Sunday, 4 May 2014

Talking of Books on the 5th April 2014

My dog eared copy complete with post it notes.

A few Weeks ago I got to do my stint on Talking of Books as a co-host. As always I had a rather jolly time with the company behind the mic.  for the duration of the show.

The Book of the week was “The First 15 lives of Harry August”. The author (Claire North) we were told  was a well-known writer using a pseudonym. I dug about to try and find out who the author could possibly be and I could not find anything at the time we did the show. Names were bandied about and we pretty much all agreed (John McDonald, Ann Brabazon, our feisty lead reviewer and I) that it was most likely a man.  My reason for thinking this was that I found the female characters rather weak and I really did not think that a woman would write such shallow female characters. Not that the men were much deeper but by comparison the gals did not fare well.  Turns out I am wrong. The author is Catherine Webb (who also writes as Kate Griffin) a writer of fantasy / science fiction novels for adults and young adults. I am not at all familiar with her writing but then I am not an avid reader of Fantasy or Science fiction.  I do occasionally get recommended a book that I love in these genres, most recently World War Z. Not at all like the movie but both equally enjoyable.   

Usually when I look at the encyclopedia sized volumes that pass for a novel and realise that what I am straining to hold in my arms is not one story but part one in a seventeen part series, I just walk away. It is too much. I thank my lucky stars for TV series like Game of Thrones. There is no way I could commit to reading the books. I know what I am like. I would get sucked into the fantasy and never come out. Watching is altogether safer. I wait with bated breath for each episode of the series safely knowing that I don’t ever have to read them. Too much time spent in someone else’s fairy tale other world is not good for me.

But back to Talking of Books.

Ann and the Show’s host John I think liked the book more than I did. Now I am not saying that I did not enjoy reading The First 15 Lives of Harry August but , well, er, ehhhh, I did not find it a literary book; it is not going to be a Booker prize winning novel and not likely to be nominated. I did not find it a full on fantasy fiction book with all the usual wonderful descriptive passages and attention to detail that comes from a world that is made up. The writing style was easy to read but not characterful. It was written in a plot driven sort of thriller style whilst trying to be a philosophical fantasy novel. It really did not quite make it for me. Don’t get me wrong as I have already said I really enjoyed reading it. If I was lying on the beach with music plugged into my ears and looking for an entertaining read this would fit the bill. Would I look for another book by Claire North? No, been there done that. Would I read one that I found lying about at a holiday cottage?  Absolutely I would. Do you know what I mean? Would I recommend it to a fan of fantasy / science fiction? Yes I probably would, mainly because it has been very  favourably reviewed on “goodreads” by fans of this sort of genre. It is different and quirky in this genre so as a twist on fantasy fiction I am sure it would entertain.

Here is my short review on Good Reads:
 goodreads Penny's review

And here is the recording of the show: Talking-of-books-1-05-04-2014

The second hour of the show was devoted to the Book Champion and this week William Jones was championing Steam Punk. Now my introduction to Steam Punk came via a friend’s daughter who is involved with Steam Punk Fashion and I was fascinated by the whole idea. Here is her site Inventoria Designs At the time I first became aware of Steam Punk what I did not realise that it started out as a literary genre and has taken on a life of it’s own in fashion and lifestyle. See here: What is Steam Punk
If you have read Jules Verne or H G Well and imagine that future as happening now where the tangents of technological progress followed steam and clockwork mechanics. Where coal is the power and air balloons majestically float us to romantic adventure filled destinations. Where ladies dress up in quasi Victorian clothes with a hint of modern sexy. Dare I say that the whole whips and leather  and  lace and buckles looks a bit S & M to me? But hey, what do I know......Where men are swashbuckling heroes who stand side by side their equally daring ladies. Think of Will Smith in Wild, Wild, West. Imagine the more recent Sherlock Holmes films directed by Guy Richie and you have the idea of steam punk. Now take all that and think of books in this highly romanticised adventurous atmosphere and you have Steam punk literature. Think of the heroic characters in Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials Trilogy”.  And then stretch yourselves from there and add vampire if you feel like it……


I think this says it all!

Steam punk fiction is now a broad fantasy genre that has a growing number of fans and has a host of sub genres developing.

Here is a list of recommend reading: 20 top rated steampunk novels

Have a listen to our resident expert William here:

The last hour of the show was devoted to our younger listeners with reviewers Jamie and James ( no, it was not at all confusing) who were representing the Costa Coffee Book Club with their thoughts on this entertaining book. I loved it.  This delightful tale of the notorious Librarian Spud Murphy is a quick easy read for most children. I found it easy to identify with the characters and suspect it is a great book to get your children interested in reading as the plot is funny and warm and touches on familiar family scenarios.

I was blow away by both Jamie and James’ passion not only for reading but for writing. I love the fact that both boys are avid writers. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to them and am sure that the passion they felt came across on the show.
Have a listen to the delightful hour we spent together here:

And once the boys were done that was it. Done and dusted until the next time. I sigh. My shoulders fall a little in resignation but I quickly perk up as I  set off  to my afternoon shift in The Old Library with warm, fuzzy book induced happiness to spread about..........

Just a little cheeky
Post a Comment