D is for disability and its underrepresentation in novels

Posted: May 22nd 2017, 9:46pm By: Anne


I would add to this republished blog JoJo Moyes book "Me Before You" - a book that annoyed me so much I had to skim read the second half. That is a book about a man with a disability in which every other character has a narrative voice except the man with the disability - and the story revolves around him. I rest my case ..

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About one in four people in Britain have an impairment which amounts to a disability. This includes all manner of different conditions from deafness to eczema, from cystic fibrosis to learning difficulties, facial disfiguration to heart conditions, from mental health conditions to diabetes, and many more. This would seem to suggest that, therefore, one in four characters ...

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D is for Did not finish and why

Posted: May 20th 2017, 11:39pm By: Anne


I find that I am more and more likely to give up on books as I grow older and I have made my peace with the inner voice that tells me that I am a quitter ! Here is a blog I wrote over a year ago which is still true

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Once upon a time I always finished books. I read each page to the bitter end whether or not I was enjoying it. I regarded books as tasks and felt that somehow I had failed if I didn’t get all the way to the end. Other people have told me the same – that if they start a book they always finish it.

Well, I am delighted to find that I have changed. I am not sure when it happened, and maybe it was a gradual process but I realised that life was too short to invest time i ...

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E is for electronic reading - I love my Kindle(s)

Posted: May 17th 2017, 9:39pm By: Anne


Last year about half my reading was done electronically and that pattern appears to be continuing this year - this republished blog still seems to reflect the situation as I see it.

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There are people around who swear that once upon a time I said that I would never buy an e-reader because of my love for paper books. I am sure that I never said this but even if I did my opinion changed completely the day that I got my first Kindle. I have been an enthusiast for electronic reading ever since.

Whether or not you have succumbed to the lure of electronic reading you cannot deny that it has changed the reading world and every month or so there seems to be an innovation which adds a new twist ...

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C is for classics and why I think they can put people off books

Posted: May 15th 2017, 11:05pm By: Anne


Having had to check the current exam syllabus for English I despair at what we are making our young people read at 14, 15 and 16. Unless they are enthusiastic readers you are risking put them off books for life by the irrelevance of the choices to their every day life. I wrote the bog below some time ago but it still reflects my views ...

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A classic is a book that has stood the test of time – often they are Victorian novels. Authors of these novels include Charles Dickens, George Elliot, Thomas Hardy, Mrs Gaskell, Sir Walter Scott, the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. We hold classic novels up as the best written in the history of books and they feature in school and university courses. There is ...

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C is for cosy crime - but how can crime be cosy ?

Posted: May 13th 2017, 5:58pm By: Anne


I have lots of friends who enjoy crime fiction. One especially loves gritty and realistic crime (Ian Rankin and his ilk) but most prefer their crime on the cosier side. I wrote this blog some time ago but I still struggle at the idea of using the death of people as entertainment whilst greatly enjoying the type of books that are encompassed in this genre.

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Cosy crime is the name we give to a sub-genre of suspense and mystery novels and it is a very strange area of writing.

A cosy crime novel will always feature a murder but the crime will very much be seen as a puzzle rather than a brutal act and the book will not dwell on the gory elements of death. The meat of the story will be in the ...

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C is for cover art and how it gives a clue to the contents of the story

Posted: May 10th 2017, 7:01pm By: Anne


I wrote these musings about cover art for books some time ago but I do think that they still hold true

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Someone on Twitter recently pointed out that when you look at covers of books published recently they often portray only part of a woman or their silhouette. I had a look at books currently for sale and was astonished to discover that, on the whole, this was true. There are many novels featuring half a woman on their cover, or only their eyes or feet, or the distant shape of one, or one pictured with their back to the reader. The only novels which seem to feature whole women are historical romances where they are usually in an embrace with a handsome man.

A cover has been the w ...

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C is for Christmas books whatever time of year it is

Posted: May 8th 2017, 9:48pm By: Anne


I originally wrote this blog over a year ago - there seem to be more Christmas books now than there were then !

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It may seem to you that it is only the middle of the year but I can tell you that Christmas is coming – and it is coming soon. I deduce this by the number of advance copies of Christmas books that I am now starting to be offered and which I am usually refusing as I cannot find myself in a Christmassy frame of mind whilst I am still holding out hope that we will have some sort of a summer this year.

Christmas books are an interesting phenomenon and one that I had quite a lot of exposure to last year because I opted to review a number of titles based on the time of year ...

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C is for cupcakes and why I am sick of them

Posted: May 6th 2017, 1:54pm By: Anne


I originally wrote this blog over a year ago - I don't think that anything has changed in the world of romantic and "women's" fiction - sadly ....

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I have nothing against cupcakes or cake in general but the increasing presence of them in (mostly romantic) fiction is beginning to disturb me. It is not the actual presence of the cake related item that is the problem but the fact that more and more often the main female character is making her living from making and selling cake, cupcakes, gingerbread or other sweet items – think of the number of recently published titles about cake shops in unlikely places, sweetshops, chocolate products or cafes. There is nothing wrong with any of these bo ...

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C is for culling books and why I am so bad at it

Posted: May 3rd 2017, 5:29pm By: Anne


I am republishing this blog about how I intend to cull my book collection and why I find it difficult - the situation has not got any better in the two years since this was originally posted and I may well have replaced the books I got rid of and even added more. Let's look on it as a lifelong task !

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Although I frequently tell people, as I stagger in with the latest finds from a charity shop hunt, that you can’t have too many books this is, in fact, not always true. There comes a time when you have to look through those that you own and weed out the weak – you have to cull your book collection.

This happened to me a year or so ago. I live in a moderately large house with p ...

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B is for Banned Books

Posted: May 1st 2017, 6:33pm By: Anne


Here is a republished blog from two years ago about banned books. This is still an issue in many parts of the world

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From the creation of the printed word people have seen it as dangerous and consequently books have been banned from publication and from circulation. It’s something that is so prevalent even in today’s society that there is a Banned Books week each year, organised from America.

I have to say that I thought originally when planning this blog that banned books would affect me only in a wider sense, as a moral issue, rather than impacting on me personally – I’m not a great reader of cutting edge books. I then ...

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B is for the Bechdel test and what it shows us about the novels we read

Posted: Apr 26th 2017, 6:01pm By: Anne


The Bechdel test is an excellent idea which was originally designed to be used for films but has also been applied to books. It aims to measure the sexism of a piece of work by asking a simple question – is there a scene where two named women talk together about something which is not a man ? You can find out more information about the background to this on Wikipedia and you can also find lists of well-known films which fail the test and ideas on how to extend it to look at other types of diversity.

This is obviously a very rough and ready test because a book which passes it may also contain sexist material and those which fail may not be sexist but have some other reason for lack of female characters (“The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco for example is set in a monastery, “Moby Dick ...

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Book Bingo 15

Posted: Apr 12th 2017, 2:09pm By: Debra Found


For this square I had to choose a Booker Prize Winner. The winner I chose was "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes.

To be honest I didn't specifically choose this book, it was the March choice for the book group I attend.

Whenever the books are put on the table at the book group everyone hurries to take one and see what we are reading for the next month. The bookgroup I attend is run at the local library so the library obtains all the books - no need to buy books you are never going to read again. If the book has won a prize there is a collective sigh which goes up from the table. There are lots of comments about it being boring, possibly too deep so no one will grasp the purpose and so on. The group just doesn't like prize winners in general. It is similar when the cover of a book declare ...

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Book Bingo 14

Posted: Apr 12th 2017, 1:56pm By: Debra Found


As you can see I am still strolling along quite slowly through my book bingo squares. This square is a book with an ugly cover.

The book I have chosen is Karen Maitland's "The Raven's Head".

The online dictionary defines ugly as

"unpleasant or repulsive, especially in appearance."

I wouldn't class this cover as repulsive but it isn't a particularly pleasant cover. The main body of the cover is bright red with a large black raven on it. Raven's are not the sort of bird that people class as sweet or attractive, so I feel that this could easily be classed as an ugly cover.

It was actually the cover which caught my eye. I was having coffee in the library (a great idea having a cafe in the library) when I spotted the book on one of the display stands. For some reason ...

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A is for abridged books and why I don't like them

Posted: Apr 8th 2017, 4:55pm By: Anne


This is a reprint of a blog I first published a couple of years ago. I pretty well stands by my views although maybe I should have emphasised the fact that I don't think that just because a book is long it is somehow worthy !

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The Good Fairy that runs this site posted a link to a news item some time ago about the proposal to abridge Sir Walter Scott’s novels because they are too long for today’s students to read. I have every sympathy for them having been required to read “Dombey and Son” by Charles Dickens as part of a literature course – I am not sure now how I ever got to the end and I certainly wouldn’t/couldn’t do it again. I read “Middlemarch” by George Elliot for another ...

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A is for amnesia and other overused plot devices

Posted: Apr 5th 2017, 5:29pm By: Anne


I would add to this blog which I have reposted from two years' ago a missing relative, usually a sister, which device has appeared a lot lately in crime novels. I also never want to read another book about how a dog changed a life or a relationship !

Feel free to add your own irritations !

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Amnesia is one of the great, and frequently used, plot devices. Whether it is acquired in a car crash or as a result of hidden childhood memories you can be sure that just when the plot requires it the sufferer will remember something important that had previously been forgotten. Honestly, I am growing so tired of this because it seems to pop up in so many books I am reading at the moment and I have n ...

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A is for award winning books and some reasons why I might avoid them

Posted: Apr 3rd 2017, 6:45pm By: Anne


This is a reposting of a blog I originally published in May 2015. I have read a few more award winning books since I originally wrote this but I am definitely still wary of them.

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When reading the summary of a book several things will cause me to hesitate even if it looks like the sort of book I might buy. One of those things is if it tells me that the book is “award winning”.

The words “award winning” conjure up for me a wealth of preconceptions – not all of them accurate, I expect. I have a view of “award winning” books or those which achieve critical acclaim as being difficult to read or having complicated/harrowing subject matter. I heard someone once describe reading a Booker Prize wi ...

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A is for Action and Adventure

Posted: Apr 1st 2017, 3:38pm By: Anne


I started writing a series of alphabet themes book blogs two years ago and rather got knocked off course by other things and challenges. I thought I would revisit them and maybe get to the end this time (yes, I have something prepared for "Z").

Here is a blog I published originally in May 2015 - my real life hasn't got any less boring and ordinary since then and I have continued to live vicariously through my love for action and adventure books.

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So far this May I have lived in a small American town, investigated more than one crime, relived the trauma of occupied France during the Second World War, fought for survival in an eighteenth century Russian court and battl ...

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Book Bingo 13

Posted: Mar 31st 2017, 3:37pm By: Debra Found


This square required me to read a book with a non-human main character. This actually provides quite a lot of scope - a fantasy character, a mythological creature, a ghost, an animal. There are plenty of books which fall into these catagories. I chose to read "Lightning in the Dark" by Michelle Boule. In this book the main character is Petra, a modern day harpy who is descended from the harpies of Greek mythology.

Writers have always included non human characters in their books and stories. Most cultures have an oral mythology which included gods, demons, strange animals, wonderous creatures and monsters. The Greeks and the Romans had a rich mythology but they are also to be found in other traditions such as the Vikings, Egyptians, Incas etc. Many of these mythical creatures were developed in ...

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Book Bingo Square 12

Posted: Mar 13th 2017, 6:08pm By: Debra Found


For the twelfth square I had to choose an author who shares the same first name as myself. I decided to accept the alternative spelling of "Deborah" and chose "Seesaw" by Deborah Moggach. This was a book which had been loitering on my TBR shelf for around 6 months having been passed onto me by my colleague, Anne.

As a method of choosing books this is certainly not the most relaible method. It pays no heed to genre, style of writing, length, cover decoration or indeed any other method by which I may normally choose a book. However, the name Debra/Deborah came into its heyday in the 1960s/70s so it would not be too unlikely that an author with this name was of a similar age to myself but beyond that there is little to guide me as a reader.

I was very restrained when choosing this bo ...

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Book Bingo Challenge - some concluding thoughts

Posted: Feb 26th 2017, 7:37pm By: Anne


I have now finished my Book Bingo Challenge. I had 25 squares to fill and I have read and blogged about all 25 books I read (and mentioned in passing one I didn’t finish). I had hoped to finish the challenge in three months and actually completed the reading in just over that – I started at the beginning of July and finished the last of the books on 8 October – not bad ! It has taken a bit longer though to write and publish all the blogs.

I like book challenges. I find that they make me read different books from those I would normally choose for myself. I enjoy, within reason, having my boundaries widened and I have found some brilliant novels in the past this way and broken down some self-imposed reading barriers. I also made a point with this challenge of trying to include some books that hav ...

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