Archive for the ‘Book Thoughts’ Category

I have been on goodreads a short time now and, last month thought i was lucky when I won a book in their giveaway. I received about 5 books from the one author who thought I might like the others and after my initial astonishment i had some doubts which proved to be very accurate.

I won’t go into details on the why and wherefore, but it certainly makes me appreciate more the books we see sitting on shelves in stores just waiting to be discovered. I appreciate not so much the actual stories and authors now, but more the whole process that goes into getting a book to that shelf.

The books i won were self published and now something i would swear never to do. The publisher that helps people self publish says in their site that they offer evaluation to get it to the basic requirements needed to self publish and give advice on how to promote etc etc. I don’t decry their efforts, but essentially they are giving false hope to a lot of people who should simply self publish for friends and family.

The lack of any editorial guidance can be disastrous for a novel. Books are often gems that need a little refining and pruning – Jay Rubin does this when translating Murakami (in consultation with the author of course), and every author needs editing. They need someone to tell them what works and doesn’t, not because they have any personal like or dislike, but want to help the work be the best it can be. Its a process that takes time, effort and teamwork and its not about spell checking and punctuation.

The 5 books were, as i explained on goodreads reviews – pretty awful and i didn’t like them. The author cliched himself within one book with a set number of events – cancer (ovarian), sport, investigating a crime and ending up hired by the FBI, at least 1 virgin per book, too much sex and not enough detail or thought into events and emotions. eg: spending 2 pages on honeymoon sex and 2 lines on the death of a son …

There were also some oversights in wording such as ‘insight his furore’ rather than ‘incite his furore’, hippos that scamper, water that changes direction from one side of equator to the other (whole rivers not just a glass). They might not seem important, but they do irritate. Persist ant use of ‘imagine that’ made me grind my teeth.

The descriptions of what the books were about were also misleading to the content and the selected artwork was obviously stock images which doesn’t help. while i don’t think books should be judged by their covers, they do have to attract attention and not look cheap and tacky.

I understand why there is a slush pile now…

I would definitely want to go through an editorial process, however painful it could be, simply because i wouldn’t want a critic like me to get their hands on it in a self published state 😉


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The world is a little more obscure today. Not in the literal sense of course, but in the literary sense with the passing of J.G. Ballard.

The first book of his I ever read was ‘Hello America’, not associating it with the ‘Empire of the Sun’ until much later when looking at the inside cover of the book and discovering i had actually read his work before. My interest in his writing continued when I read ‘Running Wild’ and the ‘The Unlimited Dream Company’ Each novel was one I would lose myself in, greedily snapping up words and and pages, revelling in the ideas and psychology of his world perception, crystal words that spoke truths that are sometimes hard to deal with.

His work fascinates me – the clarity of his vision of the dystopia in which we live, the idea of man versus machine and the self destructive way in which we can relate to it. Isolation, crime, the need for order and its negative impact all deliciously portrayed with believable characters and situations.

The ideas he put forth, the candidness with his portrayal of his life and the passion he invokes with each new novel created a staunch supporter and follower of me.

It is not often that an author with have a dictionary definition based on their name, nor a whole genre of fiction defined by their view on the world, nor even a multitude of punk and rock bands using titles from his work for albums and songs.

It is not often that I cry at a stranger’s passing.

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We all know war is a bad thing, but reading this book really gives an insight as to how it damages the land over which its raged. The way community and life is ripped to pieces and the fabric of society unravels and is rewoven as something less appealing is well portrayed. To come through this and be able to share the story as well as attempt to rebuild and heal says a lot for the authoress.

The violence is never glorified, nor is the atrocities, but told in a way that taps into your emotions and grips at you unforgettably. Forget the film, even though the key events are portrayed, the book is far tougher with the Hollywood romanticism stripped way.

If you wnat an understanding of how war affected the people of vietnam, and how much of a piece of heaven it destroyed you need to read this book. I finished reading this on the train and it was hard not to cry my eyes out, not just for the events and family of LeLy Hayslip, but for all the people she knew and met and the beautiful way of life that is so sadly lost now.

i wish i could write something as powerful as this one day.

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… now having read ‘murakami and music of words’ that someone else writes the same way i do. That they too start with a scene and just write and see where it takes them Perhaps that’s why I have taken to his work so much 🙂

I haven’t written much in the last few days because i have a cold and feeling run down and i also wanted to do something creative media-wise. Thoughts of the fics are never far from my mind though and i expect i shall finish the chapter i am working on soon.

Currently reading a history novel about how China discovered the world before anyone else did – totally fascinating and i think i will get the next book about the Venetian renaissance they inspired too. I am also reading the last book in the Magravandian Trilogy by Storm Constantine which is still very enjoyable and will be finished by the time the weekend comes i am sure.

what to read next though…. I have a feeling i will read the two gao xingian novels thta are on my shelf as they are far too big for the commute and they have been waiting 6 years to be read too hehe. It will be a chnage of pace, but it will be nice to finally get tot them.

my supply of books is running low in a few months – does this mean i finally pay off my library fine of £25 and head back to that? or shall i just join the one near my folks and bother them for things hehe. London one would be more convenient and better stocked, but i have a real grudge against the reason i ahve those fines and thats why i have no wish to pay them ….

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According to the BBC most people have read six of the following books. Bold those you have read! Itlaics for those you arereading!

  1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
  3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  6. The Bible
  7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
  9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
  10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
  12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (I’ve read many of them but not all)
  15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
  16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
  17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
  18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
  19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegge
  20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
  23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
  24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
  30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
  33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
  34. Emma – Jane Austen
  35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
  36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
  37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
  39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
  41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
  43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
  45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
  47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
  51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  52. Dune – Frank Herbert
  53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
  55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
  56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
  60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
  66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
  67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
  68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
  69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
  70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
  72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
  75. Ulysses – James Joyce
  76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
  78. Germinal – Emile Zola
  79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
  80. Possession – AS Byatt
  81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
  87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
  88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
  91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
  94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
  95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
  96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

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Haruki Murakami

I am always very greedy with Murakami and his work. I often liken it to gorging myself on words ideas the same way i used to gorge on cake when i was at university. Hopefully though, Murakami will make me intellectually fatter and creatively stout rather than expanding my waistline!

I’m currently drip feeding myself the last few books of his i have yet to read. ‘Blind willow sleeping woman’, ‘south of the border, west of the sun’ and  ‘things i talk about when i am running’ as i really think i will feel quite desolate with any new work (though i think one is being translated right now). I do have as a backuJay Rubin’s ‘s biography and analysis of Murakami’s work (he has been his main translator) but i will rsist that until the end as I like to draw my own conclusions on his work and simply enjoy the stories for what they are without looking for symbolism.

I love the unusual angles he takes on ordinary things, how the unexpected happens to the least suspecting people, the surreal and abstract nature of events and their great coincidences and inexorable conclusion. I evangelise to everyone to hasn’t heard of him to read his work; I buy his books as gifts because they really are things to treasure and explore.

Vivid pictures with simple words, and through it all there is music.

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I finished reading this last night and would seriouly reccomend it as a very touching and painful portrait of the devastation of Hiroshima. The story centres mostly around the experiences of a Japanese family and their daughter Yasuke as the father trabnscribes his diaries of the days after the bomb dropped and the effects of radiation on himself, his daughter and the people around him. It feels unbelievable at times – the ladscapes he walks through. the devastaion but frightnening in a way a horror novel cannot be. simple language and almost calm descriptions of what he sees really hit home at how this affected them.

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