Books Are My Bag Competition

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Hey! Following on from my post on National Bookshop Day (check it out HERE) I have been told about a fabulous competition being run by the organisers, Books are my Bag.

To celebrate selling 1 million Books Are My Bag tote bags, they are offering book lovers the prize bundle of a lifetime – £250 National Book Tokens, a Golden ticket to the Hay Festival, a picture signed by Quentin Blake, West End tickets… see below for more details. This is the most incredibly gift ever!

To enter, bookshop lovers just need to Tweet #OneInAMillion saying what their favourite bookshop is and why. People will have until 7th November to enter the competition, with the three lucky winners being revealed on 25th November. You can find the Bookseller Association, who run Books Are My Bag and Bookshop Day, on twitter @BAbooksellers

I’ll be tweeting, so get on it and may the best booklover win 🙂

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On National Bookshop Day: Do They Still Have a Place in The Digital Age?

bookshop

Happy National Bookshop day! Today marks the day when Books Are My Bag– the campaign to celebrate bookshops- encourages people to celebrate these wonderful shops and the people behind them. Whilst larger stores such as Waterstones, Foyles and WHSmith might dominate the high streets and shopping centres, it is the independent book stores whose star continues to rise despite the pressure from online retailers and industry giants.

It is the simple pleasure of browsing a small book shop, and never knowing what you might find, that is central to the success of independent book shops. In Bridport, Dorset, my hometown, there are numerous brilliant independent book stores all offering something different; whether it be the eclectic, haphazardness that you find in Wild and Homeless Books, or the ingeniously names Book Shop’s exceptional range of new books and brilliant window displays, there is something for everyone.

The attraction of many of the seaside towns in the country comes from their affiliation with literature, such as Lyme Regis’s links to The French Lieutenant’s Woman and, for those of us addicted to Crime Fiction, Dexter’s setting of part of The Way Through the Woods in this stunning costal town. As such, the region is teeming with bookshops brimming with insightful staff, antiquated texts long out of print and shelves bursting with books to suit every taste. If you are ever in Lyme Regis, there is a stunning little bookshop right on the cob (again, imaginatively named ‘The Book Shop’), whose owner is utterly marvellous and boasts a fine collection of books which cannot be bettered.

Charity shops also offer a great selection of second hand books, with the added bonus that when you buy from them you always feel righteous as you realise that the money from the sale will go towards a good cause.

In the Midlands, my current home, independent bookshops are fewer and further between, however there are still some hidden gems to be found throughout the country, and it is a great thrill to find somewhere with a new selection to delve through. As I mentioned in my recent post Print Publishing: The Surprising Contender to Topple the Kindle, there is a real thrill to getting a physical copy of a book, and the same can be said for buying literature. It is one thing to browse online and read the blurbs, quite another to really get stuck into exploring a bookshop, seeing all the glossy covers and being inspired by the stunning cover art and inventive displays.

It is this fascination with seeing books in the flesh (as it were), and the inspiration that a good bookshop can bring, that is the reason why, in my opinion, bookshops will never truly die. Despite the rise of cheap, online book retailers, there will never be anything quite like diving into a new bookshop and the thrill of finding something new.

Kazuo Ishiguro: A Truly Noble Prize Winner

FILE PHOTO: Author Kazuo Ishiguro photographed during an interview with Reuters in New York

Today’s exciting news that Kazuo Ishiguro has won the Nobel Prize for Literature is great news for both the author and the literature market. I was worried that, with the recent surge in popularity of her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood may take the title. Popularity often wins over true literary prowess, but this latest accolade for the Man Booker winner proves that Ishiguro is a real genius.

I first encountered Ishiguro when I read Never Let Me Go, the eery dystopia in which a group of children uncover their singular nature and try to change the course of their appointed fate. A true experience, I was captivated by the raw bleakness of the novel, and how the author provoked numerous discussions through even the most minor of topics. From there, my passion grew, and I became fascinated by the writer’s inventive story lines and passionate exploration of the consequences of all our actions.

Permanent secretary of the Swedish academy which awards the prize, Sara Danius describes his work as a combination of Jane Austen and Franz Kafka, with a little Marcel Proust thrown in; but the truth is, that Ishiguro is in a league of his own. His works are timeless. Although many, such as The Remains of the Day, are set in specific time periods, the emotions they evoke and truths they uncover can be applied to practically anyone.

Alongside being a novelist, Ishiguro is a screenwriter and renowned short story creator, putting his powers of observation and exceptional flare for creating realistic but thought-provoking dialogue into every piece of art he crafts. In researching the writer, I even found out that he has written song lyrics, which surprises me somewhat, although I can imagine that his taut, tense descriptions and inventive characterisation can transfer to lyrics, where swift depiction is a highly prized skill.

A sharp observer of human nature, Ishiguro truly deserves this prize, and hopefully this will inspire even greater feats of literary brilliance in the future. His most recent novel, The Buried Giant, was a fantastical, invigorating exploration of human nature, which deserves to be followed by another masterpiece.

The On-going Relevance of Stephen King’s Books

stephen king

As the latest movie adaptation of IT continues to be a box-office favourite, his last collaboration with his son, Sleeping Beauties hits shelves and the Netflix adaptation of Gerald’s Game also hits screens, I explore the reasons behind King’s enduring success.

His first published work was a short story which was sold in 1967, and since then King has had a number of hits, with many of his novels and stories gaining popularity with readers before being made into successful TV or film adaptations which garner him international attention. The Shawshank Redemption, based on King’s novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption from his 1982 collection Different Seasons, regularly tops lists of the best films of all time.

Despite having won copious awards, gained worldwide acclaim and amassing a fortune from his vast back catalogue, King, who is aged 70, still remains a great public figure and often publishes multiple books each year, and holds numerous promotional tours and appearances to promote them. According to his publicist, he is so incredibly busy that he doesn’t even have time to do an interview for this blog (the horror!).

Additionally, King also maintains a strong social media presence, with many followers enjoying the tales of his Corgi, Molly, AKA The Thing Of Evil, as well as reading about his latest exploits and seeing trailers for the latest adaptations of his books.

It is this ongoing presence, as well as King’s willingness to embrace the changing publishing market (a number of his books have been run as online series), and his honesty and openness about writing, such as his non-fiction works, that has helped him to remain a key, cult figure in the horror and supernatural writing market.

After all, we know all there is to know about King and his life thanks to his ongoing social media sharing and his non-fiction books, such as On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. He is also known to run podcasts and share his thoughts on social media and his official site has a YouTube channel, as well as pages on some of the most popular social network sites including Facebook and Twitter.

stephen king book

His works themselves are ingenious, varied and unique, and they make for great adaptations. Recently his fantasy series The Dark Tower was made into a film, and his murder mystery novel Mr Mercedes, which mirrored hardboiled detective fiction, was adapted into a TV series with Brendon Gleeson as the protagonist. By writing across genres, King has been able to reach readers with a variety of tastes, and the adaptability of these books, and their enduring popularity on screen, has helped him reach those who prefer to watch rather than to read.

The writer has also created an enduring legacy, with many members of his family now writing successfully, including his children and wife. In so-doing King has creating a writing clan comparable to the Kardashian’s in its influence, with himself firmly ensconced as the kingpin (deliberate pun).

At the end of the day, King’s works remain a strong influence throughout the horror/ thriller genres, and his enduring popularity and influence will, thanks to his extensive back catalogue, continue on for many decades to come.

Strike on Screen: Where’s the Charisma?

cormoran strike

The Silkworm, the BBC adaptation of J.K Rowling’s novel of the same name, has just finished, although perhaps not in the blaze of glory that viewers expected. More like a fizzle of fast running before the killer, who had barely appeared previously, was finally caught in quiet possibly the lamest struggle in the history of action scenes.

I have already mentioned in my previous review of the TV show, that the books, although interesting, witty and adventurous, are also widely inconsistent and, at times, highly unbelievable. The TV series embraces both these qualities, whilst at the time offering us a protagonist who is about as charismatic as a dead fish.

Tom Burke is a solid actor, but his Cormoran Strike is dull and uninspiring. Despite the sharp lines he has as the one-legged solider turned private detective, his delivery is strangely monotonous. In the final episode, his portrayal of a man with one leg improves vastly as he is shown limping across the road after his glamorous assistant, who is chasing the unconvincing villain of the piece, a literary agent embroiled in a very long-winded revenge plot. That is perhaps the only saving grace to the show, which has gone on for far too long (and there was only two episodes The Silkworm, which accompany the three of the adaptation of Rowling’s first Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling).

Both adaptations were identical representations of the novels on which they are based, but this does not excuse the poor acting and casting. Burke, despite his stilted dialogue delivery, is a good choice for the foul-mouthed, large framed detective, but Holliday Grainger is a poor selection for Strike’s capable and empathetic assistant Robin Ellacott. She is too glamorous, which works well during the scene where the pair visit a literary party, but looks out of place in the homely setting of her partner’s parent’s house, or even in her employer’s gloomy office. Grainger seems to know this herself, and wears a bemused expression in almost every scene bar those in which she is allowed to wear her glad rags.

Overall, I was not entirely impressed by the visual depiction of the Strike novels, although they do capture some of the craziness that Rowling’s novels have to offer. There is something great about the way the books feel like those real life situations that are so weird that you only believe them because you have actually experienced them yourself. The TV series also encapsulates this, embracing the unusual names, bizarre situations and outrageous settings of Rowling’s London with ease. However, the wooden detective, his beautiful but out of place assistant and the unfrightening villains they chase all conspire to make the series less than enticing.

At the end of the final episode, the announcer stated that the adaptation of Career of Evil, the third novel in the series, will be shown sometime next year. A hard core Crime Fiction fan who has followed Strike ever since Rowling was first unmasked (deliberately, in one of the worst attempts at hiding the truth I have seen in years) as the writer of the series, I will of course be watching- if you’re not a fan and you didn’t catch all of the rest, I really wouldn’t bother.

How Roald Dahl Changed Childrens’ Literature for the Better

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Happy Roald Dahl day!! I hope you had a truly rambunctious day dressing up and eating cakes and taking tea and generally observing and enjoying yourself, as the great man would have wished.

Although my first love was and always will be Crime Fiction, Dahl has been one of my heroes ever since I first read The Twits. Here was an author unlike any other: a man aiming his books at children and managing to convey very adult messages in an incredibly patronising way. His books were easy for my young mind to grasp but his rich and evocative descriptions and superb use of language imprinted upon my impressionable young mind and made his writing impossible to forget.

His stories have that timeless feeling that is usually associated with fairy tales and fables. There is no situation in which a Roald Dahl book cannot be referenced, and no sadness that cannot be cured with a trip down memory lane and a re-reading of James and the Giant Peach. This, in my opinion, is why his books have stood the test of time- they are still performing Matilda as a stunning stage show (I saw it recently as part of a hen party and would thoroughly recommend it) on the West End, and the BBC regularly adapts his novels into beautiful and insightful adaptations.

rohdl dahl

Additionally, what makes Dahl’s tales truly timeless is their ability to convey complex feelings and emotions through simple narrative and unfiltered dialogue. The characters are so realistic that they could be real people, despite many of the books being aimed at young children. Their almost poetic simplicity gives the reader a selfish feeling of enlightenment as they forage for the message behind every action in Dahl’s work.

Whilst other books aimed at children can feel forced, Dahl effortlessly offers writing suitable for readers of any age, with many adults taking away messages from these surprisingly complex stories. They are also surprisingly adult in their themes, with issues such as severe poverty, abusive parents and sheer desperation all explored in an understandable way. Many of his characters face serious peril in the course of their adventures, but despite this Dahl manages to excite and beguile the reader through his sumptuous descriptions and down-to-earth storytelling style.

Quentin Blake’s stunning illustrations combine with Dahl’s masterly storytelling and flare for imagination to create genuinely perfect books that are beloved by both adults and children. So on this, the day dedicated to celebrating this extraordinary man and his exceptional work, I urge you to go forth and read!

Book Publishing: Does the Industry Need a Shakeup?

book store

Recently, there have been a number of discussions within the literature market about the way the industry is moving, as various publishers and authors comment on the prices of books. I recently wrote a POST about the issue of book prices and how the industry needs to reassess its views on cheap books, which could revolutionise the way readers buy their texts.

Wading into the argument now is online book retailer Amazon, which has just launched its first physical book shop. The firm’s publishing chief David Naggar has urged publishers to reduce the price of its books to 99p in the same way that the online giant does in order to attract buyers, similar to the way self published authors often do on the company’s platform.

Adding to this, there is evidence that children’s literature has seen a rise as kids embrace physical books over ebooks. With physical texts growing in popularity, but many authors increasingly aggravated over the amount of money they receive, could the market be to blame?

After all, the TV and film sector was revolutionised by online streaming services, which completely changed the way people rented shows and movies. Instead of borrowing a physical copy of one individual series or film, streaming services allowed users to pay a one-off subscription fee and gain access to an online library with a wide variety of options from various genres to choose from. Whilst singular episodes and films can still be rented on various platforms, streaming services have now become the norm and have completely changed the visual entertainment market, opening the door to a vast array of new options for both viewers and creatives.

With platforms keen to offer their own, unique shows and movies to entice viewers and encourage them to sign up to their streaming services, there is now a massive choice for viewers. Whilst an exact replica of this market is not viable for the literature industry, there is definitely scope for change, and it is my view that publishers should look into amending the way they publish, market and sell both physical texts and ebooks.