Hi everyone. I'm sorry for the sparseness of updates in the last few weeks. I've been spending a lot more time out of doors than usual while the weather's been good. I've even been in the sea - not to be recommended. The weather was hot, but the sea had not warmed up much, and it was painfully cold, with huge, surf-worthy waves. I've also got sunburnt shoulders - ouch!
When I wasn't on the beach or in the garden, I've been interviewed by the website Gatekeeper's Post about my reading and reviewing habits, and have been contacted by a couple of people offering me free review copies of books. Now, I know a lot of bloggers receive free books for publicity, but until now I've only reviewed books I've bought or borrowed myself, so it's quite exciting for me.
Richard and Judy Book Club 2011 Winner:
I've been reviewing some of the Richard and Judy book club recommendations since Christmas. This book club has given a lot of publicity of many modern classics, such as My Sister's Keeper, The Lovely Bones and The Time Traveller's Wife. This year I thought the books I reviewed were a very average bunch, the only ones of note being Room by Emma Donoghue, which was also featured on the TV book club and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. Yesterday the winner was announced as You're Next by Gregg Hurwitz, one of the three I haven't read. My outspoken colleague described it as "the only decent Richard and Judy book I've read, but it's a bit gruesome. Very gruesome. You might not like it." Not having read it, I wouldn't be able to say, but nevertheless, well done to Mr Hurwitz.
The books for Richard and Judy's Summer Reads have already started coming into the shop. Again, I will aim to read and review about half - especially if they are BOGOF.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part 2) trailer:
Fourteen years after the publication of the first Harry Potter book, and ten years after the first movie, there is not much time left until the story is complete. The last installment of the film trilogy is to reach the cinemas in just a couple of months, and the first trailer was released yesterday. It looks terribly exciting, and I can't wait to see it, but it will be sad when there are no more installments to come. The book was published just after I finished university, but was still living in my student house, and, far away from people who might spoil the story for me, I took my time to read and savour the last chance of reading a Harry Potter book for the first time. I must remember to take tissues with me; there is one moment in the book that is so heartbreaking, that was so unexpected, that I think I can't bear to watch it. A second or two of that scene is shown in the trailer. Be warned: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is ruthless and devastating, but a wonderful piece of storytelling, and I look forward to the film adaptation. The films have been getting better and better with each chapter. Deathly Hallows part 2 should be amazing.
Listen to that music at the beginning! The theme tune that was so magical and quirky and twinkly in the first film, slowed down to something ghostly and mournful. It's hard to realise this is the same series. I could talk about this trailer scene by scene, but I shan't.
This year, after watching my to-read pile grow and grow, divide into two piles and breed, I determined to give up buying books for Lent. As well as a few rereads of Pratchett, Gaiman and Montgomery, and a couple of books borrowed from the library, I calculate that I reduced my pile by ten books during that time. Yesterday - payday - after work, I went down to the rival bookshop, the first time I'd been in there since the World Book Night event, and bought some more books to add to the pile: Stories edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill and Witch Light by Susan Fletcher. I've also borrowed The White Queen and The Red Queen from a colleague, and am slowly working my way through Sebastian Faulks' Charlotte Gray.
TGIF at GReads
Today Ginger asks: "Stand Alone vs. Series: what's your stance?"
Thinking as a writer, I prefer writing stand-alone stories. I start out with characters, a situation, write their story and solve their problem. Once I've brought them to their "happy-ever-after," (or not) I'd rather leave them there. I don't like "sequelitis," when the perfect resolution of the first story is undone to create enough plot for the second, as often happens in films and books. I say it's best to bring a story to its natural conclusion, and then stop. If you have enough story for a series, then by all means write it! I love the Harry Potter books, and Anne of Green Gables - although the later books aren't as good as the first, a combination of sequelitis and the author running out of plot and interest. But I do wonder if a lot of stories - especially fantasy and Young Adult - are being drawn out across three or four volumes for the sake of it. Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is the prime example. I read up to book 5, and the story seemed no nearer a resolution than it was in the first book. Jordan died a few years ago, leaving his story to be finished by someone else, and I wonder if the end was in sight even then. I think there were originally going to be ten books in the series, then twelve, now we're on volume 13 and still not finished. I'd like to read more series of stand-alone books featuring the same characters, rather than the multi-volume sagas that are in fashion at the moment.