TTT: Frame-Worthy Covers

As I have admitted several times before on this blog—i judge books by their covers. I love a gorgeous book cover. I won’t buy a book solely based on its cover (coughanymorecough), but it will entice me to pick it up and find out more about it.

I chose this topic for today’s TTT because when I bought the first book on this list (a mere three weeks ago), I admitted to the guy in the shop, “I love that cover so much, I want to frame it and hang it on my wall.”

My cover love themes are well-established and show themselves strongly here: artwork, limited but bold colours, negative space…. these covers are just gorgeous.

 

 

SeasonsTiny DeathsWeird LiesThe Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

       

 

 

 

 

 

LagoonThe Instrumentality of MankindDeeperWonderbookSoppy

 

 

 

 

 

Any and all John Wyndham covers – I actually do have plans to get a bunch of these printed and framed

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful People: Author Edition

As well as reading books and writing reviews, I write stories. I’ve never really done anything with my stories before, but I want to start posting them here. It was always my intention when I started this blog, but I’ve been more than a little nervous about it these past four years. Not because I don’t think my stories are good—I like them and that’s good enough—but because I’m just a tad bit precious and finickity about this blog. I didn’t like to disrupt the order I created.

Ultimately, though, it’s my blog and it shouldn’t matter if it gets a little out of order—chaotic, even. Keeping it organised only leaves huge gaps where I don’t post for months. And that’s a bit pants, really. So I’m going off-script and diving into writing and posting stories, as well as still reading books and posting reviews. I hope you’ll find your way amongst the disarray!

To start off the writing aspect of the blog, I thought I’d jump in to this month’s Beautiful People—a writing blog meme hosted by Further Up and Further In & Paper Fury. This month they’ve posed some author-focused questions, so I thought it would be a good month to hop on board and kick start the writing aspect of the blog!

How do you decide which project to work on?
Whichever I’m in the mood to write. Whichever has my creative juices flowing. Whichever one I’m drawn to.

How long does it usually take you to finish a project?
Depends on the project, but mostly I write short stories. If I’m focused I can finish something in a day, stories that require a little more thought or effort can take a few days. If you include sending it to my proofreader and editing, it can be a couple of weeks. Of course, other stories I’ll sit on for months or years before I do the final tweaks and declare them “finished”.

Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?
I need clear time in front of me. I’m not great at getting my head down when a sudden 10 spare minutes show up. I need to know I have a good chunk of time to myself to focus. I’ll put music on—usually Explosions in the Sky or Sigur Rós. I close my internet browser!

What time of day do you write best?
Afternoon or evening. I prefer getting any chores out of the way so I can’t distract myself with them later, or have them hanging over my head. I also like to relax with a beer while I write, as I find it loosens the brain muscles and I get into a flow easier without over thinking. I also write better when I’m tired for the same reason.

Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?
Errr… I don’t know. If we run with the idea that the authors a person reads the most influences their writing, then I’d say Christopher Brookmyre, Stephen King, and John Wyndham.

Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?
I was a big reader as a kid, and as well as reading, I would write. I have books I started writing by taking a wad of A4 paper, folding it in half and stapling it down the spine. I drew front covers, wrote straplines and blurbs. I went all out. I loved books, and I didn’t want to stop at reading them.
I keep writing because I love figuring out which order to put the words in. That feeling you get when you have a thought, and articulate it accurately—it’s addictive. I love reading my stories back years later and thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s actually good!’

What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?
I do a lot of free writing and personal diary-sort of writing. Nothing I would ever publish or even show anyone. Some of that has been hard. Life experiences, lessons learned, secret thoughts. I often try not to read them back; they are certainly the hardest thing I’ve read.

Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?
A couple, actually. One involves a lot of research-reading, but will be a hell of a lot of fun to work on. The other I think I just have too many thoughts and expectations about, and is a much larger project than I’ve ever tackled before. A small character/origin-driven story is first on my list for that one.

What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?
There was a 30 day writing meme I started—hahahaha—years ago that I want to finish this year. I’ll be posting those here when i’ve made a little more headway. And generally the goal is be writing stories and posting the stories here on a regular basis. I also want to research and find places to submit my short stories to. Online collections, published anthologies, whatever. I want my stories out in the world.

Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!
Always over thinking!

TTT: Made Me Think

I love books that make me think, that require engagement, that I get more out of by how much I put into them. The best books for me are books that have depth, or address issues, or just have a lot going on. As much as I enjoy a lighthearted bit of fluff sometimes, I crave more weight, insight, and philosophy in my fiction. Sorry not sorry.

These are just a few of the books I’ve read and enjoyed for how much they’ve made me stop and think, and consider, and figure shit out.

Nineteen Eighty-Four – My first dystopian, all those years ago. I’d never read anything like this before, but on a sunny holiday, after reading and rolling my eyes at the likes of Man and Boy, High Fidelity et al, I devoured this book. It was my gateway fiction.

Day of the Triffids – My first science fiction. There were aspects to this book that horrified me, but thinking about why they were included and what they were saying about the world gripped me.

Days of War, Nights of Love – This is a book designed to challenge the way you think, and the way you think about things—yourself, your job, your life, your outlook. I would make it required reading for everyone. (And oh, look, you can read parts of it right here!)

Crome Yellow – This one was a bizarre read. I could only read it a chapter at a time, because it used my brain so much it left me tired. But it has so much depth—it’s funny and interesting and complex and brilliant.

The Dispossessed – No government vs controlling government plus a parallel timeline culminating in the two most important scenes in juxtaposition… so much to think about!

Breakfast of Champions – Another bizarre one. I think it would be so easy to dismiss most of this book as just bloody weird, but I think that does everyone a disservice. But to say I was sure about the deeper meanings would be a lie. I took more meaningful things from it, at least.

The Female Man – More required reading. Offering the same character in different worlds, and what a difference society makes to a person—a female’s—life. This book had some epic chapters that I want to print and frame and hang on my wall.

The Paper Men – Introspection and psychology. I read so many reviews hating on this book, but I fell head first into it and adored every word.

The Girl in the Road – This one was hard work. Might be worth a re-read in the future because there was so much there. So much symmetry, referencing, and philosophy that was hard to grasp at first. But that’s why it’s on this list!

Why I Write – This book was a feast. The entire time I was reading it I was energised and analysing and just completely pumped. It articulated things I already felt so well, and opened my mind to things I’d not really considered but made so much sense. This book, folks—this book!

What books have made you think? And did you like being made to think?

TTT: Memory Wipe Re-Read

New prompts for Top Ten Tuesday have been put on hiatus, but that’s not going to stop us, right? If anything, it has encouraged me, because it means I can delve into the archive and pick any old theme that takes my fancy!

This week I’ve chosen books I wish I could wipe from my memory and re-read as if it were the first time. These are books that I had a particular kind of love for. A love that had me clutching the book to my chest when I finished it. That kind of love comes from being completely immersed in a book and swept away with the world, the characters, and the story.

These books stayed with me long after I finished them, and I’d love to be able to experience all that again for the first time.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Any and all books by Christopher Brookmyre

What books do you wish you could re-read for the first time? What impromptu or old school Top Ten Tuesday themes are you doing while new ones are off the cards? What Top Ten Tuesday theme should I do next week? Should I ask any more questions?

A Monster Calls

Title: A Monster Calls

Author: Patrick Ness

Summary: The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4.5/5

Review: When i bought this book from my local comic book shop, the guy behind the counter warned me to have a box of tissues nearby when i read it. He wasn’t wrong.

The story is a simple one, but one well told, with depth and meaning not immediately obvious. It’s hard, reading about Conor coping (or not) with his mother’s illness whilst also trying to navigate life with a grandmother he doesn’t get on with, fights with friends, stand offs with enemies, and an all but absent father. His visits from the monster are almost a relief… taking him out of that world, but still, abstractedly, dealing with the issues from it.

This is a book that deals so well with grief, and loss, and change, and all the messy human emotions that people experience. And it does that so, so well. Never heavy-handed, never too vague. The story is a dark one, but manages to tell it with a certain lightness–an approachable ease; it wasn’t really until three quarters of the way through that it hit me in gut and pulled hard at my emotions.

And the artwork… they are something to get lost in. The full page spreads are packed with detail and texture, while the smaller pieces blend and weave with the words to make a more immersive reading experience. All the artwork is in black and white, and though in some ways that seems stark, in more ways it only enhances the importance of the story being told. The images are striking and bold while never drawing too much attention away from the words.

The end… well. The reader knows what’s coming, just like Conor. And just like Conor, it’s not easy to go through. But it is important.

I do think this is a five-star book, but i just can’t bring myself to give it five stars. It’s a very good and important book, but it’s also a hard book. It’s sad, and although i loved and appreciate it… i can’t celebrate it. If that makes any sort of sense?

TTT: Imprint Covers

Today’s topic is a cover-themed freebie. Usually i don’t like freebie weeks; i find it too open and can never narrow down an option. However, when my partner suggested imprint covers, i knew it was the one.

It’s as often an imprint i’m drawn to as it is an author. It’s great to see a book i don’t own or haven’t read by an author i like, but it feels pretty safe. Seeing an imprint i love of an author i haven’t heard of or have never read feels more like an exciting recommendation. I love that these imprints are recognisable in style and general design, while each book still have its own image, theme, or pattern. I love distinctive yet simple imprints–it makes me want to collect them all!

And so, these are the imprint covers/editions that when i catch sight of them in a bookshop, will drawn my attention and have me browsing with interest…

SF Masterworks

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Classics

 

 

 

 

 

Penguin Modern Classics

 

 

 

 

 

Penguin Classics

 

 

 

 

 

Penguin English Library

 

 

 

 

 

Gollancz 50

 

 

 

 

 

Collins Modern Classics

 

 

 

 

 

Collins Classics

 

 

 

 

 

Dover Thrift Editions

 

 

 

 

 

Faber Modern Classics

 

 

 

 

 

…Turns out i like classics–who knew? (Me. I knew.)

TTT: Deterrents

In the antithesis of last week… ten things that will put me off wanting to read a book.

This ended up being just as hard as the last list, too. Which surprised me, as i usually really enjoy talking about why i don’t like books! Somehow it’s different when it’s about choosing whether to read a book or not. Oh well. On with the list!

Young adult – This won’t automatically put me off a book, but when i find out a book is YA i get a bit more choosy on other criteria. YA tends to be a less-interesting read for me, so unless the story sounds superb, i won’t usually bother.

No female characters – I prefer a little more representation in my books, please. No boys club crap.

Love story focused – If the main plot is about or focused around a romance, i’ll likely pass. I’m just not that into it.

Character-driven – I do, on the odd occasion, enjoy a more character-driven story, but on the whole i prefer a more plot-focused narrative.

Bad writing – Nothing will put me off quicker, actually. Thankfully i haven’t started reading too many badly-written books (i’m looking at you, James Dashner), but snippets i’ve read from books have been bad enough to put me off.

Hype – Again, not something that will instantly have me dismissing a book, but something that will make me more wary. Often times, hype surrounds books that are… mediocre. I’ve read and enjoyed books that were wildly popular but i would still describe as mediocre. I’m just more picky about them when everyone’s singing their praises.

Tacky covers – Covers with a script font, or girls in big dresses. Covers with sullen looking teenagers or an obviously will-they, won’t-they couple. Covers with a close up eye or a popular tourist location. Urgh. No.

Uninspiring synopses – When the description is too vague and doesn’t actually reveal enough about the story to be enticing.

Being compared to another book – If i liked the books it’s being compared to, it’ll never live up to the comparison. If i disliked the book it’s being compared to, why would i want to read it? Just tell me why this book is good!

Hardback – Heavy and large and cumbersome and no, thank you.

I feel like a lot of the things listed here will be things plenty of other people who look for in a book. How do you feel on the matter?

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Ariel

Title: Ariel

Author: Sylvia Plath

Summary: Ariel, first published in 1965, contains many of Sylvis Plath’s best-known poems, written in an extraordinary burst of creativity just before her death in 1963. This is the collection on which her reputation as one of the most original and gifted poets of the twentieth century rests.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 1.5/5

Review: I’m aware i’m not well-versed in poetry, but i do keep trying. This, however, has been my most unsuccessful attempt yet. What the hell was this?

Plath is so revered as a writer and a poet, the reviews of this collection are flooded with four and five stars. I read The Bell Jar and i loved the prose, the writing style, the depth and emotion. But here, in these poems, i didn’t feel that. I didn’t feel… much of anything, to be honest.

I love the lyricism of poetry, the often ambiguous meaning but a more intense sentiment. I love that they can mean different things to different people, and even different things to the same person at different points in their life. I really enjoy music and lyrics for the same reason. Someone once pointed out to me that songs are poetry set to music, and i’d never considered that before, but i love it.

These poems, though, lacked any kind of lyricism to me. They didn’t flow, they didn’t convey emotional depth or meaning. I felt i needed some sort of key or cipher to translate and understand what i was reading–it read like gibberish! If anything, i felt confused and amused by most of it.

The other does that,
His hair long and plausive,
Bastard
Masturbating a glitter,
He wants to be loved.

…How the hell does one ‘masturbate a glitter’?

Three days. Three nights.
Lemon water, chicken
water, water make me retch

…Is it some kind of terrible cook book?

In eight great bounds, a great scapegoat.
Here is his slipper, here is another,
And here the square of white linen
He wore instead of a hat.
He was sweet

…Yeah, he sounds lovely?

I’m sure in some way, to someone, these poems make sense. The tens of thousands of positive reviews mean i must be one of the few people they don’t make sense to. Alas.

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TTT: Enticements

It’s been a while since my last top ten Tuesday, but i only jump in for topics that spark my interest and imagination, which this week did.

I actually found it quite hard to think of 10 things that make me want to read a book. There are many reasons i might be attracted to a book, but to try to articulate them ended up being trickier than i’d imagined. There’s no one thing that will guarantee my interest–i’ll always have to know more about a book–but the things listed here are what will draw my initial intrigue. These are the things that will entice me to find out more about a book and consider reading it.

Eye-catching cover – Surely this is a given? It’s the most obviously thing to catch a person’s eye. “Oh, that looks nice, what’s that about?”

Post-apocalyptic/dystopian – These settings are my weakness. The details surrounding it are important, but finding out a book is set in a post-apocalyptic and/or dystpoian world will get my eyebrows raised and my attention focused.

A hint at some sort of twist or major plot point omitted from the synopsis – If something is obviously being held back, and it’s revelation feels shocking and interesting enough, i’ll want to know more.

Strong female characters – Because i love them, i need more of them, all the time.

Recommendations – Either from people whose taste or opinion i trust/value, or based on my own opinion of something i’ve read. For example, when i’ve disliked a book and articulated why, people have recommended other books by the same author because they are more like what i might enjoy (and have been!).

Female/POC authors – This is something i’m consciously aiming for. When i come across a book by a female and/or POC author, i give it extra consideration as i actively want to increase the diversity of the books i read.

Author i already love – This list is longer than i think sometimes, but there are authors i love so much i’ll automatically be interested in their books.

Horror/sci-fi cross-genre – These are my two favourite genres, so when a book crosses both, i am suddenly very alert.

Fresh spin on an favourite concept – When a book takes a tried and tested idea and does something new with it, i’m excited to have my expectations challenged.

Short story collections – I loooooove short stories, so when i come across short story collections i get interested very fast!

Do any of these things pique your interest, or are they more likely to put you off?

The Darkening Sky

Title: The Darkening Sky

Author: Hugh Greene

Summary: Dr Power is recruited by Superintendent Lynch of the Cheshire Police to help him solve a murder in leafy Alderley Edge. Power and Lynch are challenged by a series of intense events and realise that they are both caught up in a desperate race against time.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: I found this book via goodreads and was taken with both the summary and the cover. Since then i’ve entered about five or six goodreads giveaways for it–but it paid off, as i finally won one!

I was taken with the book and the story immediately. I work in the health service, so the hospital scenes and doctor/patient relationships really got me stuck into the story and this world. I took to Dr Power quickly, too. For a psychiatrist–for someone who can read people so well–and for one of the main characters in a crime-solving duo, he’s very laid back and almost timid. He’s not got anything near the ego you might expect, in fact he’s more unsure of himself than anything. And that’s rather endearing. Superintendent Lynch took a little longer for me to warm up to. As a copper and a religious man, the odds were against him, but overall these are only parts of his character, and often an interesting juxtaposition explored well in the book. Neither of these main characters is either what you’d expect or as simple as they may seem to be.

The writing was great. It was concise, without being pretentious or bloated, telling as much as was needed while still being descriptive and emotive. It made the book easy to read, while also being engaging and enjoyable. I also loved the few pieces of artwork in the book. The drawing style was striking and had a lot of character. There were only a few drawings, so the book was not overwhelmed with them, but they added an interesting extra when i came across them. The cover art is also great–it’s what drew me to the book in the first place. I love the style, and it’s the best cover i’ve seen for a self-published book.

Unfortunately, though, the book isn’t perfect. The biggest things i couldn’t forgive were issues i had with the plot. For the fact that Power is brought on a board as a psychiatrist for his insight… he doesn’t actually bring that much to the table. The fact that it was the sight of the killings that was the key was patently obvious to me from the get go. It undoubtedly helped that the reader has insight into the murderer during the events, but after the second killing at a remote place of historical interest, any investigator would look at the locations for some kind of link or pattern, surely? The fact that i had already put it together made Power’s revelation less than climatic. Linked to this, was Lynch’s hard-won support for the idea. I couldn’t understand how he was at first so resistant to the idea, simply because to him it didn’t make sense. He’s been in the job long enough to have made superintendent, i find it hard to believe he’s yet to come across a criminal whose motives didn’t make sense to him, personally. And then, of course, the rest of the police force and the press, who find the whole theory a load of mumbo jumbo, despite the fact it’s the only thing proving any link between the murders. It made me roll my eyes, honestly.

The ending wasn’t what I had suspected, which was good (i like to be surprised), but it did lack a little something. It felt a little too easily concluded after everything that had been put in. (I hate to say it, but i liked my own ending better.) The first chapter was such an excellent set up, it was so intriguing and posed so many questions. But then the end didn’t really tie back to that, or make any further reference to it, which i think was a shame. Even just a last paragraph, alluding to the fact that a Dr Allen or Dr Ashton had been trying to contact Power would have given me a wry grin and rounded the book off perfectly.

Overall, i enjoyed the book a lot. I loved the characters and although it had its faults, the plot was interesting enough. On the whole i think the book suffered with trying to introduce its characters and build on their new relationships, as well as carry the story. I’m hoping that with Power and Lynch’s friendship and respect for each other established, the sequels can fully explore more interesting plots while pulling this new duo along for the ride. I do plan on reading them, so i’ll find out soon!

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