Tag Archives: books

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favourite Book Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the wonderful people at the Broke and the Bookish. This week I thought I’d join in:

Top Ten Favourite Covers of Books I’ve Read

What do you think of my choices? What are your favourite book covers? Let me know below and please like and share!

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International Women’s Day

To celebrate Women’s Day, you can have my ebook about inspirational women for free!

This uplifting illustrated collection warmly celebrates inspirational women from comedians to global campaigners. Entertaining descriptions of remarkable and ground-breaking achievements explain how these women have made particularly significant contributions. Admirable personal qualities form the theme of each biographical chapter: strong, inventive, cooperative, genuine and determined.

Download it now! Please share with anyone who might be interested! Thanks!

The Brilliant Women Collection

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Celebrating Singledom in Fiction

bromanceOn this most romantic of days, not everyone has a Romeo or Juliet of their own to hand (good thing too, says Mark Vernon as that, like our greatest of love stories is above all else, a tragedy). Love is nice, but there are a myriad of good things about flying solo too.

Think of Sherlock Holmes: intelligent and insightful, there’s simply no space inside his mind-palace for  anyone Jessica fletcher else. Satisfied by a good mystery solved and with plenty of time to cultivate a thriving bromance, I see nothing wrong with Holmes’ way of life. It seems to be a theme amongst the best detectives as Miss Marple, Poirot and Jessica Fletcher are all largely uncoupled. They have time to think, write, travel as they please and grow impressive moustaches, well, in Poirot’s case anyway.

Many of the best characters have other sorts of love in their atticus finchlives. Consider To Kill a Mockingbird’s  Atticus Finch. He’s a compassionate humanitarian who cares deeply for his child, his client and the community, and even has sympathy for the accuser. Miss Honey from Matilda is another example of a loving person; her happy ending is sharing her life with a bright and bookish adopted daughter.

Mary Poppins is a single woman who enjoys her freedom. She swoops in when she feels like it, cheers peopleMP up, meets chimney sweeps and penguins, then flies off on her umbrella when she fancies going elsewhere. A tied down Mary Poppins simply would not do.

Bertie Wooster spends his life trying to avoid being engaged so that he can do as he pleases with his gentleman’s gentleman, the wonderful Jeeves. Though he goes through infatuations, Bertie dreads a woman taking him away from having bun fights at his club and generally having jolly japes. Consider this as exemplar: ‘In fact there was a time when I had an idea I was in love with Cynthia. However, it blew over. A dashed pretty and lively and attractive girl, mind you, but full of ideals and all that.

ITV ARCHIVE

I may be wronging her, but I have an idea that she’s the sort of girl who would want a fellow to carve out a career and what not. I know I’ve heard her speak favourably of Napoleon. So what with one thing and another the jolly old frenzy sort of petered out, and now we’re just pals. I think she’s a topper, and she thinks me next door to a looney, so everything’s nice and matey.’

Generally, single people have had the time and focus to forge careers, friendships and full lives. The single women of Cranford, Larkrise to Candleford and other such classics have a great time.

Not forgetting Batman – you can’t keep that much secret technology hidden when someone else moves into the manor and he’d have far less time to perch moodily on the high ledges, staring out over the city. 

Most of these people are single most of the time to the best of my knowledge – I’m aware dalliances and trysts may have occurred. Can you think of any more? I’d love to see them in the comments!

Please like and share if you enjoyed this. Thanks!

‘I like being single, I’m always there when I need me.’ – Art Leo

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All You Need is Love…and Perhaps Some Literary-themed Valentine Gifts!

Why not start by throwing some Austen Confetti over your loved one?

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Say it like Mr Darcy! ‘You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’ Do throw in a jammy dodger for good measure.

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The whole of Wuthering Heights on your wall! Not On The High Street also do A Midsummer Night’s Dream and other classics in this form.

Wuthering Heights

From the British Library, a collection of historical love letters.

romance

Buy them something lovely to keep in touch with, like this writing set.

writeTry Oxfam Books for some beautiful old editions of poetry and all sorts! no-bliss-like-this-five-centuries-love-poems-jill-hollis-paperback-cover-art

I think it’s always lovely to receive an extravagance- something beautiful that I wouldn’t buy myself. A few Februarys ago, I was delighted  to be given this hardback, illustrated essay collection by my favourite director.

starting point

Happy Valentine’s!

What are you getting your loved one this year?

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Free on Amazon: The Origami Dragon and Other Tales and Wish by C.H. Aalberry

It’s no secret that I enjoy the writing of C. H Aalberry. You can read my review of his YA fantasy novel Wish here.  Now is a brilliant time to download Wish or his wonderful book of short stories The Origami Dragon and Other Tales – they are currently absolutely free on Kindle! Origami

WishThe Origami Dragon is really rather special- darker than Wish in some ways, the intelligent mix of compelling characterisation, fantasy and science fiction is original and engaging. From tiny elephants to inter-stellar travel, the collection has surprising twists and charming moments. The author has a gift for intriguing anti-heroes and bringing the dark and fantastical to life. There’s also a clever intertwining intertextuality throughout.

Get yourself some quality, entertaining literature while it’s free! Also,  look out for stunning use of spelling, grammar and punctuation in both. Come for the plot, stay for the syntax!

Read another review of Wish from the estimable Adam P Reviews. His overview is simply excellent!

Read C. H Aalberry’s advice for writers struggling with writer’s block.

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Snow in Literature

I’m with Shelley: ‘I love, snow and all the forms of the radiant frost.’ It is a wonderful symbolic tool in literature. Snow transforms a familiar landscape; it can become a magical wonderland or a bleak and forbidding country. It can cause the world to slow and a certain muffled silence to fall. I’ve collated some of my favourite uses of snow in literature.

Often snow is used to symbolise cleansing. It is a blanket that obscures all, which can either be a new, clean beginning, orSnow Country a blanket obscuring a truth. Throughout Nobel Laureate, Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country, snow is used as a metaphor for the purity the protagonist seeks: ‘The thought of the white linen, spread out on the deep snow, the cloth and the snow glowing scarlet in the rising sun, was enough to make him feel that the dirt of the summer had been washed away, even that he himself had been bleached clean.’ Its use is often similar to the colour white, which is often used to denote purity, light and innocence. See Shakespeare’s use in Cymbeline, for instance, ‘I thought her as chaste as unsunned snow.’ Unsurprisingly, snow is also a theme in The Winter’s Tale, ‘as white as driven snow’.

Ethan FromeSnow and winter are often used to represent sadness, bleakness or death. In Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, the characters are having a rather sad time of it; the weather is used to represent and reinforce this. The character, Zeena, sits out in the cold: ‘the pale light reflected from the banks of snow,’ which makes ‘her face look more than usually drawn and bloodless.’ The lexical field of wintry weather is used figuratively throughout to maintain this sense of bare desolation. This is a description of the kitchen: ‘the deadly chill of a vault after the dry cold of the night.’

Consider the use of snow in James Joyce’s The Dead: ‘His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their latter end, upon all the living and the dead.’ Critics have claimed variously that the use of snow here represents death and desolation and the opportunity for renewal and another chance. For me, it symbolises a sort of togetherness and universalism; the snow falls equally on all.

Our association of snow and Christmas is widely thought to be the fault of Charles Dickens. He employs it in simile here to express just how cold-hearted Scrooge is in A Christmas Carol.

The-Muppet-Christmas-Carol

‘No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely and Scrooge never did.’ The associations of a white Christmas have become idealised from a Dickensian model.

A Child's Christmas in WalesA Child’s Christmas in Wales is another example of snow used to evoke nostalgia about festive seasons past. Dylan Thomas wrote, ‘All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea…It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas.’

Snow is also used excellently in Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials where armoured polar bears rule Svalbard. In C. golden-compass-bearS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, of course, it is always winter and never Christmas. The melting of snow shows that a brighter future is near. Also, I must mention Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman
which says a great deal about friendship, joy and the transience of life.

I hope you’re all staying warm and safe. If you can think of any other snowy examples, I would love to hear them!

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New Year’s Resolutions Fictional Characters Should Have Made

Clark Kent (Superman- Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster): 

Superman

Buy more convincing disguise- minor difference in hairdo and specs aren’t quite cutting it anymore and besides, hipsters have ruined these glasses for me. Also, buy velcro shirts, they look easier to rip open- you would not believe how much of my time I spend sewing buttons back on.

Spectre (James Bond novels – Ian Fleming): Move HQ from hollowed out volcano, the health and safety implications are a nightmare.

Miss Havisham (Great Expectations – Charles Dickens): Consider a new look or at least get that wedding dress dry cleaned. 

haddockCaptain Haddock (Tintin – Hergé):  Join AA: one can only have so many whisky-fuelled near misses on the high seas.

Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë): Sign up to that anger management course and really get to grips with my abandonment issues. Or perhaps just move, it is rather gloomy on these moors.

Frodo (Lord of the Rings – J.R.R Tolkien): Find a giant eagle in the first instance next time, rather than taking the long and perilous way there, only to get an ornithological shortcut home, or just never leave the Shire again. 

Paddington-Bear-SandwichPi (Life of Pi – Yann Martel): Transport dangerous animals by air-freight next time.  

Paddington Bear (His eponymous series – Michael Bond): Take it easy on the Marmalade sandwiches; the duffel coat’s getting rather snug. 

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All I Want for Christmas is…The Best Literary-themed Gifts!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The perfect time for giving and receiving reading and writing paraphernalia. Hopefully, you’ll all be buying my proofreading and editing Christmas Vouchers here for the talented writer in your life, but in case there’s still some room in your stockings, here’s my suggested list for Santa.

Brilliant  falling bookend, creating that wonderful sense of trepidation before you’ve even picked up a new thriller.

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I Capture the Castle tea towel. Reminding us that sometimes lovelier things than scrubbing broccoli molecules out of a sieve can take place in a kitchen sink.

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Hairpins– because everything about you should scream well-read. Even your hairdo. hairpins2__55935.1308856435.420.420

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puns and Shakespeare- these are a few of my favourite things (sung with glee like Julie Andrews). The bard himself would definitely have been proud to wear this if t-shirts had been invented instead of the blouses and bloomers they wore back then. To buy or not to buy- that is the question.

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Next, something seasonal, but not saccharine: a cool but creepy print, inspired by Charles Dickens’ ghost of Christmas yet to come. I could very easily have written a whole post on pictures from Society 6, but I have to restrict the time I spend on that website- it’s a maze of glory that I don’t have the wall space to accommodate.

A christmas carol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writers, just for a change, bring your stories to life in a different way. Sometimes it’s nice to see something physically – visually – expressed; it’s all great story-telling! Also, Christmas is all about quality animation- The Snowman is a personal highlight. That + Labyrinth= Bowie’s greatest moments. I’m willing to try anything that kids look that happy doing! Four thumbs up! animate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gift that keeps on giving- a Persephone Books subscription! Who doesn’t love getting post that isn’t bills or circulars? Quality literature through the post every month- what could be better?

book-a-month

 

 

 

 

Alternatively, *awkward plug warning* you could by my cheap and cheery ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. It’s got pictures and everything!

The Brilliant Women Collection

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Virolution

ImageIn my opinion, Frank Ryan’s ‘Virolution’ does exactly what a popular science book should. It brings original ideas to a broader audience in an accessible and largely interesting manner. Essentially, it explains the evidence for the role of viruses in the evolution of all species. As a non-scientist reading this, I cannot speak for the accuracy of the content, but I gave a brief précis of it people with varying levels of interest and expertise, and they all said something to the effect of: ‘well that sounds right: how could that not be the case?’. I think that is also an indictment of how clearly Ryan presents his ideas; their lucidity and logic render them instantly credible.

Unlike other books in the genre, Ryan innovatively chose to explain his thesis by leading the reader through his journey of discovery. The sections where he recounts direct speech in conversation with eminent colleagues were not entirely to my taste. I would have preferred a summary of their contributions. Aside from these sections, I found the scientific explanations enjoyable, though I was more engaged in the first half of the text than the second.

As an editor, I thought the text would benefit from closer tailoring and concision. Also, I couldn’t help but notice some incredibly long sentences that became a barrier to understanding at points. Despite this, I generally thought the quality and tone were strong and the writer’s enthusiasm for his subject was communicated wholeheartedly.

‘Virolution’ is evidently a thought-provoking contribution to the field and is certainly worth reading.

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The Idealist

The Idealist

Jean Lopez’s historical novel is so compelling that I read it in one sitting. Based on historical fact, it tells the fascinating story of a young, idealistic lawyer, José Antonio, who became a fascist political leader at a tumultuous moment in Spanish history: the Civil War. It cleverly explores the relationship between personal charm and authoritarianism. His character is by far the most enthralling and best written in the book; I was less invested in the invented people. Lively dialogue and a constant sense of purpose and deep emotion kept me interested until the end. Short chapters allow the violence and drama to build at credible pace.

 The quality of writing is very high. The author smoothly adopts her characters’ perspectives to give their rich and varied impressions on people and events. For example, we see José Antonio through the eyes of several others, including his aunt:

‘But of course all of José Antonio’s girlfriends had been beautiful. Tía Ma would have been surprised indeed if they had not been so. He reminded her of a little boy collecting butterflies.’

The author has clearly done a vast amount of research; the authenticity of detail makes it an informative portrait of a time. However, the first part has a great deal of factual exposition to the extent that passages felt like they were written in a different style (closer to that of historical non-fiction). This amount of information is perhaps beneficial as it grounds the reader in the veracity of the occurrences, but I would have preferred the literary voice to be more closely maintained. Additionally, I found the epilogue to be too long; I have always been taught that epilogues should be brief. From a proofreader’s perspective, I couldn’t help but notice a few rogue punctuation marks. These flaws are minor and should not prevent anyone from enjoying a seriously impressive and accomplished work that deserves to be widely read. I want a whole collection of Jean Lopez texts to teach me about world history through her original and absorbing prose.

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