Monday, April 29, 2013

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell

 
About the Book
 

A sweeping family drama, in which the disappearance of a family patriarch forces three adult siblings to gather together to find him and to confront what they really know about their father and themselves.
 
It's the summer of 1976 and London is in the grip of a record-breaking heat wave when Gretta Riordan discovers that her newly retired husband, Robert, has cleaned out his bank account and vanished. Now, Gretta's three children converge in their mother's home for the first time in years: Michael Francis, a history teacher whose marriage is failing; Monica, with two stepdaughters who despise her and an ugly secret that has driven a wedge between herself and the little sister she once adored; and Aoife, the youngest of the Riordans, now living in Manhattan, a smart, immensely resourceful young woman who has arranged her entire life to conceal her illiteracy. 
 
As the siblings tease out clues about their father's whereabouts, they navigate rocky pasts and long-held secrets, until at last their search brings them to their ancestral village in Ireland, where the truth of their parents' lives – and their own – is suddenly revealed. Wise, lyrical, instantly engrossing, Instructions for a Heatwave is a richly satisfying page-turner from a writer of exceptional intelligence and grace.



Review


Elena Seymenliyska said in her review in The Telegraph “Just as children’s stories need to dispense with parents before the fun can begin, these novels suggest that men – or, rather, old-fashioned masculine traits such as reliability, stability and predictability – must go out the window for the drama to heat up.”

Think The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, and 2012 Exclusive Books Boeke Winner 2012; Instructions for a Heatwave sends a devoted father and husband fleeing from his home, for a secret long hidden and forgotten – the catch is that no one can tell you; well his wife could, if she would just let herself. So begins the ‘thickening of plot’, as two estranged sisters, Monica and Aoife, arrive home with a burning resentment between them, and a brother whose marriage is on the brink of collapse because of yet another secret. But what would family be if there weren’t dusty secrets hanging about.
 
 
It’s no secret that women obviously rule this thickly descriptive novel, while the men battle along with broken dreams. While not my favourite reads this year, Maggie O’Farrell is the author readers take for granted, as they shove her in categories with smultzy ‘easy-reads’ that bookclubs fawn over each month, but I disagree. O’Farrell crafts a story with limited plot and excessive sharp, intricate style that would make Grammarians salivate.

Sadly, I found it too intricate in telling and slow in plot with the redeeming factor that O’Farrell is definitely at her peak, with six award-winning novels under her belt. I just hope this book pushes this author to the literary section where she so aptly belongs.
 
 
 
 
 
(This was Exclusive Books's book of the month for April, follow my tag Boeke 2013 for more updates and reviews)

You can find my Boeke 2013 posts here




About the Author
 

Born in Northern Ireland in 1972, Maggie O'Farrell grew up in Wales and Scotland and now lives in London. She has worked as a waitress, chambermaid, bike messenger, teacher, arts administrator, and journalist in Hong Kong and London, and as the deputy literary editor of The Independent on Sunday. Her debut novel, After You'd Gone (2000), won a Betty Trask Award and was followed by My Lover's Lover (2002); The Distance Between Us (2004), winner of a Somerset Maugham Award; The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2006); and The Hand That First Held Mine (2010), winner of the Costa Book Award.





 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Author's Pie: Lauren Beukes


 
 

 

I am extremely excited to present this week's Author's Pie, a twist of fantasy and international acclaim, I give you the South African publishing's Charlize Theron and a readers hot ticket; Lauren Beukes. Scriptwriter, award-winning author, director, comic book writer, blogger, and mother; Lauren has broken the mould of all SA fiction writers with three novels (many man anthologies) under her belt - today I am incredibly excited to have her on Author's Pie.  Follow Lauren on twitter or find her on tumblr, facebook and her website.
 
 

© Lauren Beukes 2013
Don't forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post to win a copy of Lauren's new crime thriller The Shining Girls with Exclusive Books.

 
 
1) Three books (and many anthologies) in a market where ‘local’ fiction writers tend to struggle. Can you give any advice to wannabee writers who are firstly starting out in the SA publishing scene or wanting to get published?

Don’t go in with crazy high expectations (like I did) of cracking the international market with your first book and becoming the next JK Rowling overnight. It takes years of hard work and perseverance and honing your craft and developing rejection-coping skills to make it. Write for the love, write what you love, send it out only when it’s really, really ready (rewrite, polish, rewrite again) and do your research online about how to approach editors and agents and build your career. Be cheeky in asking for what you want, but be nice.


2) What is next for local fiction in SA?

There’s a major genre explosion brewing, from Sarah Lotz to Charlie Human, Deon Meyer and Margie Orford, who are making waves internationally in a big way. I think more local authors will continue to do so and I think we’ll hopefully soon see a rise in young black authors cracking the overseas market. 

3) Which author influences your work?

There’s no way I can make that a singular. I have major influences (David Mitchell, Alan Moore, William Gibson, Margaret Atwood, Aimee Bender, Lorrie Moore, Joyce Carol Oates, fairytales and mythology in general) but I’m also influenced by whatever I’m reading at the moment. I try to read really, really good books that will push me to try and live up to that in my own writing. Most recently that’s been Jennifer Egan, Glen Duncan and Studs Terkel.


4) If were Harper Curtis in your new novel of THE SHINING GIRLS how would you stage the perfect murder?

Harper doesn’t think that far. He has a time-travelling house; he doesn’t have to worry too much about the particulars.


5) What is your favourite fruit? And why?

Dragon fruit, because the folded over pink scales of the skin makes it look like it came straight out of Game of Thrones, even if the taste is a little bland.



Lauren's Books
 
 
The acclaimed debut novel from the Arthur C Clarke Award winning author of Zoo City. In the near future, an art-school dropout, and AIDS baby, a tech-activist and an RPG-obsessed blogger live in a world where your online identity is at least as important as your physical one. Getting disconnected is a punishment worse than imprisonment.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Zinzi has a talent for finding lost things. To save herself, she has to find the hardest thing of all...the truth. Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a client turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she's forced to take on her least favourite kind of job -- missing persons. Being hired by famously reclusive music producer Odi Huron to find a teenybop pop star should be her ticket out of Zoo City, the festering slum where the criminal underclass, marked by their animals, live in the shadow of the undertow. Instead, it catapults Zinzi deeper into the underbelly of a city twisted by crime and magic, where she'll be forced to confront the dark secrets of former lives -- including her own. Set in a wildly re-imagined Johannesburg, it swirls refugees, crime, the music industry, African magic and the nature of sin together into a heady brew.
 
 
 
 
 
In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. He stalks them through their lives across different eras, leaving anachronistic clues on their bodies, until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him back.









 

You can find other Author's Pie segments here
Happy Pi-day!



This competition has been closed

Monday, April 8, 2013

Boeke 2013 April selection

 
 
 
A few weeks ago Tamarin (from I Want a Dodo) and I announced the newly revamped Exclusive Books Boeke promotion.  So as things are shaken up in the world of Boeke, I am being kept busy reading - as if the sky weren't blue!
 
We now announce the bookalicious list for The Boeke 2013 - Exclusive Books Recommends April selection.  Grab a cup of tea, and get cosy...




Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell, The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley, The Blind Man's Garden by Nadeem Aslam, Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler and Chef by Martin Suter.


Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell, the acclaimed new book from Costa Novel Award-winning novelist, is a portrait of an Irish family in crisis in the legendary heatwave of 1976.


The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley is an emotionally resonant and thought-provoking tale that raises profound questions about life and death, faith and medicine, and illuminates the power of love to divide and heal a family in the wake of unexpected tragedy.


The Blind Man's Garden by Nadeem Aslam is an exquisitely written novel set in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the months following 9/11. It is a story of war, of one family's losses, and of the simplest, most enduring human impulses.


Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler features sixteen-year-old heroine, Isabelle McAllister, who longs to escape the confines of her northern Kentucky hometown in the 1930s. After her family's housekeeper's son rescues her from a Newport drunk, the racial divide seems more painful than ever as they begin to fall in love.


Chef by Martin Suter - a huge international bestseller and Martin Suter's take on the culinary world set in Zurich. The novel has been described as ‘as full of mystery as a crime story, only more exotic and more erotic’.
 
 
This Month's winner is...
 
 
Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell
 
 
 
You can find March's selection here (and don't forget to vote for your favourite one)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Judging a book by its cover





Isn't it grand when you are in a room full of book people and the topic gets heated when it turns to books? Isn't it just the best when someone disagrees with you about the content/title/author/book jacket? I have the privilege to do this on a daily basis. Working in books grants me the opportunity to do this every time someone shows me a new book.
 
Instant judgement.


Do I like it?
 
Will I read it?

Would it look good on my shelf?

Would I actually buy it?

 
Obviously I also have to make the more mundane (but somehow more profound to my continued employment) decisions like:
Will it sell?

Will it appeal to the market?

Will it be picked up on the basis of the cover alone?

 


Because face it, we all judge a book by its cover. We walk into a bookstore/library/friend's house and pick up a book. Based solely on the level of attraction to the jacket image (provided you do not know the author/ series) you will turn the jacket over and read the blurb, or in many cases, not.

But book jacket design is such a subjective art. It will never appeal to the whole market, not in a million years, but it is up to the designer to make it appeal to as many people as possible, while still staying true to the spirit of the book.

The tried-and-tested method tends to work well, like with crime fiction - where gloomy photorealistic covers seem to work best – or chiclit with its brightly drawn, somewhat preppy looking covers. But sticking to your guns isn't always the best approach, as Bloomsbury found out to their detriment.

Joey HiFi covers


Sometimes a new jacket comes out that just blow you away. Joey HiFi did an amazing job on the cover for Zoo City, and subsequently did the rejacketing for Moxyland, the new jacket for The Shining Girls as well as some other artwork for local and international publishers. 

Many other great books were killed by its cover. Elaine Proctor's Rhumba is a prime example of this.

 
 

At the end of the day, Zoe Hinis said it best:

"The reason people judge books by their covers is that they only have so much time to read and so much money to spend. It is quite sensible when you think about it. And a book’s jacket has to help it stand out amongst thousands of others"



Find Lood on the blog for the rest of the week in BLOG TAKE OVER
 
ooOoo
 
 
About Lood
 
 
I’m just another average book freak who happens to be able to think for himself. My views might or might not be controversial, they might or might not be insightful, but they are mine. I do not suggest you remotely agree with them, but I implore you to employ rationality when engaging in arguments. I value logic above intelligence, respect above passion. I urge you to converse with me, because through discourse we will all leave these encounters richer.
 
 
 
 
About the blog take over: I have with all my power and control-freak nature, given my blog up to Lood for an entire week - may he talk books and keep it clean.
 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Book related thingies that make my face happy

 
 



Today's post is short. Because it is Thursday and ain't nobody got time for reading too many words. Also, it is after Easter weekend and I still feel the aftereffects…


First off is Julian Smith's iconic "I'm reading a book". Cracks me up every time. Also, it is my ringtone.

 
 
Secondly, this website: contrariwise.com, where people do amazing things to their bodies, like this:
 
This belongs to Niall J in Ireland.
 

Last but not least is this website, Spineless Classics, sent to me by none other than our dear Kelly.

 
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland full text poster from Spinelessclassics.co.za
 
 
The awesome things like writing the whole of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland on a single poster and form an image out of it.

I wants it, my precious!
 
 
 
Find Lood on the blog for the rest of the week in BLOG TAKE OVER
 
 
ooOoo
 
 
About Lood


I’m just another average book freak who happens to be able to think for himself. My views might or might not be controversial, they might or might not be insightful, but they are mine. I do not suggest you remotely agree with them, but I implore you to employ rationality when engaging in arguments. I value logic above intelligence, respect above passion. I urge you to converse with me, because through discourse we will all leave these encounters richer.
 
About the blog take over: I have with all my power and control-freak nature, given my blog up to Lood for an entire week - may he talk books and keep it clean.
 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Let's talk about sex, Baby: violence against you and me

 
 

Kelly warned me that she would not appreciate it if I defiled her precious blog with photos of midget porn or cat gifs (well, maybe she wouldn't mind the animated kitties as much as the pint-sized romping, but it is better to be safe than sorry), but I had to work in an article about sex somewhere.

A week or two ago I came across this article on the internet, where the author discusses the way that sexual violence is portrayed in popular culture and the differing views there are about sexual violence against men and sexual violence against women. It is an amazing read, so get at it when you have a moment.

The Song of Ice and Fire series, made popular by the recent Game of Thrones TV series, has sexual violence against women and children so prominently, that a friend of mine exclaimed that the R.R. in the author's name probably stood for Rape-Rape.

The recent spate of BDSM novels that hit bookstore shelves after the success of 50 Shades of Grey, glamorised sexual violence against women. Many of the authors exclaimed that the BDSM was consensual, but as the following quote from 50 Shades shows, consensual is relative:
 
'He grabs me suddenly and yanks me up against him, one hand at my back holding me to him and the other fisting in my hair.
"You're one challenging woman," He kisses me, forcing my lips apart with his tongue, taking no prisoners. 
"It's taking all my self-control not to fuck you on the hood of this car, just to show you that you're mine, and if I want to buy you a fucking car, I'll buy you a fucking car," he growls.' 
 E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey
 

What-the-frack?

Apart from the really bad sentence constructions, since when do men 'own' women? Since when do we laud barely restrained control in a man who can barely control his urges? Since when do giving away expensive presents give a person a right to do to another whatever he wants?

Another stick in my crop is when authors use sexual violence as character development. Authors who think that a female character cannot have depth unless she's been physically, emotionally or sexually abused are just plain lazy.

So, authors and writers, before you think about writing in a background of sexual violence, do some research about the subject. And make it realistic.
 
 
Find Lood on the blog for the rest of the week in BLOG TAKE OVER
 
 
 
ooOoo
 
About Lood

 


I’m just another average book freak who happens to be able to think for himself. My views might or might not be controversial, they might or might not be insightful, but they are mine. I do not suggest you remotely agree with them, but I implore you to employ rationality when engaging in arguments. I value logic above intelligence, respect above passion. I urge you to converse with me, because through discourse we will all leave these encounters richer.
 
 
About the blog take over: I have with all my power and control-freak nature, given my blog up to Lood for an entire week - may he talk books and keep it clean.
 
 
 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

When Retail and Literature collide

 
 
 

So I have been in the book retail industry since 2004, an industry that many a booklover think is the best job in the world. If I had a rand for every time someone told me how jealous they are of me, and that I must love spending my working days reading I would at least be able to afford a bottle of cheap wine to drown my sorrows in.

The book retail industry nearly killed my passion for reading. Spending your days and nights selling books, talking about books, packing books, falling over books and pretending to like books really makes the thought of reading a book when you get home an unpleasant one.

I went from a two-books-a-week reader to a six-books-a-year reader. Yes, it is that bad. My book collection grew exponentially, but my have-read pile shrunk in size. It took me years to re-kindle my passion for reading again, helped by the fact that I left the direct-to-customer market and went in to the administrative part of retail.

Now I happily pick up a book on a weekend and I love it!
 
Happy Reading


Find Lood on the blog for the rest of the week in BLOG TAKE OVER

 
 
ooOoo

About Lood

I’m just another average book freak who happens to be able to think for himself. My views might or might not be controversial, they might or might not be insightful, but they are mine. I do not suggest you remotely agree with them, but I implore you to employ rationality when engaging in arguments. I value logic above intelligence, respect above passion. I urge you to converse with me, because through discourse we will all leave these encounters richer.
 
 
 
About the blog take over: I have with all my power and control-freak nature, given my blog up to Lood for an entire week - may he talk books and keep it clean.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Get out of your comfort zone and into your comfortable zone

 
 




We all have our favourite kind of books, you know, that genre we are pulled towards whenever we feel like a relaxing read. And we all know that pull is stronger than the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels at cousin Anthony's Bar Mitzvah.

But today I am here to challenge you to step out of that comfort zone and into a whole new world. I challenge you to walk into your nearest bookstore and asking your bookseller what they recommend. Ask them for "something different".

Are you a fan of chicklit? Why not blow the cow out of the water and go for something different? Try what I call the holy trinity of India novels - White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and Q&A by Vikas Swarup?

What about the Fantasy fans out there? Why not try the intrigues of a historical novel like Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel or some magical realism like One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, If you have never read Fantasy, magical realism is a great introduction to the genre, kinda like a gateway drug to a whole new section of your bookshop!

Also, Fantasy readers! Be sure to check out Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth!
 

Here are my top 5 must-read books to bust you out of a genre-rut:
 
 
The Absolutist by John Boyne
An amazing story about love, trust and guilt set in the First World War. One of the best books I have read in my life.


Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
A retelling of the story of Achilles, from the point of view of his friend and companion Patrocles.


Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
Magical realism set in a modern day Johannesburg, where people who committ crime gets burdened with an animal companion for the rest of their lives.


Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
A tome of a book that tells the story of a man who builds cathedrals. Court intrigue and politics in this book will make for great reading for fans of George RR Martin.


By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham
A novella showing us a snippet of a man's life, his relationship with his wife and her family and his internal struggles as he goes through everyday life.


So go and grab one of these books, get out of your reading comfort zone and take up residence in your comfortable zone!

 
Happy reading!


ooOoo

About Lood
 
 
I’m just another average book freak who happens to be able to think for himself. My views might or might not be controversial, they might or might not be insightful, but they are mine. I do not suggest you remotely agree with them, but I implore you to employ rationality when engaging in arguments. I value logic above intelligence, respect above passion. I urge you to converse with me, because through discourse we will all leave these encounters richer.
 
 
 
 
About the blog take over: I have with all my power and control-freak nature, given my blog up to Lood for an entire week - may he talk books and keep it clean.

 
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