The Great Book Giveaway!

As you may have guess from the third part of this blog’s title, I like books. A fair amount, really. Alas, the time has come where I have to part ways with some of them because a). I’ve not got much room left and b). because they’re not books I shall read again for a variety of reasons. And that, dear reader, is where you come in.

Because the delight of reading is something that should be shared, I’m offering you a chance to grab a new book for your collection. Entirely free! Take a chance on something!

Strictly UK-based as my funding will only stretch so far, but I shall post your chosen book(s) to you. It’s a first come-first served basis and you can either drop me a note in the comments here and leave me an email to contact you on or drop me an email on rebecca_lea@ymail.com. If you want to know a bit more about the book, let me know and I’ll do what I can to help.

It’s really that simple.

Disclaimer: The majority of the books are secondhand and a fair few may come with not-so-helpful annotations/underlining from my past self. Should you enquire about a particular book, I can let you know what it contains. Apart from that, all of them are in a very good condition.

So without further ado, here’s the list, grouped into fiction and non. For any aspiring academics out there, the non-fiction contains a couple of writing guides which I found really handy during my degree.

Fiction:

Tazeen Ahmed  – The Checkout Girl

Louisa May Alcott – Little Women

Mary Antin – The Promised Land

Kate Atkinson – Case Histories

Julian Barnes – The Sense of an Ending

Pio Baroja – The Quest (two copies of this one)

Amber Benson – Death’s Daugther

Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre

Charles Bukowski – Post Office

Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness

Charles Dickens – Our Mutual Friend

Helen Fielding – Bridget Jones’s Diary

Ken Follett – The Man from St. Petersburg

Ford Madox Ford – The Good Soldier

Henry Green – Living

Radclyffe Hall – The Well of Loneliness

Robert A. Heinlein – The Puppet Masters

Ernest Hemingway – Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises

James Herbert – Creed

Susan Hill – The Woman in Black

Beatrice Hitchman – Petite Mort

William Dean Howells – A Hazard of New Fortunes

Michael Innes – Hamlet, Revenge!

Hanif Kureshi – The Buddha of Suburbia

Nella Larsen – Passing

Andrea Levy – Fruit of the Lemon

Stephordy Mayo (apparently) – New Moan – Twishite Saga

Colin MacInnes – Omnibus including City of Spades, Absolute Beginners and Mr Love & Justice

Herman Melville – Billy Budd and Other Stories

Arthur Miller – Death of a Salesman

David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala – Heat and Dust

E. Annie Proulx – The Shipping News

Bernard Schlink – The Reader

William Shakespeare – The Winter’s Tale

– Othello

Mary Shelley – Frankenstein (the 1831 revised text)

Edmund Spenser – The Faerie Queene

Meera Syal – Anita and Me

Sarah Waters – Affinity

Non-Fiction

Gordon Harvey – Writing with Sources: A Guide for Students

Julian of Norwich – Revelations of Divine Love (It’s a bit bonkers this one, all biblical hallucinations… not expecting many takers)

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie – Carnival in Romans

Joseph M. Williams – The Craft of Argument

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2014 Reading Challenge

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that last year, I set myself a small challenge of reading 50 books in 2013 which, as of around the 15th December, I succeeded in doing. It proved to be a really great way of motivating myself to get back into reading a lot again, something which had fallen by the wayside once I finished my degree and moved into the dreaded arena of the real world.

I read some amazing books over the course of the year, some of which have shot up to the top of my favourite lists whilst others weren’t so good (Ken Follett’s The Man from St Petersburg – people need to be warned about that book). It’s on that basis that I’ve decided to do it again this year, upping the total to 60 books, just to see if I can top last year’s.

For this year, I want to be a bit more focused, a bit more particular about the books I’m going to be reading as 2013 was a bit of a free-for-all. This year, I’m going to use it to get through some of the books that I’ve been meaning to finish or get through for a long time. These are the ten books I will be finishing in 2014:

1. Pride and Prejudice – It will be my fourth attempt at this book. If I can’t do it this time I’m just going to give it up.

2. The World According to Garp – So many people have recommended me this book and I now have a copy.

3. A Study in Scarlet – Because quite frankly, it’s ridiculous I haven’t actually read this yet.

4. Rosemary’s Baby – Seen the film; want to see how it interpreted the book.

5. Deadwood: The Golden Years – I loved the series and I’m fascinated by the history so time to read the book on which it is based.

6. A Tale of Two Cities – The next stage in my ongoing mission to explore strange new worlds and read more Dickens.

7. The Day of the Triffids – Because John Wyndham.

8. The Only Life That Mattered: The Short and Merry Lives of Anne Bonny, Mary Read and Calico Jack – Pirates of the Caribbean kicked off a fascination with pirates and this book looks into the lives of the most famous female buccaneers. Endlessly fascinating.

9. Bring Up The Bodies – Loved Wolf Hall so I’m keen to continue with the story.

10. A Clockwork Orange – I know, I know.

So they’re the ten I will definitely read – please feel free to post recommendations because I shall need inspiration along the line I’m sure. You can also find me on Goodreads here.

#MTOS – Movie Talk On Sundays – Books to Film

On Sunday 17th November, I’ll be hosting the Twitter phenomenon that is #MTOS. If you haven’t taken part before, #MTOS is a weekly meeting of film enthusiasts, getting together for a big old discussion. This week, my topic will be books to film, looking at the long history of adaptations in cinema. I’ll be asking ten questions, one every ten minutes from 8pm (GMT) and all you need to do is post your response and tag it with the #MTOS hashtag.

So why books to film? It’s a particular fascination of mine, the way film-makers translate the written word from page to screen and it’s a relationship that has existed ever since figures like Sherlock Holmes and Ebenezer Scrooge first appeared in film at the beginning of the 20th century. Although I’ve primarily focused on novels, the rise of comic book and graphic novel adaptations shows that this relationship is set to continue and evolve for many years to come.

Without further ado, here are my questions for Sunday:

1). What is your favourite book to film adaptation and why?

2). What is your least favourite?

3). Are there any films that you consider to be definitive adaptations of a particular novel? (Doesn’t have to be your favourite)

4). Are there any adaptations you consider ‘noble failures’? I.e. They’re not great, but they have a certain something.

5). Do you prefer a faithful adaptation or a film that uses the book as more of a starting point?

6). Why do you think certain novels like Frankenstein or Great Expectations keep appearing on screen?

7). There are a lot of films out there that aren’t necessarily known as adaptations. Do you think this helps give a film its own identity?

8). Movie tie-in novels used to be all the rage. Would you like to see them return?

9). If you know a film is an adaptation, do you try and read the book before seeing it?

10). Pitch time! What book would you like to see adapted and which director to tackle it?

Look forward to seeing you all on Sunday!

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TV REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – FZZT

Written for Assorted Buffery

FZZT was exactly the kind of episode we needed at this point in the season, one which stripped away the fantastical and the action and focused in on the team’s dynamics and how they work together to defeat a problem. Placing one of the team member’s in jeopardy is a tried and tested method of doing this and SHIELD takes the concept and comes up with one emotional moment after another as Simmons is exposed to a Chitauri virus with little hope of discovering a vaccine. Sorry, I mean anti-serum.

Full review here.

FILM REVIEW: Romeo & Juliet

Written for Assorted Buffery

Julian Fellowes, he of the popular Sunday night entertainment and now morality play Downton Abbey, has written an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s most famous romance, the tragedy of Romeo & Juliet. It turns out, tragedy is entirely the right term, though not necessarily in the context meant by the Warwickshire wordsmith. For Fellowes has crafted what I am confident in saying is the worst adaptation of a Shakespeare that I have ever seen. And that’s a list that includes She’s The Man.

Full review here.

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Beat Crazy: A Cinematic Journey Through The Beat Generation

It’s been months since I lasted posted anything on here. So long in fact that not only did I forget the password to log back in, I also forgot the password to the email account it was attached to. But, nearly an hour later, I’m back in and ready to start posting here again. I make this promise every few months or so and sometimes I even stick to it. We’ll see how this go-around fares soon enough.

In the meantime though, I’ve been writing about the Beat Generation on film for Lost in the Multiplex. It’s been a lot of fun; I’ve revisited works I’d not read for a long time, films I’d not seen for even longer as well as new experiences for both. The articles were produced, partially because I wanted to take a look at how Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac et al. all fared on film and partially to celebrate the release of the latest cinematic outing for these writers in Kill Your Darlings (only to find out the release date has been pushed back. Such is life). Without further ado, here they all are (links in the titles):

Beat Crazy Part One – Pull My Daisy (1959)

The Beat writers and cinema have had a long relationship; the stories of their hedonistic lifestyle has been the subject of many a film down the years as well as their literary output providing inspiration for adaptations. There has been a resurgence recently, a determination to hark back to these ideas of breaking the rules and rebelling against the wider establishment. Pull My Daisy, a 1959 short film, is the swiftest way to get a real flavour of what the Beat generation was about and the themes and ideas that permeated their work.

Beat Crazy Part Two – The Last Time I Committed Suicide (1997)

The celebration and exploration of the Beat Generation on film continues with The Last Time I Committed Suicide, a semi-biographical film based on a letter written in 1950 from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac, nicknamed the ‘Joan Henderson letter’. From this, the film spins a tale of Cassady (Thomas Jane) reeling from the attempted suicide of his girlfriend Joan (Clare Forlani), his affair with schoolgirl Cherry Mary (Gretchen Moll) and his relationship with a pool hall hang-about, Harry (a surprisingly good Keanu Reeves). Each character represents a different life for the wayward Cassady and the film follows his struggles to select which one to follow.

Beat Crazy Part Three – Naked Lunch (1991) <– This was my favourite

In yesterday’s feature on The Last Time I Committed Suicide, I made the rather grand claim that William S Burroughs’ novel, Naked Lunch, was not only an important moment in the Beat movement, but for literature in general. It was the subject of much controversy and led to discussions around the nature of censorship within literature. David Cronenberg took on the rather daunting task of adapting this infamous novel for the screen and in doing so, crafted a disturbing yet humourous look at the process of writing.

Beat Crazy Part Four – Howl (2010)

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…”

So begins one of the most famous poems in the English language and the Beat generation, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, a lengthy, tumultuous, maddening yet joyful ode to outcasts and the people in Ginsberg’s life. I must admit, when I first read it, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. As someone who had quite a traditional introduction to literature via your standard high school classroom, to be faced with this in the first week of university was alarming to say the least. It was only on revisiting the poem on my own terms that I began to really appreciate it for all of the adjectives I used to describe it earlier. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s film of the same name is another such appreciation, a cinematic ode to Ginsberg’s poem and the effect it has.

Beat Crazy Part Five – On The Road (2012)

The final film in this cinematic journey through the Beat Generation is the long-awaited adaptation of the most famous work of literature from that period, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. It seems fitting then that we end this cinematic journey through the Beat movement with the ultimate Beat journey, a trip across America in a beat up ’49 Hudson.

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On Bookshops and Odd Categorisation

As a fervent bookworm and general lover of literature, I can often be found wandering around any shop that happens to stock books of any variety. Although I try to use independent and second-hand bookshops where possible, I do sometimes find myself wandering into a certain chain of bookshops. One thing that I continually find baffling about bookshops, chains in particular, is the categorisation of their stock.

Today was one of those days where I found myself in such a bemused state; I was on the hunt for a particular set of books, Mervyn Peake’s Gormeghast series to be precise, as part of my ’50 Books in a Year’ challenge and I’ve always wanted to read them. However, I found myself up against a small technical hitch. The books couldn’t be found in the ordinary fiction section and then, rather surprisingly, there was no fantasy section. At all. In the entire shop. Well, that can’t be right surely? I was probably just being blind, not seeing the wood for the trees etc. So off I trekked to find a shop assistant, because they would be able to point me in the right direction. And the exchange with said shop assistant occurred thus:

Me: “Excuse me, I’m sorry, could you please tell me where the fantasy section is?”

Assistant: “Oh we don’t have a fantasy section, you’ll want to look in Science Fiction.”

At this point, I probably should have just toddled off to the Science Fiction section and try to find what I was looking for. But, well, I couldn’t just leave it that.

Me: “Well, that doesn’t really make any sense. Fantasy is its own genre. Why is it put in with science fiction?”

Assistant (looking wonderfully bemused): “I don’t know… we just put the books where they’re told.”

At this point, I apologised, thanked her for help and proceeded to walk across to the Science Fiction, despite this particular categorisation making no real sense at all. Surely, if you were to put the two genres together, Fantasy would be a better umbrella term for them both, as fantasy doesn’t feature science as a strong feature, whilst science fiction often comes with its own healthy dose of fantasy. That’s if you really had to; I think they should be considered as two separate genres entirely.

Thinking about it, and I have done at great length since the Lost Category Incident (as it shall now be called), I think this whole mislabelling business says more about the attitudes to the genre than it does about the bookshops themselves. They are, after all, just catering for an audience. Although attitudes have recently begun to shift, science fiction and fantasy have largely been disregarded by the wider reading public, and especially by literary communities as not particularly rewarding. Obviously there are standouts like Brave New World, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Song of Ice and Fire series that have transcended genre boundaries, but largely they still don’t have the same readership as crime or, god forbid, erotic fiction.

It’s not limited to science fiction and fantasy either; it annoys me that there is just one stand for ‘Classics’ which basically means anything written before 1930. But what about the modern classics? Shouldn’t they get their own section too, rather than be lumped with all the other fiction? In fact, why do we even need to categorise books anyway? Why not throw them all in together?

Ok, now I know I’m being silly and getting carried away with my sudden need to de-categorise everything. Categories exist for ease of access. If I wanted to go and seek out Anna Karenina, I know exactly which bit of the shop I would look in, likewise if I decided that actually, what I really needed was the latest ripoff of Fifty Shades of Grey (that’s not going to happen), I know which shelves I’d head towards.

Returning back to my initial discussion, to lump fantasy in with science fiction seems disrespectful to both genres, especially as in this particular Science Fiction section, the majority of the books were fantasy-based. There was some Philip K. Dick in there, a little Arthur C. Clarke, but predominantly, the shelves were full of Tolkien, Pratchett, Peake, R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan. As I was standing there looking aghast at this blatant dismissal of fantasy as a genre in its own right, I noticed that, to my left, there was a Horror stand. Granted it was mostly Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft with a little James Herbert, Charlaine Harris and Max Brooks thrown in for good measure, but horror is just as good as, and just as popular as, fantasy.

The fantasy genre has risen in popularity over the years and it remains a mainstay of my personal book collection, but I just find it completely baffling that it doesn’t seem to have earned the right to exist in its own little bookshop bubble yet, particularly in bookshop chains. And I guess the point I’m trying to make amidst all this waffle, is that actually, fantasy should no longer be dismissed as something lesser; it’s a genre that’s given us Discworld, American Gods, Westeros and Middle Earth amongst many others. This should be celebrated, not quietly hidden in a Science Fiction shelf at the very back of the shop.

 

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FILM REVIEW: Stoker

Written for Assorted Buffery

Written by Wentworth Miller, previously the star of Prison Break, Stoker depicts the events that occur after the death of Richard Stoker (Dermot Mulroney). At his funeral, his brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) returns to the family home, meeting Richard’s wife Evie (Nicole Kidman) and his daughter India (Mia Wasikowska). Enigmatic and intriguing, Uncle Charlie immediately has the attentions of the two women and it’s not long before a power struggle ensues between the three Stokers.

Having already proved himself to be a visionary director with the Vengeance Trilogy, Park Chan-Wook was faced with the challenge of bringing his unique brand of twisted cinema to an English-speaking audience. With a starting point like Miller’s screenplay, a resident of the 2010 Black List, the foundations were already there. Though predictable at times, the narrative is a twisted grim fairytale (pun intended), full of literary and cinematic references that give added meaning to its events. You only have to look at the detailed artwork for the film (see the poster above) to see how well put-together all of the references, both internal and external, are. Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt is the obvious one with their shared Uncle Charlies but everything from Shakespeare to the Brothers Grimm makes it in there. It may just be the literature geek in me, but it is a screenplay I would really like to read as it strikes me as a text in and of itself, ideally suited to analysis and criticism.

Full review here: http://assortedbuffery.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/film-review-stoker.html

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RETRO: Deep Blue Sea

Written for Lost in the Multiplex

Deep Blue Sea is a very silly film, so silly in fact that every time I watch it, I can’t help but feeling that actually, there has to be something more going on, If you scratch at its big dumb surface, Renny Harlin doesn’t give us just your ordinary everyone-dies-horrifically-one-by-one dumb action horror, but gives us something that messes about with the formula.

As with any horror/sci-fi/action mash-up, there are conventions that audiences will always recognise, but here they are upended, messed about with, or simply eaten. Here’s just a small disclaimer to start with; I love Deep Blue Sea completely without irony and I actually think its one of Harlin’s better films. Let’s face it, it’s definitely better than Cutthroat Island. Also if you haven’t seen the film, spoilers abound for this particular piece.

Full article here: http://www.lostinthemultiplex.com/extras/features/item/3068-retro-deep-blue-sea.html

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TV (SORT-OF) REVIEW: House of Cards

Written for Assorted Buffery

The American version of seminal British drama House of Cards hit the website Netflix this week, marking a landmark development in broadcasting, premiering a television series without it actually being on any television channels (hence the ‘Sort-Of’). The first episode was available on Thursday night, and is still available to view for free, with the rest of the series following on Friday for subscribers. Needless to say, I’ve now watched all but two (hey, Saturday’s a day off, I’ve had time) and the series, whilst very different from its well-spoken, Ian Richardson-starring counterpart, is nearly just as good.

Full review here: http://assortedbuffery.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/tv-sort-of-review-house-of-cards.html

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