I have been reading my way through LOTS of new books as I’ve moved to Ebury, part of Penguin Random House, so these are some shorter-than-usual thoughts. I’ve not actually worked on these books but they had just published when I started and everyone was talking about them. I tore through them and would highly recommend:
I was completely unsure whether to read this as a gritty real account of the individual struggling against the landscape (of MARS, instead of our usual old Earth) OR some sort of Sci Fi adventure in the style of Hugh Howie’s Wool (see my review below). I’m not going to give away any spoilers so suffice to say, it combines the best of both genres in a terrific read. I immediately recommended the book to my engineer friend Adam, and this was his response just a week later:
‘Thank you! That was a most excellent book, I enjoyed it thoroughly and my descriptions have made three of my work colleagues want to buy it! I think my dad would love it too so I ordered a copy to send to him for father’s day. Normally I’m scrubbing about looking for something but this year, thanks to your author, I am sorted really early! Shame that’s his only book at the moment (I checked) but I shall await his next with baited breath!’
That is my absolute favourite response from a book recommendation.
£9.99 978-0091956134 Del Rey
Who Is Tom Ditto
This new novel by Danny Wallace I approached with more confidence, as I read Danny’s columns regularly so I thought that his witty, shrewd voice would be familiar.
However, the opening of this book completely floored me. The protagonist Tom returns home one day to find a bizarre note from his girlfriend Hayley:
I have not left you. But I am gone.
Please carry on as normal.
Tom is justifiably confused, angry and determined to find out what the bloody hell has happened and the reader is immediately swept along with him in his strange quest. The characters and story are sometimes totally strange, always comical and ‘stealthily profound’ (as described by William Boyd- I couldn’t find a better way of saying this!)
£12.99 978-0091919030 Ebury Press
I just had to make this quick post because there’s two book bloggers I am thoroughly enjoying reading.
http://throughthewardrobedoor.wordpress.com/ reviews children and young adult books (I know, not tumblr, but totally worth the journey!)
http://yasminjaunbocus.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/onthebookshelf-the-extraordinary-journey-of-the-fakir-who-got-trapped-in-an-ikea-wardrobe-and-kafka/ reviews a new title and a classic ‘book I really should have read’ together.
Beautiful blogs, great writing.
This Valentines Day I asked for people’s favourite quotes from books.
“I love you. Properly. Practically. And all the food you get from me will always, always be wheat-free.
I love you, realistically. I mean, I wouldn’t die for you…
But I would never lie to you.
You immense, wonderful – dufus.
You beautiful, puking fool.
You festival spreadsheet genius.
You giver of sausages.
You wedding-flying, ‘bena buying, sex-denying fancy piece.
You signal-missing, shoe girl, shiny-eyed delight.
You pain-feeling, slow-healing, Voldemort ex-boyfriend revealing, Earl Grey-sipping, hotel-skipping, wonder of the night.
With the world’s best eyes, in the world’s best head.
You’re a life-changer. And you’re cracking in bed.”
From Dirty Great Love Story by Katie Bonna and Richard Marsh (Amy)
“I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls, I just want you.”
From Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery (Ali)
“She preferred imaginary heroes to real ones, because when tired of them, the former could be shut up in the tin kitchen till called for, and the latter were less manageable.”
From Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Anna)
“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary.”
From Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (Poppy)
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight and a half years ago. Dare not say that a man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.”
From Persuasion by Jane Austen (Emily and Mags)
“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”
From Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres (Tom)
“This is not a letter but my arms around you for a brief moment.”
From a letter by Katherine Mansfield (Frankie)
“For if Jack Buggit could escape from the pickle jar, if a bird with a broken neck could fly away, what else might be possible? Water may be older than light, diamonds crack in hot goat’s blood, mountaintops give off cold fire, forests appear in mid-ocean, it may happen that a crab is caught with the shadow of a hand on its back, and that the wind be imprisoned in a bit of knotted string. And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery.”
From The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (me)
“On the day of my judgment, when I stand before God, and he asks me why… did I … did I kill one of his true … miracles… what am I going to say? That it was my job? It was my job…”
From The Green Mile by Stephen King (Adam)
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
From To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Libby)
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
From On The Road by Jack Kerouac (Laura)
Send me yours and I’ll add to my list!
The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay
I was drawn to this book because it covers a similar subject to Evie Wyld’s After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, a book which I worked on last year. Set in the blinding light and dramatic landscape of Eastern Australia, families try to come to terms with the end of war.
The central characters, a widow librarian, a poet and a doctor are to some extent defined by their jobs. They try to start new stories, the concept of books and writing is central to this and unites them. The town library certainly has the atmosphere of a church- a place of solace that tries to make sense of humanity. The grief of Ani Lachlan and her daughter Bella at the unexpected loss of Mac Lachlan is piercing and yet very easy to relate to. Most people, after all, have lost someone they care about. The horror faced by the poet soldier and the doctor who worked liberating concentration camps are inevitably more challenging, but their combination does enable some perspective for all of them. The grinding machinery that dominates the industry of the small town is perhaps a metaphor for the overwhelming progress of ‘civilisation.’ Despite the similar setting and subject to Wyld, it was the style of Hay’s writing which really struck me. It’s blurb says it is ‘written in clear, shining prose,’ and I would agree with that description. Hay dwells on love and beauty in a somewhat less stark manner to Wyld, and I think this is a more accessible book for that.
I thoroughly enjoyed this title, read it in one sitting and will pass on with my recommendation to fans of women’s fiction, romance and historical fiction alike.
£12.99 978-1743318010 Allen & Unwin
I read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy but never got around to reviewing it. Fortunately wonderful wordpress Through The Wardrobe Door says everything I thought and more…
A Winter Fairytale
DECEMBER 14, 2013 | TTWARDROBE
Mabel had known there would be silence.
Tis almost the festive season and though the high street lights are lit and the present buying is well under way, the very slim prospect of a white Christmas, university assignments and a huge workload is keeping me from that Christmassy glow. So I decided to turn to Eowyn Ivey’s bestselling debut in the hope of catching some seasonal magic.
The Snow Child opens in the forests of 1920s Alaska, a perfect setting for this fairytale retold. Jack and Mabel have relocated in the hope of escaping the disappointment of childlessness but deep in the wilderness, working off the land with not much company only highlights their heartache. Then one night, they make a girl of snow only to discover the next morning that she’s been destroyed and a mysterious childlike figure haunts them through the trees.
I first encountered Neil Gaiman the author phenomenon, rather than Neil Gaiman’s writing.
Working at Edinburgh International Book Festival the enormous audience who came to listen to him speak and the queues for every Gaiman book signing were a high-energy administrative nightmare. Contrarily, I avoided reading his work. Then I was given The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
The book title and cover struck me as children’s or YA so I was immediately surprised that the narrator was a middle aged man, reflecting on his childhood forty years ago. His recollection of a lodger stealing his family’s car and committing suicide in it was graphic. That this stirred up ancient powers, a primal menace that threatened his family unit, seemed almost necessary in order to process the opening horror. I felt it was redolent of Pan’s Labyrinth and Terry Pratchett’s books, modern reshaping of fairytale fables.
The three women who live on the farm at the end of the lane and defend both boy and man are characterized brilliantly. The youngest, his childhood companion, claims their duckpond is the titular ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang. In between these fantasy elements are prosaic, comfortable details and conversations about farming, food and clothes. It is a sanctuary that riffs off our associations of femininity and lifestyle, paganism and nationalism.
I love reading new versions of ancient and arcane stories and examining how they comfort different people over different times. This is wonderfully written, bursting with drama, fear, domestic and funny language and characters. Highly recommend as a Christmas present for almost anyone!
978-1472200310 £16.99 Headline
As part of a literary agency, I thought the Literary Rejections website’s list of famous works publishing history was fascinating. I chose my favourite 10, with my reasons for interest below. Visit www.literaryrejections.com for more.
1- Absolute bestsellers don’t necessarily take off at once:
The Christopher Little Literary Agency receives 12 publishing rejections in a row for their new client, until the eight-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury editor demands to read the rest of the book. The editor agrees to publish but advises the writer to get a day job since she has little chance of making money in children’s books. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling spawns a series where the last four novels consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history, on both sides of the Atlantic, with combined sales of 450 million.
2- Finding a publisher is not necessarily the end of an author’s problems:
Having sold only 800 copies on its limited first release, the author finds a new publisher and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho sells 75 million.
3- Editorial advice can be really significant to publishing success:
“We feel that we don’t know the central character well enough.” The author does a rewrite and his protagonist becomes an icon for a generation as The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger sells 65 million.
4- Editorial advice can also be absolutely wrong:
“An irresponsible holiday story that will never sell.” Rejection of The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame. The novel did sell: 25 million copies worldwide.
5- Timing is very important:
5 publishers reject L.M. Montgomery‘s debut novel. Two years after this rejection, she removes it from a hat box and resubmits. L.C. Page & Company agree to publish Anne of Green Gables and it goes on to sell 50 million copies.
6- It may be easier to sell your work abroad than at home:
“I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.” Shunned by all the major publishers, the author goes to France and lands a deal with Olympia Press. The first 5000 copies quickly sell out. But the author Vladimir Nabokov now sees his novel, Lolita, published by all those that initially turned it down, with combined sales of 50 million.
7- If you can do it, doing it yourself is not a bad option:
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish 250 copies. It has now sold 45 million.
8- A lot of rejections do not mean the end:
Margaret Mitchell gets 38 rejections from publishers before finding one to publish her novel Gone With The Wind. It sells 30 million copies.
9- It’s not always necessary to have an agent:
After 25 literary agents reject her debut manuscript, she mails it unsolicited to a small publisher in San Francisco, MacAdam/Cage. They believe it is a classic. Upon publication, the world agrees. Translated into over 33 languages and adapted into a movie, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger sells 7 million copies.
10- It’s not just a hardback format that can be your big break:
24 literary agencies turned down The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. The 25th did not and sold it to Time Warner one week later for $1 million dollars.
Also, in case you thought this was universally positive for the authors:
“Our united opinion is entirely against the book. It is very long, and rather old-fashioned.” Publisher rejects Moby Dick by Herman Melville. It is later published by Harper & Brothers, who release a first print run of 3000 copies. Only 50 of these sell during the author’s lifetime.
After 22 rejections, Dubliners is finally published. But it only sells 379 copies in the first year. James Joyce bought 120 of them.
To prove how hard it is for new writers to break in, Jerzy Kosinski uses a pen name to submit his bestseller Steps to 13 literary agents and 14 publishers. All of them reject it, including Random House, who had published it.