Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Review: Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

A bold and brilliant debut from a darkly funny new voice. Oskar is a minimalist composer best known for a piece called Variations on Tram Timetables. He is married to a Californian art dealer named Laura and he lives with two cats, named after Russian composers, in an Eastern European city. But this book isn't really about Oskar. Oskar is in Los Angeles, having his marriage dismantled by lawyers. He has entrusted an old university friend with the task of looking after his cats, and taking care of his perfect, beautiful apartment. Despite the fact that Oskar has left dozens of surreally detailed notes covering every aspect of looking after the flat, things do not go well. Care of Wooden Floors is about how a tiny oversight can trip off a disastrous and farcical (fatal, even) chain of consequences. It's about a friendship between two men who don't know each other very well. It's about alienation and being alone in a foreign city. It's about the quest for perfection and the struggle against entropy. And it is, a little, about how to take care of wooden floors. (via Goodreads)

Urgh. Okay, I'll admit – I haven't finished this book. It's written very well and in a pretty unique way, but I just couldn't get into it. Basically, the whole story is about a person who goes to look after his friend Oskar's flat, which is in a foreign Eastern European country, and Oskar is excessively particular about every detail of its upkeep. But things start to go horribly wrong; starting from the moment when this friend manages to leave an unsightly mark on the wooden floor, which Oskar is bound to notice.

Wiles himself is an architecture and design journalist, so it's easy to see where he got the inspiration for this book – it is very design oriented. And because of that, a lot of the plot revolves around the objects and spaces around this flat. It's a clever idea, but it didn't interest me; mainly because the story moves along so slowly. I prefer books that have a bit more plot, and move faster alongthan this one does.

I'd say that if you're interested in interior design and/or have a lot more patience than I do, then Care of Wooden Floors might be for you.

Rating: 2 / 5

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Reading frustration

{photo credit}
How do you get through books that you're not enjoying? I just can't do it. The two titles I'm reading right now, though I'm not loving them, are pretty much compulsory reads so I must complete them. Hard Times by Charles Dickens is a set book for university, and Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles is a book I 'won' on the Waterstones Facebook page, and am obliged to submit a review for it on their website. But I'm struggling so bad! Hard Times I've been reading for almost a month, and I've even bought the audio book to help me through it quicker, but that's not even working! And while I think Care of Wooden Floors is very unique and well written, the story is evolving so slowly that I'm having trouble keeping up the momentum.

So I need some help here, guys. How can I push through and finish them? I'd really love to become a reader who can tolerate books enough to finish in good time, even though they're not igniting any 'spark'. My Dad can do that; he might not like what he's reading, but he'll still only take a few days to finish the entire thing. Me, if I don't get on with a story, it can take me forever! Seriously, what's the secret here? I'm itching to just get on with it, finish these books already, and read something I'm actually going to enjoy!

Monday, 23 January 2012

This girl and her experimental scribbles

I'm very eager to grow as a writer in all respects during 2012. So I've just set up a new blog on WordPress, which I hope to use as an additional place where my clumsy writing skills might become a little less so. While Life Between Pages will remain my main blog, my WordPress blog will focus on experimenting with a variety of styles on a collection of different topics.

If you'd like to check out the latest place, click here. I'm hoping I can commit to posting at least one thing a week over there.


Saturday, 21 January 2012

Review: A Knowing Look & other stories by Rebecca Emin

From the heat of the African plain to the chilled winter air in rural England, this book will take you on a journey via a collection of emotive short stories.

Birth, death, and some of the challenges that arise in between are covered in this selection of fiction for adult readers. (via Goodreads)

A Knowing Look is a collection of brief short stories and flash fiction. The subjects are wide ranging, but what they all have in common is emotionally charged prose with an often unexpected twist at the end – designed to make the reader realise their full effect and perhaps mirror the unpredictability of life's challenges.

Now, I really enjoyed Emin's childrens/young adult novel, New Beginnings (review here). But unfortunately this collection didn't quite do it for me as I don't think her style of writing suits adult fiction. This is not a bad thing, however, as it's great for younger readers; just like those who would love a book like New Beginnings.

With that said, there were a few stories I enjoyed, but also some that left me feeling short changed. The Passenger, for example, was one that concluded when I thought it was just beginning, and I thought Class of 1990 could use a little more explanation. Also, some stories I thought would work better as poetry, such as Grace, And the Wind Blows, and Listen (interestingly, these are all written in 2nd person narrative). But stories I did enjoy were A Knowing Look which has a gorgeous African setting with a heartwarming visit from a herd of elephants, The Gift which has a well-tackled violent beginning, and Tour And Duty which sees a soldier returning to normal life after serving abroad in the military.

Altogether, I thought this was a good effort but finished shy of the mark. Again, from my perspective Emin's style is better suited for childrens and young adult fiction, rather than adult fiction.

Rating: 3 / 5

To learn more about Rebecca's books, visit her blog at rebeccaemin.com

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sophie Kinsella fans in the UK: fantastic pre-order deal at Waterstones!

Sophie Kinsella's latest stand-alone novel, I've Got Your Number, will be released on February 16th. If you're a fan of hers and you live in the UK, make sure you head down to your local Waterstones and pre-order her new book because they have a fabulous deal on right now! Pre-order I've Got Your Number you'll get it guaranteed at half price for £9.49, and you can take home a totally free copy of You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning, too!

If you're unsure, though, if it's worth pre-ordering I've Got Your Number (maybe you wonder if you'll like the story, etc), they have a free sample booklet of the first chapter available, too.

I pre-ordered today mine, and I only had to pay a £3 deposit (I'll pay the rest when I pick up my copy in February). Another bonus is that the final price is even cheaper than it is at Amazon!

Anyway, I just wanted to let you guys know, since I think it's a fantastic deal. So excited to read more from Sophie Kinsella!

A year in Jamaica

Earlier tonight, I was doing some university work and came across a truly enchanting recording of the poem Two Seasons by Valerie Bloom, which I really had to share. Bloom is Jamaican, and writes a lot of her work in Jamaican dialect, such as this poem. I just love listening to the exotic sound as she describes the feel of the climate and its effect on nature – perhaps the perfect escape for those of us who are tethered knee deep in winter cold!

Here are the first two verses:

We don' have a Springtime like some folk
Who live in dem colder place,
but we have a time when de soft rain come,
an' tease open de seedcase
o' de poincianna and de trumpet tree,
An' whisper to de young cane to wake
when de guangu blossom is pink an' white
powder-puff, prettying up de earth face.
But not like Spring in dem colder place.

We have no Summer when Springtime done
no change o' season as such,
but we have a time when de asphalt bubble
in de hot sun, when yuh dare not touch
de tarmac wid yuh barefoot; when de heat is
a dancin' dervice who wi' grab yuh
an' spin yuh till de sweat is a river flowin' down,
an' yuh too tired fe de anything much.
But we don' have a summer as such.

If you want to read the whole poem, it's available at The Poetry Archive. There's also a recording of it there, too, if you want to listen at the same time (which I highly recommend!)

Friday, 13 January 2012

Follow Friday – #15

This week's featured blogs are
Musings of a Book Lover
Badass Book Reviews

I haven't taken part in the Follow Friday meme for ages!

Here's this week's question:

Q: Many readers/bloggers are also big music fans. Tell us about a few of your favorite bands/singers that we should listen to in 2012.

I love this question! At the moment, I'm really loving Lady Gaga. I adore the fact that she sings pop music, but unlike the majority of these types of musicians she can really sing live & in tune. There's no denying others, like Christina Aguilera and Katy Perry, sound good on studio tracks, but live their voices are definitely lacking in the pitch department. Lady Gaga, however, she always sounds amazing. Here's an example:

Apart from her, I also enjoy some Bon Jovi, Maroon 5, Aerosmith, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley... I could go on forever!

What are your musical likes and dislikes?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Interview with Trilby Kent – author of Stones for my Father

It's my pleasure to introduce Trilby Kent, the talented writer behind the novel Stones for my Father, which comes out later this month (read my review here).

Thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions, Trilby! It's greatly appreciated. Stones for my Father is rich in history. Was there anything you learnt in particular about the Boer War that fuelled your desire to tell such a story?
Mainly the fact that it really was the major conflict of its time – both in terms of global involvement as well as lives lost – and yet despite the fact that only a century has passed, so few people today know much about it.

There’s a good helping of Boer dialect in the novel. How important was it for you to create a sense of authenticity through this use of language?
Very – I have too many South African family members to risk getting it wrong! At the same time, I didn’t want to exclude the reader by using too many unfamiliar words. The look and sound of Afrikaans is so evocative, though. My hope was that, even if the precise meaning of a word wasn’t immediately clear, its sense would be.

Would you consider re-telling the story from the point of view of a different character, such as Sipho?
Definitely. The only thing that would scare me slightly is that there’s so little material, relatively speaking, on the African experience of the war, and I’d be worried about getting the account of Sipho’s experience ‘right’. That said, I’d also love to continue Corlie’s story.

What is one thing you hope readers will gain from Stones for my Father?
Simply to feel that they’ve been to another place, another time, and that they won’t want to leave by the story's end.

Which authors have inspired your style of writing?
Most writers I’ve read have influenced me in some way, I’m sure. With this book, the Flemish young adult author Anne Provoost was a particular inspiration. I love the clarity of her prose, and the way she tackles big issues without melodrama.

Is there a piece of great writing advice you have been given and would like to pass on?
Read! And then read some more. There’s no better tutor than a great book.

Finally, are there any other projects that you are working on at the moment? If so, where can we keep updated?
I’m currently in my third year of a creative writing PhD, for which I’m writing a full-length novel set in a boarding school on a North Sea island in the 1950s. I’m also itching to get stuck in to another YA novel – perhaps something about the Spanish Civil War, or possibly something entirely different. I’m a bit of a luddite, so I don’t have a blog, but I can be found lurking on Twitter as @trilbykent.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Review: Stones for my Father by Trilby Kent

Corlie Roux’s farm life in South Africa is not easy: the Transvaal is beautiful, but it is also a harsh place where the heat can be so intense that the very raindrops sizzle. When her beloved father dies, she is left with a mother who is as devoted to her sons as she is cruel to her daughter. Despite this, Corlie finds solace in her friend, Sipho, and in Africa itself and in the stories she conjures for her brothers.

But Corlie’s world is about to vanish: the British are invading and driving Boer families like hers from their farms. Some escape into the bush to fight the enemy. The unlucky ones are rounded up and sent to internment camps.

Will Corlie’s resilience and devotion to her country sustain her through the suffering and squalor she finds in the camp at Kroonstad? That may depend on a soldier from faraway Canada and on inner resources Corlie never dreamed she had…. (via Goodreads)

This is a truly magnificent book. I can't remember the last time I read a story that had me wanting to cry, but Stones for my Father definitely got the tear ducts working! It's a fictional story set in the non-fictional Boer War, which took place in Africa during the late 19th century and early 20th century. The narrator is a young girl called Corlie who details her harsh experiences throughout this brutal period.

If you love novels with rich insight and dialect, drama and hope, then I can't recommend Stones for my Father enough. It's one of those books that really makes you think about your own life, putting everyday problems into perspective. Kent did a lot of research while writing this, so I trust that many, if not all, of the events that these fictional characters go through are accurate. Some scenes are horrific; family homes being burnt down, women and children imprisoned in concentration camps and racial segregation. But Kent has handles each subject with sensitivity and grace, and an eloquence that I find truly refreshing.

Stones for my Father is aimed at a young adult audience, however this will definitely appeal to older readers just as much.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Stones for my Father is released in the UK on 19th January. To pre-order a copy, visit amazon.co.uk or almabooks.com.

Friday, 6 January 2012


TGIF at Greads! is a weekly meme hosted by Ginger over at Greads!, which gives us a new question to answer each week.

This week's question:
Reading Resolutions: What are some of your reading goals for the new year?

  • Read more! I'm a slow reader, so one of the things I want to try and improve on this year is getting books read faster.
  • I need to stop buying more books for a while and concentrate on reading the piles of unread ones that are spread throughout my house. I seem to read the newest book in my collection before those that have been sat there for years, so I need to try and break the cycle. Easier said than done though, right?
  • Learn how to read poetry properly. And Shakespeare. I still don't understand these completely! So two books I must get around to are Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal, and The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry. Help me out here, boys!
  • It's not really a reading resolution as much as a writing resolution. I'm doing a couple of creative writing courses this year, so I want to try my hand at putting together a short story or two. Perhaps if I feel confident enough, I might share them on my blog. ;-)
What are your own reading resolutions for the year ahead?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Review: While I'm Still Myself by Jeremy Mark Lane

A passionate December love affair.
The meeting of an unexpected traveler.
The consequences of protecting a young new acquaintance.
A journey into an unknown past.

In the stories of While I’m Still Myself, Jeremy Lane eloquently describes the life changing impact of the brief encounter, showing that life and love are not shaped by an entire lifetime, but by the fleeting moments with unexpected people in unexpected places. (via Goodreads)

While I'm Still Myself is a collection of seven short stories, all of which have elements of wisdom and contain the ability to inspire the reader. They're set in different time periods – from the 19th century up until the present day – and in varying parts of the southern United States.

One of my favourites was The Pebblestone Five, a tale about a group of neglected children. This is a daring story tackling an important topic, but it comes across so well and leaves so much hope for the characters that I couldn't help but love it.

However, not every story wowed me. That Winter and Round Bale left me feeling disconnected from the characters. Also, many of them finish rather enigmatically, which worked well with some but others seemed abrupt.

Though all in all, I enjoyed the bulk of While I'm Still Myself. I'd recommend this collection to those who are intrigued and inspired by human interest stories.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

While I'm Still Myself is released on 10 January. To stay updated, visit Jeremy's website. 

Watch the trailer for this book here.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Treasure Island by Sky has many problems, says I!

The first book I ever reviewed for my blog was Treasure Island. It was essentially the one to ‘christen’ everything that I’ve produced on here since then, and so I’ve kept a special connection with it. There have, of course, been many on-screen adaptations of the story over the years, but the latest one was shown on Sky 1 in the UK Sunday and Monday night in a two-part, four hour special (official website here). I’ve been really eager to see it, not just because I know the story but because Sky have been making such a big deal out of promoting it to us.

Even so, I could immediately see problems with it (surprising for me, isn’t it? Ha). There was the revealing of Long John Silver; as soon as the promotions let us see him on his crutches, I knew this bald guy with a tattoo down the side of his face (Eddie Izzard) was going to be the man. Was he at all what I pictured? Not in the slightest. I guess I model John Silver on the way he looked in the 1950's version – a shaggy beard and a hat. Aren’t all pirate captains supposed to have hats, or am I just thinking that because I’ve watched Jack Sparrow wield his attachment to his own a few too many times?

Then the promotions started getting less cryptic and began to show a bit more detail. They showed, who I assumed at the time, Billy Bones singing ‘Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum’ in a strange rhythm. I’m used to it being sung in a certain cheerful, fast paced sort of way, but this was more of a slow and haunting sound. Bit too eerie for my taste, that.

When the show eventually aired after about a couple of months of force-fed promotion, of course it was disappointing. Okay, so I know they have to tweak the book a little to make it work for the screen, but seriously, this? (SPOILER ALERT: You might want to skip this next bit if you haven’t read the book or seen the series!) First of all, there are what I think are the cardinal sins. Why  make the squire evil and turn the doctor into some kind of coward? They took a massive liberty there. I can’t think of any adaptation that have given characters completely different personalities, can you?  Then, the biggest and most idiotic change they made was making the ending totally different! Instead of the crew going back with a massive booty under their arms and leading rich lives on their arrival home, they decide to throw all the treasure overboard! Come on! After all that effort, all those fights and lives lost it was all for nothing? Everybody’s just decided to realise the true meaning of life? That’s a bit messed up, if you ask me. At least keep the same conclusion!

That said, there were some additions that I appreciated. I liked the subplot that revolved around Jim Hawkins’ mum and John Silver’s wife, and the flashbacks were good, too. I also appreciated the effort made to make the pirate’s characters more realistic than we’ve seen in some other films (though I do feel the ending undid a lot of this work).

So, I guess you could say that I have mixed feelings about what Sky have done with Treasure Island. The cast is interesting – Donald Sutherland as Captain Flint and even Elijah Wood as Ben Gunn (oh yeah, and Gunn is known as a ‘yankee’. Were there even ‘yankees’ in those days?!) Some story additions were refreshing; some changes were very much unwelcome. In the end, though, I don’t see why they felt they needed to make such radical changes to a story that would already work for the screen.

Have you seen the new Treasure Island? What did you think about it?