Friday, August 30, 2013

RIP Seamus Heaney

I've just heard of the death of Seamus Heaney.  It's a terrible loss; he was an amazing poet.

If you have never read his work, I would highly recommend it.  My personal favourites are Digging, Mid-Term Break, and A Bat on the Road.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Thoughts On: Broken Books

As you may have noticed, I am currently reading Toni Morrison's Jazz. I'm really enjoying it so far, but I'm not sure whether I'll have time to write a full review.

However, I am going to take some time to talk about the book; and by that I mean the actual, physical book.  The copy that I'm using is about 20 years old.  So, even though I am normally very careful with books, occasionally a small piece of the binding will just crumble off. I've already had to use Sellotape on a corner that fell off for no reason.

This got me thinking about how we treat books and how they age.  It's perfectly natural for books to gradually age; for the pages to yellow, and for the binding to crack.  However, many people (and I include myself in this category) put a lot of effort into making sure that doesn't happen.  I'm really careful when I open paperback books, I never open them too wide.  I feel bad whenever I read on the beach because the book might get sandy.  Some people go even further and use special covers.

It's not that I don't like old, shabby books.  I actually really like the way they look.  It's the in-between stage that I can't stand; when there is that one defect that you can't help but fixate on.

Of course, I could just deliberately age a book when it reached that stage, but destroying a book on purpose just feels wrong.  More to the point, I always find that the overall dilapidation of a book is directly related to how often I have read it.  In a sense, being tattered is almost like an achievement that books earn by being read and loved over and over.

Perhaps this preference is just an aesthetic one, or maybe it says something about my own relationship with books.  That I'm comfortable with books that I've read once, and with the books that I love so much that I read them again and again, but that I don't like to think about the other ones.  The books that I loved the first time, but on a second reading I realized that they weren't so good.  The ones that were popular for a while, but then faded away, so that I can remember loving them, but have long forgotten the plot. The ones that I just grew out of. Maybe I romanticize my relationship with books, and those books that aren't quite ruined yet remind me of the parts of the reading experience that I don't like to dwell on.

Or maybe I've just been writing this post for far too long.

What about you?  Do you like keeping your books as neat as possible? Is life just too short to worry about things like that?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

5 Bookish Rants

As you can probably tell, I love books. However, there are a few things that just get on my nerves.  So, without further ado, here are five things that I needed to rant about.

1.  Spoiling the ending of a book in the blurb

I don't know why, but recently I've bought several books where they tell you the ending, or at least several important plot points, in the blurb.  I can't understand why anyone would think that this was a good idea.  What do they honestly think will happen?  That I'll walk into a shop, pick up a book, read the blurb, and then think "Oh, I really like the ending, I think I'll go read it now."

2. The "This book is just like Twilight" cover   

Never mind the fact that Twilight is an objectively bad book, or that the book had a really gorgeous cover before, or that this book has absolutely nothing in common with Twilight.

3. The Never-ending Story

This was supposed to be just one book, but then the author found out how much money they could make if they wrote a sequel or two.  Or four.  What's that you say?  The previous book was advertised as the end of the series? Never mind, your readership are like goldfish, and you waited a few years, they've probably forgotten about all that.

4. The Writer who's "Down with the Kidz"

This writer understands young people.  They're hip to the fact that teenz like their cellphones, and slang, and this new-fangled internet thing.  They spend the entire novel proving just how rad they are using the latest slang, demonstrating their knowledge of the cool new bands, and writing out text messages in full to show that they know how to abbrevi8.

5. Books set in Privilege Land

Welcome to Privilege Land, where everyone is rich, able-bodied, white, straight, rich, cisgendered and ridiculously good looking.  For bonus points, have all of the characters pretend that their lives are terrible, when the worst thing that ever happens to them is that they have a crush on their friend's boyfriend.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Book review: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The novel I want to write about today is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.  Ivey adapts an old Russian folktale called "Little Daughter of the Snow" in a largely successful attempt to create a more complex understanding of it.

The Snow Child is set in Alaska in the 1920's.  Mabel and Jack are trying to start fresh by setting up a farm in the Alaskan wilderness.  They have always wanted a child, and when they notice that a mysterious young girl is living in the woods, they begin to wonder whether that dream might just come true.

My favorite aspect of the novel were the descriptions of the setting.  The writing is really atmospheric, and it really highlights the gorgeous, rugged setting.  I thought that it really set off the plot, and it felt really seamless, unlike some other books when the descriptions feel like they were just added to increase the word count.

It is a novel that is more character-driven than plot-driven, and I know that's not to everyone's taste, but I still think that it's worth a try, even if it's not the kind of book you would normally read.  Personally, I like character-driven novels.

While I loved the opening parts of the book, I was actually slightly disappointed by the end. Without spoiling it, I think that there were a lot of interesting themes and ideas that weren't satisfactorily resolved.

The last page has the words "Not the End" on it.  I hope this means we aren't looking at a sequel. Even though the ending wasn't perfect, I did like the fact that it felt conclusive.  I think that there are a lot of books out there with unnecessary sequels, or series that get dragged out too long, and I appreciate it when a writer knows when to move on.

Chance of finding it in my imaginary bookstore? 85%

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Camp Nanowrimo Winner's Goodies

I know I should probably stop talking about this.  I mean, we are well into August.  However, I just managed to get the Camp Nanowrimo Winner's Goodies, and I think they look really sweet.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky
(my own photo)

Summer is a really good chance for me to catch up on reading that I've been meaning to do throughout the year.  I've been meaning to read this book for quite a while.  I'll admit that this was partially due to the movie, even though I haven't seen it yet.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower focuses on Charlie, who goes into his Freshman year of high school shortly after his friend commits suicide.  During the course of the year, he makes new friends, and goes through several rights of passage traditionally associated with the teenage years.

I really liked the book; I thought that it dealt with a lot of different aspects of growing up, and it didn't shy away from more complicated or darker aspects of adolescence.  That being said I would definitely say that it is for older readers, because it deals with a good few mature themes.

The epistolary structure and the writing style gave the novel a really interesting voice.

Chance of finding it in my imaginary bookstore? 85%