Wednesday, 30 April 2014

April Wish List

You might have noticed a little lack of activity on my blog at the moment. For the time being I've had to sacrifice it in favour of revision and finals! From the 23rd of June I will be as free as a bird to write and read everything that I've had on hold for the past few months...

For now, here's my April Wish List; a collection of books that I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing as soon as I can!

1. Everyday Sexism - Laura Bates, (Simon & Schuster) an extension of the blog where women are invited to share their all too common experiences of everyday sexism and harassment.

2. The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt (Little Brown): winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014

3. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing - Eimear McBride (Faber & Faber), featured on the Baileys Women's Prize shortlist, this caught my eye due to its Irish setting and a raving review by Anne Enright writing for The Guardian:

3. Margaret Atwood - The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam (Doubleday) - I thoroughly enjoyed reading Oryx and Crake for my Global Novel seminar and am keen to finish the triology!

I am also on the look out for a really fun and girly summer read for my holiday in June - any suggestions are welcome!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan

Atlantic Books have just tweeted that Kevin Kwan's bestselling novel Crazy Rich Asians is now available as an e-book for just 99p and, although writing my dissertation is tantalisingly gripping... I just had to pull myself away for a moment to write a quick review!

Crazy Rich Asians is a story about the absurdly extravagant lives of a host of hot, young and flashy Asian socialites. Kwan offers a playful fictionalisation of a cultural aspect that has hardly been portrayed in writing/film/theatre: the clash of old and new money amongst the filthy-rich Asian elite.

Rachel Chu is whisked away to meet her potential future in-laws for what she imagines will be an ordinary affair, only to discover that her partner, Nicholas Young, is the most sought-after heir in Singapore.

Private jets, exotic islands and palaces galore, the novel is outrageously opulent and hilariously witty as Rachel meets Nick's family, friends and the many women who would do anything to be in her place...Let the chaos commence!

This is a fantastic piece of cheeky chick-lit. I devoured it last summer and would definitely agree with Atlantic that it is the perfect Easter weekend treat! For only 99p, what's stopping you?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

London Book Fair - Tues 8th 2014

This week the London Book Fair is taking place at Earls Court where thousands of publishing professionals from around the world unite under one roof in what I can only describe as Santa’s grotto for the industry. Agents, editors, authors, rights, sales and marketing reps – you name it, they are all there meeting, doing deals, and of course the mandatory bit of schmoozing.

You can imagine how exciting this was for a publishing newbie like me yesterday!
Earls court 1 & 2 were divided into aisles and rows (although that didn’t prevent me from getting a bit lost in the labyrinth of stalls!). The big names such as Penguin, Harper Collins and OUP had huge spaces which looked like pop-up offices, meanwhile some of the smaller businesses let their signage and book displays do all the talking; I particularly liked Choc Lit’s eye-catching bright pink exhibition of their women’s romantic fiction and enjoyed chatting to their rep about their e-book/print packages (I’ve said it before and will say it again: chocolate+books = winning combo!)

Alongside the abundance of exhibitions, the LBF put on a range of seminars and talks throughout the day. I went to the “Introduction to publishing” talk in the morning at the Author HQ – although targeted primarily at authors, this was a great way for me to learn more about the ‘agent to bookseller’ process.
The “encouraging children to read” seminar was presented by the editorial director of Booked – a magazine aimed at enthusing teenagers to read by associating books with the things that usually grab their attention (e.g. celebrity), and by offering various competitions and prizes. I’m hugely motivated by the idea that we need to engage children in reading by making books relevant to their world, so projects like these seem so worthwhile.  On that note, I also stopped at an exhibition offering samples of a new educational magazine: Amazing! which incorporates cross-subject aspects of the curriculum to attract students’ interest in a way that normal textbooks may not achieve.
In the afternoon I attended the SYP’s “How to get ahead in publishing” talk. Here, Stephanie Milner, James Long, Matt Haslum, Oli Munson and Miriam Robinson talked about how they got ahead in their various roles. They were all incredibly humble about their success, yet it was clear that none of them would be in the position they are now without working extremely hard and taking opportunities with open arms. Many of them had also seen their careers move away from publishing-specific roles, which only proved to give them a greater awareness of what the industry needs when re-entering it. Demonstrating this flexibility and scope seems essential.
The most resonant piece of advice from the talk was to "be nice" and to think beyond your desk - publishing is such a reputation & contact-based industry, it is essential to have a generous attitude and to never let the limitations of the job define what you are willing to contribute.
In terms of creating contacts, it really struck me that it is through SYP that I’ll meet the editors, agents and publicists of the future, so I’m really looking forward to being able to attend their events on a much more regular basis once I graduate and move back closer to London!
I ended my day by speaking to some delightful students and tutors from Oxford Brookes University about their publishing masters course. This is something that has been in the back of my mind for a while, but for which I seem unable to justify the cost. I am going to persevere with the intern-route for now and see where it leads me, i.e. hopefully to a job!

To sum up my LBF day in three words: enlightening, thrilling and motivating. I only hope that one day I will be on the other side of the exhibition stand!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson

How do you make a reader so utterly hooked on the outcome of a character that the book becomes impossible to put down?

Keep killing the character off.

Kate Atkinson's Life After Life had me hooked after the first few pages. This English author, who won the Costa Book Award 2013 with this captivating novel, asks the question: what would happen if you were to die...and then could start your life all over again?

Born in 1910 and living through two World Wars via multiple life-lines, Atkinson's protagonist, Ursula, experiences life on both sides of the Second World War. As such, the novel captures both the German and British perspective - Ursula finds herself in one instance working as a secretary for the Home Office, and in the next, being in close acquaintance with Hitler's mistress, and with the Fuhrer himself.

From dying in her cot, to dying on the streets of London in a bombing, Atkinson makes us wonder every time: will the outcome be any different for Ursula? Are we not all going to die in the end? And if so, does it really matter when or how?

Every time that "darkness falls",  the narrative loops back and starts again (from different stages in her life - the moment which marks where it all went wrong). Each time, Ursula has some kind of intuitive feeling that she should live her life differently. When she comes to realise that she has lived before, she decides to do this with a purpose - with not just her own life at stake.

Atkinson's novel is provocative and dazzling, and one that I will definitely be recommending - a stunning example of a UK author with awesome talent for storytelling.