Archive for January, 2010

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January reading

January 28, 2010

I’ve been on a bit of a Tana French binge this month.  She doesn’t seem to have the profile – yet – of other, less talented crime authors, but I’m very confident that she will…especially with most of the booksellers in our shop behind her!

I reread her first novel, In the Woods, for our bookclub early this month, and was dazzled anew by her beautiful writing and strong sense of place, her vivid characters and avoidance of a standard formulaic ending.  It deals with the long shadows the past can throw across your life, the instability of memory and how you can blunder into destroying something before you realise how crucial it is.  The other bookclub members loved it too.

Having enjoyed her debut novel so much, I went back to The Likeness, the next one in the series.  Featuring Cassie, one of the main protagonists in the first book, it is still very much a stand-alone novel.  Featuring more of that contrast of shimmering, dreamy atmospherics with hardbitten characters and rapid-fire dialogue, this is just as good as In the Woods – once you can get by the unlikely (pun intended) premise.  Cassie Maddox has a doppelganger – a dead woman, Lexie Madison…except there is no such person as Lexie Madison.  She was a identity Cassie and her handler, Frank Mackey, invented as part of working undercover.  Somehow, Tana French convinces you this is plausible, partly through Cassie’s reluctance to accept the situation.  So the obvious way to use this uncanny resemblance is for Cassie to step into Lexie’s life, pretend she was just badly injured, not killed, and see what follows…

I’ve just finished reading a proof copy of her third novel, Faithful Place, due to be published in August – supplied by a friendly rep (Thanks S!).  This one features Frank Mackey, Cassie’s handler in the last book, as his past he thought he’d escaped reaches out for him.  It has such a vividly written sense of place that I feel I know exactly where Frank grew up – Faithful Place, an invented street in the very real Liberties in Dublin.  I live not far from the Liberties, and went to school and worked there, so I know it well – this is an accurate, vivid depiction of the place; the hoodies and addicts on the streets, the doughty, tough women shouting from the doorways, the hard-drinking men in the pubs, and the way people close ranks on outsiders, especially the police.

This book feels like somewhat of a departure  – gone are the ambiguities and the sometimes dream-like tone that were so marked in the first two books; instead the focus is more on the interplay of the characters and family dynamics.  All families have secrets – secrets from outsiders, secret cliques within the family, open secrets that no-one acknowledges, but that are just as potent for all that…Frank uses his skills and ruthlessness as an undercover cop to pit his old neighbours and family against each other, giving up vital pieces of information to solve a dark mystery from his past.

I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a great story and I look forward to hand-selling to customers when it’s published in August!

I’ve also been on a bit of a Georgette Heyer binge – I’ve reread both The Grand Sophy and Sylvester, and hugely enjoyed both.  If you’re not familiar with her, she’s sort of like Jane Austen, if Jane Austen had written inthe 1960’s!  She’s great fun – witty repartee, vivid characters and a fantastic ear for authentic Regency slang.  I think of her as the feminine equivalent of P. G. Wodehouse – warm, humorous tales to cheer, written with a deceptive simplicity that disguises the skill and craft that went into their creations.

I’ve also finished Ash by Malinda Lo – a young adult twist on the Cinderella fable – fans of Holly Black’s Modern Tale of Faerie series will, I think, enjoy this.

And last of all, I read one of the last books I bought, Already Dead by Charlie Huston – it was fine, but it won’t take much willpower to resist buying any more in the series!

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Objects of Lust

January 18, 2010

It’s that time of the week again – the Sunday Times Culture section has been devoured, and I have a new want list of books.  Like a penniless urchin, grubby nose pressed against the window of the sweetshop, I can look but not touch!  Listed below are the lovely, shiny books I’d buy if I could…

And unusually, there is a novel in this lot…it’ll be interesting to look back and see how many ‘must haves’ turn into ‘well, maybes’ once you don’t yield to the impulse of the moment.

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Goodbye to all that…

January 18, 2010

I thought I’d list the last books I bought before launching the good ship No More Books;  I reckon it’s a reasonably accurate measure of the quantity and type of books I’d buy every 6-8 weeks.  New books, that is; it doesn’t count books bought from charity shops,  sales of work, given by reps, lent by friends…

Monday 4th Jan 2010

  • Already Dead by Charlie Huston (Sale €3.50) … Vampire/sci-fi
  • Adventures of the Dish & the Spoon by Mini Grey (Sale €2.50) … Childrens picture book
  • Wolves (HB) by Emily Gravett x 2(Sale €1.50) … Childrens picture book
  • A Leg to Stand on by Oliver Sacks (Sale €4.00) … Popular science
  • Was by Geoff Ryman (Sale €4.00) … Classic fantasy
  • Elvis ’56 – In the beginning (Sale €5.00) … Present for sister!

Friday 8th January 2010

So…I like a bargain!  And it’s no surprise there’s only one ‘straight’ fiction book there, and I only bought it because Alan Garner is one of my favourite young adult writers, and this novel got great reviews.

In the interests of transparency, I should say I bought a copy of our book club book, but decided to return it as it seemed against the spirit of the whole enterprise; I’ll just have to write my notes in a notebook so I don’t scribble on the borrowed copy!

This whole thing is not just about not buying books,  it’s also meant to curtail my reading of books to those I already possess. So far, the only exceptions I’m making are books I need to read for work, so thank you to all my friends and colleagues in work who have already offered to lend me reading matter, but that way lies the slippery slope!

What I am finding difficult is reading all the book reviews at the weekend, going ‘Ooo, ooo, so pretty, I want!’ before realising I.Can’t.Have.It…  So maybe my next post will be a listing of the most desireable newly published books, just to really tantalise myself!

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The book (buying) stops here…

January 15, 2010

I am a bookgeek, I’m a girl, and I’m giving up books.  Not reading them, now, just buying them.  For a limited period – perhaps a year?  Sounds a little ambitious to me, so I think I’ll take it in 3 month tranches and see how I go!  That may sound pathetically easy to you, but there are some complications:-

a) I’m a book addict

b) I work in a bookshop, and am expected to have a decent working knowledge of newly published books plus the backlist

c)  I help run a bookclub, and write notes for the meetings on my copy of the book, so I can’t borrow it from anyone

d) I live with a book addict

e) Books are my ultimate fallback for gifts – I’m really stuck for gift ideas without them!

f) I’m a book addict…

So what pushed me to taking this rather drastic step?  Two things.  A book (naturally).  My lack of space/money/time.  The book –  ‘Howards End is on the Landing’ by Susan Hill.  In it, she describes vividly her search one day for a book in her home; she searches through shelves, rooms, piles and stacks of books without finding it, but in the process realises just how many books she owns but has never read and really wants to, or rediscovers old treasures that deserve a reread…and I thought, apart from the amazing sounding house, that’s me!

I looked around at the tottering piles of books layering every horizontal – and sometimes in defiance of gravity, vertical – surface, and wondered how many of these books I had or would ever read…  How many were impulse buys, or bought because the cover looked pretty/interesting/must-have in some way, shape or form, or they were super-cheap, or – well, you get the picture.  I’m earning a meagre wage, am running out of space and would like to have some cash to pay debts/day-to-day expenses/travel.  So the book stops here.

In fact, not only am I not adding to my store of books, I’m going to whittle down the amount I possess.  Again, sounds ridiculously simple, right?  Not so much – it feels like I’m abandoning my babies to a cruel, indifferent world!

The first wave of book-divestment isn’t so hard; we’re going to have what Americans call a yard sale in aid of Haiti next Friday at noon, so all the read-once-and-don’t-need-to-keep thrillers are being culled for that.  The majority of these were charity shop buys anyway (but are in good condition, if anyone wants to buy them!) and a decent of portion were the other resident book addicts anyway…but it’s a start.

Anyway, I hope to detail here my trials, tribulations and temptations as I struggle NOT to buy a book.  I promise you this will be a journey full of tears and laughter, thrills, spills and breathless excitement!  Eh, well no, I don’t.  Not at all.  But it may provide the heartless among you with some amusing moments, as you watch a bookgeek girl going cold turkey in a world full of books she really, really wants to buy.