Sunday, 2 November 2014

Best Book Reviews

Sooz Book Reviews 
Top 10 most popular reviews

Most popular review 
Undreamed by Scott Western-Pittard

 2nd  Nandana's Mark by Heidi Garrett

3rd Fading Amber by Jaime Reed


4th Dark Water by Tricia Rayburn

5th The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

6th Afterparty by Ann Redisch-Stampler

7th Burning Emerald by Jaime Reed

8th The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

9th Goodnight, Beautiful by Dorothy Koomson

10th Cloak & Dagger by Nenia Campbell

Thursday, 2 October 2014

BBC National Short Story Award 2014

I've been following the BBC National Short Story Award 2014 with keen interest.

I listened to the 5 shortlisted stories on BBC R4

  1. The Amerian Lover by Rose Tremain is about a woman struggling to come to terms with a disasterous love affair with an older man.
  2. The Taxidermist's Daughter by Francesca Rhydderch set just after World War 1 is about a young girl who experiences her first crush and sexual awareness for the first time.
  3. Miss Adele among the Corsets by Zadie Smith set in modern day New York and is about an aging African American drag queen who feels the weight of discrimination while buying a corset and takes her frustration out on the shop owner and his wife.
  4. Kalifi Creek by Lionel Shriver is about a woman who cheated death when she was a young girl on her gap year and how this experience influences her throughout her life.
  5. Bad Dreams by Tessa Hadley is about a young girl who is woken up by a disturbing dream that she finds difficult to shake.  Her actions cause a cascade of events affecting her parents.

They were all amazing but there was one clear winner and 2 (equally as good) runners up for me.

My favourite was Miss Adele among the Corsets.

My runners up were Bad Dreams and The Taxidermist's Daughter.

The actual winner was announced yesterday (1st October).  The runner up was Zadie Smith and the prize went to Lionel Shriver - 3rd time nominee and 1st time winner of the prize. I better listen to Kalifi Creek again....

Friday, 5 September 2014

Books About Town

Clarissa Dalloway dipicted on the front

The National Literary Trust hosted Books about Town in London this summer (2 July to 15 September).  Fifty unique BookBench sculptures, designed by local artists and famous names to celebrate London’s literary heritage and reading for enjoyment.

It's been fun running into some of them.  I managed to snap af few of the ones on the Bloomsbury Trail using my phone camera, including Virgina Woolf's Mrs Dallaway.

It inspired me to read the book and the review features on my blog Sooz Book Reviews this week.

Septimus Warren Smith dipicted on the back
Click here for more info on Books About Town

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Why you should give GNs a try - if you haven't already.

I have just completed a series of graphic novel R4Rs on my Sooz Book Reviews blog and have discovered a whole new avenue of reading pleasure, as a result.

For a long time I was dismissive of GNs, assuming they were for teenage boys (and men who behave like teenage boys), but boy was I wrong!  I grew interested in giving the graphic novel a try when I heard about Days of the Bagnold Summer while listening to a book-related podcast dedicated the medium.  This was in 2012, at the time that it had been nominated for the Costa Prize. I bought a copy soon after but it sat on my bookshelf collecting dust until recently.

The next one I found out about was Saga Volume 1, which I got as a Christmas present last year.  Having 2 GNs in my possession and a (minor) reluctance to read them, I decided to feature some GNs on SBRs for the month of May.  As well as the ones already mentioned, I included Sex Criminals and Gen 1-3, a Manga (the Japanese GN equivalent).

GNs tend to run as a series of many instalments, and you have to be prepared to invest in following the many parts (some grouped together in volumes, such as the Saga series). As a consequence, the plot tends to unravel slowly with each part. On the plus side, you don't get that problem of padding out or a flimsy plot that is increasingly common with serialised novels.

I was less enthusiastic about manga. Admittedly, I only read the one (although there were 4 independent stories within it). I'll need to read more before I can give my verdict.

Graphic novels aren't just about superheros and fantasy; it's possible to find any and every genre within the medium, so there is something for everyone.  What I wasn't expecting was just how effective the use of written and pictorial story-telling can be - it's positively synergistic.  

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Great Britain and the Great Divide

Am I stating the obvious if I say it is hard to write a book set in Britain and not address the social class divide?  Perhaps, but I will.  I have no doubt that social class affects the lives of inhabitants of Britain more than most (if not all other) places in the world. For that reason, to an outsider it may seem crazy but everything from a person's accent and attire, to their education and career prospects, the friends they select, the food they eat, how they spend their social time, even the way they select and process information - everything is governed and pigeon-holed into one social class category or another.  It was only when I moved to Paris as a student that I realised there is an alternative way to live.

Yes, it has changed in the past 17 years or so but, compared to other countries, the social class divide still dominates our lives more than it should.  I'd like to ignore it and I refuse to be pigeon-holed, but in reality, in Britain, there is no escape.

Here are some contemporary British novels that I've read recently that address the social class divide:

Bone Season, The by Samantha Shannon

Capital by John Lanchester

Casual Vacancy, The by J.K. Rowling

Lemon Grove, The by Helen Walsh

 NW by Zadie Smith

One Day by David Nicholls

Woman He Loved Before, The by Dorothy Koomson 

And one I have written

Two Versions of the Same Song