them in the speakers voice and wondered what the ones I hadn't heard would be like spoken aloud. The book is brilliant. The podcast is better. If they released an anthology every year I would read it. It's such a simple idea. Come on stage and tell your story.

Tyler Oakley
Simon & Schuster 20/10/2015 Kindle
Ah Tyler, he never fails to bring a smile to my face. Binge had been on my list since it was available to pre-order. If I wasn't already such a big fan of his, I'm not sure that this would have got 4 out of 5. There are a number of typos. Which I realise is probably S&S's fault, but it still stood out to me. And It is fairly obvious that each chapter is stand alone and they edited it together into the most sensible order, but it means that for instance chapter 6 refers to something that happened in chapter 3 but refers to it as in the future because of the chronology of his life. I think Tyler's life is and was deserving of a more respectful rendering and I think the publisher has treated it like any old celebrity bumf. He's not, please check him out, he's amazing and my greatest advisory to being an accepting and evolved human. Plus points for him being just as hilarious in text as on screen.

The Widow
Fiona Barton
Transworld Digital 14/01/2016 Kindle
Another Gone Girl. With revolving perspectives (bar one crucial one) the story slowly unfolds from several unreliable narrators. Its a page turner but ultimately let me down in the ending. I think I needed more resolution or a more surprising turn. Maybe I missed something. I really enjoyed the book, but it's no gone girl or before we met.

Earnest Cline
Cornerstone Digital 16/07/2015 Hardback
Christmas Haul
Have you read Ready Player One? Go read that. It's much better than this one in my opinion. Armada doesn't have the same multi layered gorgeousness of RPO and there's a lot about space that I don't care about, it just doesn't feel as well planned. Still and easy read and a familiar voice makes it worth picking up. I would just re read Ready Player One though...