Monthly Archives

January 2011

How do you read yours?

I feel guilty.  I feel guilty because I’m currently reading The Snowman by Jo Nesbo (supposedly the next best thing to Steig Larsson). I feel guilty because I’m reading it on a kindle and not in paperback. And I feel even more guilty because I’m enjoying reading it this way.

I never thought I’d be able to abandon the good old paperback for an eBook. Reading on an electronic device just never appealed and can’t replace the real thing, the smell of a new book, the dog ears as you create as you work your way through it (yes, a bad habit but I like my books to look read) and placing it on the bookshelf when you’re done, creating another addition to your own personal library. I’m proud of my bookshelf, it’s a history of what I’ve read and says a lot about me.

With eBooks there is no smell, no dog ears and when you’re finished no one need know. But it’s not all bad.  Certainly not for Amazon who report selling more Kindles than paperbacks during the backend of 2010.

So, a couple of weeks ago I downloaded the Amazon Kindle app to my iPad and bought The Snowman. It cost me all of £2.92, a tiny saving of around 50p on the current listing price for the paperback version but it was available to read within a few minutes; no going to a bookshop, no waiting for an Amazon delivery. I could start reading straight away. I began reading in bed and find it much easier to hold an iPad comfortably than a book; in fact I can read it one handed (no traditional page turning required) so can snuggle further under the duvet when it’s nippy.

Whether I bookmark my page or not, the Kindle remembers the last page I was reading from so there’s no ‘I’ve dropped the book, shit, which page was I on’ business and I can change the font size for ease of reading. As old age encroaches (I’m all f 31 you know) I find really small type off-putting so making it bigger is a bonus. I can change the screen brightness so I don’t get bedazzled and I can make notes if I want to (good for research when I get back on the novel-writing trail) or link straight to an online dictionary if I want to look things up. I can also pop it in my bag, along with my emails, favourite social media tools, my blog and the wider web, all in one device. And I can see it will be really handy on holidays – no more packing three heavy hardbacks and lugging them around an airport, I can pop them on the Kindle and if I run out of books to read I just download another one without even needing to move from the poolside.

All that said, I do feel guilty. I love books, I love book shops and I love adding to my little library of literature and hope one day to have a home office lined with  shelves housing all the books I’ve read. So to say goodbye to books, the real thing at least, is a bit sad.

I’m far from saying I’m ditching paperbacks altogether but I’m going to give this Kindle business a try. I’ve yet to finish The Snowman and, in fact, have no idea how close to the end I am because I have no dog-eared marker to tell me as I would with a proper book. But technologies move on, times change and I’d like to be at least trying to keep up.  My main concern was that I’d want a break from staring at a screen all day but so far, this hasn’t bothered me; time will tell, I’m still only on my first eBook.

As I said in my last post, I think library closures are a sad but probably necessary thing in these cash-strapped times, but I’d be incredibly sad to think I might read to my children  (if/when they appear) stories off an iPad. I want them to experience real books, to carry them to school in their backpacks and keep their favourite ones on their bedside table.

Are we looking at a future without books as we know them? What do you think? Vote in the poll:

[polldaddy poll=4471527]

Is it The End for libraries?

We all know 2011 is the year of cuts, cuts and more cuts; we hear about it on the news approximately five times a day. To be honest, the news is so depressing at the moment it’s a wonder we haven’t all topped ourselves.

Anyhoo, less about death, more about libraries… the public sector is facing some touch choices as the money pots dry up and one such service under threat is that of pubic libraries. Stony Stratford Library, for example, is being targeted for closure and members have made their mark by each withdrawing 15 books and literally emptying the shelves in the Wot No Books campaign. A wicked way to get your point across! There’s also a petition in our local chippy against the closure of what would be my local library, if we used it.                                                

Now then. I’m a huge fan of books and reading and think it’s important for anyone and everyone to have access to them. And libraries, most of them, now offer more than just a free read – DVD rental, computer and printing services, research archives, children’s storybook sessions, crafts etc. But these are all things we can get elsewhere. Are they a “crucial service“? I think not.

I remember visiting the library with my mum when I was a kid and getting so excited that we could choose books and take them home for free as long as we promised to bring them back. And I liked the eery quietness of the place. Fast forward 20 years and I was using the library again, this time in Coalville, Leicestershire. I lived over the road from the library and with no phone line or internet connection in my flat I used the library a lot to conduct my online affairs. I browsed the books and DVDs while I was there and generally liked the peaceful atmosphere.

Another five years later and I haven’t stepped foot in a library for all that time. I have internet connection at home, access to films through BT Vision or I pick them up dead cheap in Asda, there are so many places offering copying and printing services and books I buy via Amazon, either in paperback or eBooks, or I borrow them from my friends. Charity shops are also brilliant for picking up books by top authors for as little as 10p per copy.

So, while libraries offer a great service and one I’d like to think we still need, we actually don’t. They don’t offer anything we can’t get elsewhere. And with most of us already accessing these things via the internet, for those who don’t and can’t – I’m thinking young children and the elderly here – charity shops, car boot sales or fetes offer a great way of picking up books and movies dirt cheap. Not free, but cheap.

And what about starting a book swap scheme in your local area? I have so many books on my shelf and I’ll never throw them out, it’s a record of pretty much everything I’ve ever read and I want it on show. But I’d be more than happy for people to borrow them or swap for books I haven’t read. And for those who need internet access to look for jobs etc, libraries do come in handy, but there are internet cafes out there too.

The country is facing some tough times and deep cuts – as we’re told over and over – have to be made. But I’d rather my taxpayers’ money went on services we really do need and use, like healthcare, support for parents of disabled children, improving public transport etc; not on providing a service that most of us could find somewhere else.

Don’t get me wrong, seeing libraries disappear will be a sad, sad thing, the end of an era. But times are changing and we have to accept that as we move on in life, the services we use and need to use will change too.

Picture of empty bookshelves by Andy Roberts

The Last Letter from your Lover by Jojo Moyes

This book was recommended to me by a friend and tells the tale of two women – one feature-writing 30-something trying to give her messed up life some semblance of meaning while having an unfulfilling affair with a married man. Meet Ellie. The other is Jennifer whose story is told around 30 years previously, a socialite wife to a businessman husband who can’t shake the feeling that something is missing from her life after a near-death car accident. The book tells both women’s stories and unites them at the end of the book.

First off, it wasn’t until the end that I started to like Ellie and even then it was only a little bit. She’s totally deluded. She’s slowly losing her career, friends and her marbles all because of a man who clearly won’t leave his wife for her and barely replies to her text messages. If I was to meet Ellie in real life I’d want to grab her by the shoulders and give her a short, sharp shake. Jennifer, on the other hand, is a lost soul and I felt sorry for her. Completely confused after a car accident which has affected some of her memories and as she slowly regains them she can’t shake the feeling that something is missing, or work out why she doesn’t love her husband – an emotionless and sometimes unkind businessman – as much as she should. She’s a party girl on the outside, a troubled soul on the inside.

I don’t want to give anything away but the two stories meet at the end of the book and there’s a twist I didn’t see coming, odd considering I’m a huge crime fiction reader. I loved the twist and I liked the ending too. And I almost liked Ellie who seemed to grow up a bit throughout the course of the book.

I love the contrast of the language used in the different era, short and unemotional text messages and phone calls for Ellie and romantic passionate love letters for Jennifer. At the start of each chapter there’s also a snippet – from Facebook, a text message or email etc – highlighting the blunt way in which men and women end their relationships today. It’s nothing to do with the story exactly but a nice way of highlighting how much things have changed since Jennifer’s day. There’s a male character I haven’t mentioned yet, because I want readers to discover him themselves but the one thing I will say is that love conquers a lot of demons.

I like that the book is told from Ellie’s point of view and then from Jennifer’s and that the latter’s story dips between pre-accident and post-accident. There are no headers or dates to state when this is happening so when it first shifted pre-accident (Jennifer’s story starts just after her accident, as she recovers in hospital) it took me a wee while to work it out.

I really liked this book and found it a refreshing changed to the chick lit I’ve read in the past. This is definitely a book for women but it’s a huge step up from chick lit, this is contemporary women’s literature with a bit of class. Give it a read.

Robyn’s rating 8/10

Posted January 2011

Welcome to my new blog

Well hello there. Hello and welcome. So, this is it… my new blog. And it seems only fitting that now I have a new surname, my blog should have a new name too.

Last year was a big year for me – got engaged, moved house, supported my other half going freelance, adopted a cocker spaniel puppy, got married and had a wonderful honeymoon closely followed by Christmas. It’s going to be hard to top that.

So in planning for 2011 I haven’t made a list of exciting things to do – bungie jumping, move to India, shave my head or join the local choir. Oh no, my plans are much more hi-tech – So, in the spirit of starting 2011 on the right footing, here’s a new blog. A blog I hear you cry? Is that it? Well, not just any blog… er… well, actually it is just any blog so er… have I told you that it’s a new and improved one featuring posts from guest bloggers (not yet but it will) and a host of book reviews (started this one!)?

I slacked off on the blog front at the back end of last year – pre-marital mania consumed me – but this year the blog will keep me busy. And don’t worry, it won’t be serious. I’ll still be climbing up on my soapbox and ranting about things that matter and some that don’t, I’ll still do my Five for Friday posts, and I’ll still be, well, just me.

Aside from blogging bigger and better in 2011, I also have some other literary projects on the go… finishing my novel Resolution and sending it off to agents; and the Mistresses of Trope blog in which me and my three favourite writer buddies chart our journeys to become better writers. Also this year I want to spend lots of quality time with my gorgeous new hubby and intrepid doggy Ralphie, catch up with all the lovely friends I have and generally try to take pleasure in the simple things. So sorry in advance, you may have to hear about some of that in this blog.

Okay, that should do it for a hello and welcome blog post… feel free to comment on any of my posts – I actively encourage you to do so – or drop me a line if you want to suggest some books for me to review. Even better, if you want to buy me books, I’ll send you a link to my Amazon wish list. Laters!

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

You’re the successful sister – sensible, career-minded, focussed, engaged and living in a plush apartment in New York. Your younger sibling is care-free, unconventional, artistic, naturally beautiful, heavily pregnant and slumming it in London. But you’re as close as can be given the differences and geographical distance between you. So when you get a call to little sis has gone missing you race back to England to find her.

The sister turns up dead, an apparent suicide, but older sister Beatrice just won’t believe it. An investigation ensues and she finds out plenty more about her sister, someone she thought she knew well, and enters a journey which also reminds her of her younger brother, a Cystic Fibrosis sufferer, who died when he was eight; something which changed Beatrice’s family forever.

The story is told by Beatrice as she reports her investigation to the CPS office, the killer safely locked behind bars but not revealed to the reader until the very end. Beatrice also learns a lot about herself on this journey and is a likeable lead character, just an average person trying to do right by her dead sister. She isn’t some super confident and strong woman fighting for justice, she’s scared, well aware of her own flaws, and spurred on by grief now she’s an only child.

But there is a huge twist at the end of the tale and we discover a whole lot more than just who the killer is. The twist takes me by surprise, I’d never have guessed it, but I did feel a tad conned. It’s a cliffhanger one though, and the reader is left to decide for themselves Beatrice’s fate.

Robyn’s rating: 8/10

Posted January 2011

The Soul Collectors by Chris Mooney

What a book! What an opening! If you like crime, mystery, gore and a female lead character who seems to have it all – including the looks of Angelina Jolie no less – except for a man, then this is the book for you.

This novel was my introduction to author Chris Mooney but won’t be my last. I read this super quick, I just couldn’t put it down, and I was on honeymoon at the time probably should have been otherwise occupied! Conspiracy theories, family secrets, deadly cults, missing children going back decades, gory punishments and torture techniques; it has it all – the book, that is, and not my honeymoon. Okay, okay, enough with the jokes… back to the review.

The book jumps straight into the action and the pace rarely slows so there’s plenty of incentive to keep the pages turning, especially if you’re a thriller lover like me. I found the characters likeable and believable and the plot a tad scary,  just remaining on the cusp of believable. The ending did let it down ever so slightly; I’m wondering if there’s a follow up to this book because I think the author’s left room for one. Or is it intention to keep us hanging? Either way, this was a fantastic read.

Robyn’s rating: 9/10

Posted January 2011