R is My World

I kind of disappeared from my blog about seven months ago. A lot of things happened and a lot of things changed. So what really happened? The short and long answer is I fell in love. I started running to become fit and before I knew it I was running five times a week and getting better with every run. I still enjoyed reading books, but didn’t talk or write much about them. From one book and run to another I became more secluded in my own world and I realised I was missing something from my ‘previous’ life. I have missed talking about books and meeting people who, like me, attend book events. I went to Peter V Brett and Joe Abercrombie events and it jerked me out of my sole fitness obsession back to what I have always loved. Now, I try gradually to get back to talking about books here on my blog.

Peter V Brett

Peter V Brett

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Joe Abercrombie

I have booked lots of Edinburgh Book Festival and Bloody Scotland events and am really looking forward to getting immersed in the bookish ambiance. I can’t wait to meet old friends, who I used to attend events with, and new ones. Another exciting thing is that I am a juror for the British Fantasy Awards again this year. Together with two other jurors we are going to pick the best fantasy novel:

Best fantasy novel (the Robert Holdstock Award)
Breed, KT Davies (Fox Spirit Books)
City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett (Jo Fletcher Books)
Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books)
A Man Lies Dreaming, Lavie Tidhar (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Moon King, Neil Williamson (NewCon Press)
The Relic Guild, Edward Cox (Gollancz)

All six titles are great books and it is going to be extremely difficult to pick just one winner, but I am looking forward to the book banter with my co-jurors. 🙂

The Guardian on the British Fantasy Awards shortlist: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/21/british-fantasy-awards-shortlists-lavie-tidhar-man-lies-dreaming?CMP=twt_books%5Egdnbook

R is my world – I love getting up early for a run and that’s something from someone who is not a morning person. I fall asleep happily after reading that one more chapter. The biggest problem I have had is finding the right balance between my running and reading. Reading past my bed time and getting up earlier than usually has made me feel like a zombie occasionally. My training for my very first half-marathon leaves me totally exhausted sometimes and finding time for more reading is not easy. I am not even going to mention how I neglected my amazing partner who has been very supportive throughout my whole journey – for that I love him even more; if it’s possible. The positive thing of the whole personal journey is that I not only got really fit but also did find something new I love and something that makes me really happy. I realised how much more I am capable of and that I love seeing myself getting better than my yesterday’s self – even if my legs do hate me sometimes. 😉 So if you see me reading a book in my running shoes just steer me towards the nearest coffee shop for my fix of caffeine and cake. Another bonus of running is this incredible amount of cake that can be consumed guilt free. Yesterday I had a brilliant day – a 10 mile run, then cake, coffee and my feet up for reading.

RUNNING

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Giving up the Ghost Play Review

Giving up the Ghost

Do you believe in ghosts? Most people would say no. Yet when you read ghost stories or watch horror films, you have that uneasy feeling, as if someone has been watching you but you can’t quite explain it. Ultimately, you become more open-minded, so to say. However, those who do believe in ghosts, try to attend many medium sessions to make contact with those they lost.

Carrie Clairvoyant (Claudette Baker-Park) is a self confessed celebrity medium who makes such contact between ghosts and humans possible. It is her gift. Or just a very good knack for the niche in the market. During one performance, one of her phantom guests arrives in less than ethereal apparel and she simply loses herself. At that point many things happen at once. Totally confused Carrie is forced to enlist the help of her estranged sister Mary (Mary-Jo Hastie).  Mary’s daughter, Jess (Alice Restrick) becomes very conflicted when faced with a nice young lad, knowing her mum would not only disapprove, but would also cast the devil incarnate away with her exorcism powers. At the same time, Dean (Jay Newton) faces his own battle of disbelief in coming back to life and falling in love with a girl who struggles to separate her feelings from what she was made to believe all her life.

Pic 1

Giving up the Ghost is a play exploring the limits of human beliefs or more precisely the boundaries people face and if they are able to either break them or always maintain their status quo. All the characters have a depth and complexity which are accentuated by the actors playing them. The relationship between Mary and Carrie is dynamic and both Mary-Jo and Claudette translate that conflicting energy into a gripping belief tag-of-war. Anna Blainey’s writing sketches out the background of this very constricting relationship and the actors fuel it professionally with vibrancy and their personal flair.

What I liked about Giving up the Ghost was the dark humour in the presence of the two young characters, Jess and Dean, who are influenced by Carrie’s and Mary’s points of view, but emerge as a couple of intriguing and strong counter-characters. Alice superbly plays this incredibly inquisitive and smart young girl alongside Jay who effectively captured the nature of a young, yet not exactly young, boy with the misunderstood personality of a youth rock star.

Giving up the Ghost questions good and evil in people and the constant human need for validation of their fears and beliefs. Also, it addresses the issue of the morality of giving people hope to get closure in their lives by means of séances, which are more for entertainment purposes than having any real and tangible consequence. Anna Blainey very skilfully depicted that whimsical and dilemmatic idea of pragmatism versus beliefs and how they might be understood by people in the context of mediumship and exorcism. Does it ultimately come to being just a business as any other one to provide a service for which there is a demand? Or maybe it’s just an evolution of human beliefs and their extent, where in the troubled world certain services might be acceptable as a remedy to counteract the reality.

Giving up the Ghost is funny and poignant. It’s simply great on many different levels – from a well written and well directed play, to brilliantly acted characters. The play was presented by Butterfly with a Bomb Productions on 21st and 22nd September 2014* at The Old Hairdressers, Renfield Lane Glasgow, which is a great venue for such a quirky play. The staging in the play was very simple and the props were minimal but expertly created by Philip Barratt, and the whole set was well planned and executed.

A good play is usually judged by the effect it has on its spectators. Well, Giving up the Ghost brought both lots of laughter and a secret tear here and there. Personally, I loved the humour, cynicism and the bittersweet language. I thoroughly enjoyed this second play from the Butterfly with a Bomb Productions and I look forward to seeing more from this team of talented writers and actors in the near future.

Pic 2

Giving up the Ghost (Butterfly with a Bomb Productions)

Written by: Anna Blainey

Directed by: Anna Blainey and Mary-Jo Hastie

Cast:

Carrie Clairvoyant – Claudette Baker-Park

Mary – Mary-Jo Hastie

Dean – Jay Newton

Jess – Alice Restrick

Crew:

Tech: Finn Townsley and Douglas Calder

Graphic design: Philip Barratt

@ButterflyBombCo

*The performance which was reviewed was on 21st September 2014 at 19:30. Duration: 90 mins.

The pictures were taken by Duncan Holmes and are used with the permission from Butterfly with a Bomb Productions.

 

World Book Night

2013_WBN_Logo

World Book Night 2013

I applied to be a World Book Night giver this year, as my experience from 2012 was both exciting and shocking.

Last year I was giving away copies of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I chose it because it’s funny and it is one of those books that might make people fall in love with reading. At the time I lived in Paisley and decided to give books away in the town centre and on public transport. There was a mixture of reactions – the majority negative. Paisley is a lovely little town in Renfrewshire. It has many places where books can be bought, including an amazing second hand bookshop (Abbey Books on Well Street), lots of charity shops and a couple of mainstream bookshops. Also, there are lots of libraries which have a wide range of books. Despite all that, most of the people I spoke to on the day said that they didn’t read. There were different reasons why – most of them said that they either didn’t like books or couldn’t find the genre they would enjoy. People’s reaction to me giving books away and trying to pass my enthusiasm for reading was mostly filled with suspicion or they looked at me as if I had just run away from the local psychiatric hospital. Those who gave me a chance to explain were very nicely surprised and happy to get a book. One man on the bus told me he didn’t read, but would give it a go. A lady in the shopping centre said reading was a waste of time. I tried to convince her otherwise. She did let me say what I thought of reading, but said that she was a single mother with three children and two jobs. I gave her a list of shorter books which she could borrow from the local library. I met her months later and didn’t recognise her when she stopped me in the street. She told me that reading was her way of ‘going on holidays’ she didn’t have to pay for.

Those people I spoke to had never heard of World Book Night – a few of them said it was a great idea, but some of them maintained there was no point, as people either read or not. That same day I also organised a Book Swap, which people really liked. On leaflets I stressed that people could come in even if they didn’t own any books and they could pick books to take home. That gave me an opportunity to talk to people about reading. Some people were actually embarrassed how little they read, but looked forward to reading more.

WBN Good Omens

That night my head was buzzing with a variety of emotions and opinions. I tried to understand people who didn’t read and how I could change their mind. I never wrote about my experience from 2012 before, as I was lost for words. 23rd April 2012 changed my perception of people versus books. I knew there were people who didn’t read, but I was taken aback by the number of them. I decided that I could try to do something every day not only for World Book Night.

I used to work with people who loved reading but I changed my job and my new work place was my challenge to start with. Talking about books, giving them away and engaging in conversations with co-workers about reading was my new challenge. I succeeded with a few. I was mostly happy about helping a young girl, who didn’t read – there was no reason why, she just didn’t read. She was into vampires, so I gave her Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. She loved it and kept asking for different books. I used to be a book hoarder. Ok, I still am, but it gave me an opportunity to pass on books which I decided I wouldn’t want to read again or keep for any other reason. That’s what I do, I read and pass books on. I love the feeling of giving someone the opportunity to escape to another world.

For World Book Night 2013 I applied to give away Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. It’s an amazing book. I chose it not only because I loved it, but also because it’s relatively short and engrossing from the very beginning. I gave a few copies walking in the streets of Glasgow and on the bus. This year, to make it look more like a gift I tied a ribbon on each copy of the book and wrote a little note attached to it. I had only three rejections this year, which was a huge improvement. I also organised a Treasure Hunt inspired by Girl with a Pearl Earring in Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. There are no paintings by Vermeer but they have a brilliant collection of Dutch paintings.

There are a lot of lonely people coming to Kelvingrove every day. I work there and see these people coming and going like shadows. Some of them will talk to members of staff as they have no one else to talk to, others just come in, walk around and leave to come next day and do the same. I managed to give books to some of them. I also tried to show them how books can be interesting regardless of the subject. A lot of people think that art is a pretentious hobby of the rich people. Glasgow Museums have free entry and try to reach a lot of people from different backgrounds. Girl with a Pearl Earring was a perfect choice. People who received the copy were delighted to hear that it was a story of a young girl who worked for Vermeer’s family as a maid – a story of someone they could relate to, as one of ladies said to me. People who attended really enjoyed the challenge, chat about books, art and cupcakes I made (my secret weapon).

Treasure Hunt

Cupcakes

Girl with a Pearl Earring

I think it’s very important to try to reach out to people who don’t read. It doesn’t matter why they don’t read – what’s important is helping them to fall in love with reading. World Book Night is a brilliant project which might help people not only to find pleasure in reading, but to help them find something that keeps them happy regardless of what they have to face in life. It might be a cliché, but each book is a chance of having a different life, a chance to be someone else, to be somewhere else and to understand life from a different perspective – though when the cover is closed after the last chapter some of the book’s magic stays – an experience that enriches one’s life.

 

The Fairy Tale Effect – Part I – Poison by Sarah Pinborough

Poison

Before you open another door with a ‘Once upon a time…’ sign on it, try to remember all the stories read in childhood – Hans Christian Andersen, Brothers Grimm, Aesop, Charles Perrault etc.

I loved them all. The darker they were the more satisfied my young imagination was. Pages and pages full of princesses, witches, charming princes, kings, castles, knights, mysterious cottages, dwarves, fairies, talking animals, poor people, rich people, riddles, spells and so on and so forth. It wasn’t just the stories themselves, but the magical world they invited me into or just pulled me in with enticing adventures.

Even though they were informative and filled with the moral that we were to draw from them, I asked my school friend if she thought that there was supposed to be more to them. She was more of a Maths girl and didn’t see the point in perusing answers to subjects that kept her away from algebra. My school librarian was harassed many times with questions about possibly ‘abridged’ stories, because we were children and were not allowed to know the whole truth.  One day she gave up and told me when I was a bit older I could look for books by Angela Carter. But I had to swear I would tell no one that she told me.

I found them some time later – when I was a bit more grown up 😉 – and I was in an utterly different fairy tale world from the one I remembered. The covers contained more wicked evil, cannier characters who actually behaved more like adults in comparison to that ‘abridged’ material I was used to. Being a fan of Angela Carter I thought I read it all – as far as rewriting of fairy twists and tales goes.

Sarah Pinborough proved me wrong. She’s been one of my favourite authors – The Language of Dying, The Dog-Faced Gods Trilogy and Nowhere Chronicles are among my favourites – but what she did with the traditional story of Snow White amazed me.

Poison by Sarah Pinborough is everything you know about Snow White and, what’s more important, everything you don’t know about her. The characters are dark and extremely natural – the story could have happened anywhere. Even though it’s set in the original fairy tale type world, it is astounding what Sarah Pinborough did with the story. To explain it better, she knew when to use blood and when to use glitter.

The characters’ virtues and vices drive the story. Lilith aka the Evil Queen Step-Mother is not simply possessed by jealousy, but has much murkier intentions and reasons hidden behind that perfect fair beauty facade. The dwarves are truly brilliant and so, of course, is Snow White – my favourite character. She is the princess, but she won’t let the tight corset of court life restrict her in any way. Is this going to be something that Prince Charming loves about her? You need to read and see for yourself, how an intelligent and independent girl who also happens to be fun and kind of a tomboy is seen by her true love.

The story really spins at high velocity when the obvious happens – Snow White is poisoned. We all know how and why, but the what-happens-next part is so deliciously enthralling that you won’t want to put the book down.

The story of Snow White rewritten by Sarah Pinborough is truly compelling, and I can also tell you, believe it or not, it doesn’t end the way you would expect. You could try to guess, but well, you will be as taken aback as me. The end left me speechless, because I could not, would not come up with anything of the sort.

Fairy tales, at least Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, are getting a remake which is going to fill the covers (very nice and shiny) and your imagination with Poisonous magic, Charm and Beauty.

Stunning drawings by Les Edwards (http://www.lesedwards.com/) make Poison even more alluring.

I recommend them to everyone – it doesn’t matter if you have read fairy tales before or are about to start this adventure. Poison is truly brilliant, haunting and unputdownable.

Poison is published on 25 April 2013, followed by Charm in July 2013 and Beauty in October 2013.

I can’t wait to read Charm and Beauty and will definitely read Poison again.

If you want to read how Sarah Pinborough came up with the idea, you can find it here: http://www.gollancz.co.uk/2013/02/once-upon-a-time-a-valentines-day-post-from-sarah-pinborough/

Author: Sarah Pinborough

Title: Poison

Publisher: Gollancz

Format: Uncorrected Manuscript Proof, 200 pages

Published: 25/04/2013

ISBN: 9780575092976 (Hardback)

Poison 2

Gifts and Treasures – a story of mysterious book sculptures in four parts

Books come in many forms – standard hard and paperbacks, ebooks, audio books etc. However, it’s truly astonishing what some books can be transformed into. They no longer contain stories and characters – they become them.

I) GIFTS

An anonymous artist saw something more in books than just covers and all that was held between them. This artist decided to show everyone the importance of the words books contain.

‘In making sculptures from books I saw a pale shadow of the wonder that is reading, where black marks can become scientific theories, romantic poems… gruesome stories. This raises the question ‘does a book on being read remain a book?’ And so I chose to transform the books into other things…’ quote from the artist

It’s up to the reader to decide what happens to books later. Some will be kept, some given away and some will become a literary world of its own.

10 book gifts were delivered to various locations in Edinburgh. Each one of them crafted with sublime attention to detail. They were magically transformed to visually manifest a meaning of literature, books, libraries etc.

II) EXHIBITION  

They were all gathered together and currently tour Scotland.

From my own experience I can say that they are not only outstanding pieces of art. They captured my imagination from the moment I saw them. Each one of them has a different story to say. I love them all, but I also have my favourites.

No 6 Lost In A Good Book… Edinburgh UNESCO CITY OF LITERATURE TRUST

Lost In A Good Book

A girl lost in the world of the book she’s been reading.

I was fortunate to have a childhood filled with books and stories. As an adult I still am that girl who gets totally engrossed in reading from the moment I open a book. This sculpture could be a modern icon of need to encourage people to read – no matter what age and social status. Not everyone can afford books, but libraries are amazing places and they should be supported, not closed one by one.

No 10 Street Scene: THE WRITERS’ MUSEUM

Street Scene

Who is hiding in the shadows?

This one has been haunting me since I laid my eyes on it. Or since I imagined myself walking along that street – hurrying home with a leather-bound book under my arm, the hood of my coat protecting me from fresh snow falling down to cover blood stains on the pavement. There had been another unexplained murder in the area. No one was able to look into the eyes of passers-by.  I love spooky Gothic stories – and that’s how easy it is for me to get carried away. Which story will haunt you – go and see it to experience the power with which this sculptures will draw you right in.

GIFTED The Edinburgh Book Sculptures on Tour 2012

Aberdeen: Central Library – 17/08/12 – 06/09/12

Dundee: Central Library – 07/09/12 – 25/09/12

Wigtown Book Festival: The Studio – 28/09/12 – 07/10/12

Glasgow: Mitchell Library – 09/10/12 – 27/10/12

Dunfermline: Carnegie Library: 30/09/12 – 18/11/12

Edinburgh: Scottish Poetry Library: 24/10/12 – 08/12/12

There’s still time to see them in their home town.

III) TREASURE HUNT

The Anonymous Artist strikes back!

I woke up quite late today – my last day of holiday. I had so many things to do, but as usual, I turned my computer on and that was the lethal strike for my ‘to do list’. I got drawn in to the treasure hunt. Not an ordinary one, though they are fun. The prize for this one was one of the book sculptures.

Adrenaline building up with every clue. With trembling fingers I texted my answer for clue no 3 at 12:33. The reply came two minutes later – I was right which meant I had to go to the location. It felt like being a character in an adventure book or film. I got bus 62, complaining about the slow traffic along Dumbarton Road. When I got off the bus I was ready to fly up that big hill towards the Glasgow School of Art. I wasn’t on my own – my boyfriend was there with me. I think he was there not to keep me company, but to yank my reins of imagination a bit. I was transfixed – adventure like this on Monday? Things like this don’t happen on Mondays! We were early and tried to pass as two students casually enjoying a break from classes – outside, facing a noisy building site across the narrow street.

After a terribly long 12 minutes, I got a text with the final clue. Only then I realised I didn’t know much about the Glasgow School of Art – I didn’t know where the library was. We went the wrong way, realised our foolish steps and went back, then got lost inside before finding the library in question. All the time frantically running about and repeating in my mind the secret password. I came 4th at 14:07. The winner was already holding the prize.

Even though I didn’t win, I was privileged to see the sculpture. It’s wonderful. Another amazing book was transformed to catch you and drag you into the world of Alasdair Gray’s books.

Alasdair Gray - Lanark: A Life In Four Books

Tomorrow I have to go back to work – unless I figure out how to hunt the treasure on my lunch break.

IV) BOOKS

There are so many books around. More than anyone can read in a lifetime. A book which is truly appreciated and loved should be read, lent out, given away and talked about – talked about endlessly. Books are not only a gateway to another world and a chance to become someone else – even if it lasts only until the last page is read – they are a substantial part of the world created around us. They have the power to influence thoughts and let readers experience things which normally would not be possible or readers would not even dream about.

If you have a chance, go and see the exhibition. If you love adventures take part in another treasure hunt – four more this week. Good Luck!

http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/booksculptures

Book hoarder – disease or love?

Since I remember I have always received books for birthdays, Christmas etc. I loved reading from the moment my mum taught me. Now I’m in my early thirties and I could furnish a house with books. I recently moved to a new flat and transport of the books proved to be a real problem. I did get a van and people to help, but they all commented on the number of books I had and how much effort it took to load them onto the van and then take them up to my flat on the 2nd floor. It made me think – do I have a kind of disease or I just simply love books.

In my defencImagee I do love books and I always end up buying more. I read them and keep most of them, but I also give many of them away. Still, I have so many. Why? Could I not use the local library? Yes, I can and I do, but I love buying books. There’s something therapeutic about it. Some people go and buy clothes, shoes and bags – my retail therapy is buying books.

I have my favourite genres but sometimes I buy books simply, because I love the cover – call me shallow! Though rare and special editions by P B Shelley and W Shakespeare are the biggest part of my collection. Lots of signed books by my favourite authors too. These will never walk out my door. Over my dead body. Also being a translator, I have lots of different dictionaries – and I keep buying more. All is fine until people start commenting on number of your beloved books or cats or anything else people might have more than one.

There are two categories of people. Those who admire my books and sometimes borrow them from me, and those who criticise me for having so many of them. In many cases it’s nothing to do with the fact that they hate reading, because they read, but they think it’s a waste of space to keep them – more dust!

I cannot stop buying books, so maybe it is a disease, like OCD or something. All this created a dilemma – should I get a Kindle? I occasionally use the Kindle App on my phone, so it’s not a completely strange idea to me. Will I feel the same about buying books? I don’t know, but I also know that my flat cannot invite more books, as it’s practically full and I share it with my partner who has his own interests.

Buying a Kindle is a tempting idea. I can build my virtual library and put there almost 3000 books, which I can carry everywhere with me. That sounds brilliant – I would still buy regular books (nothing beats smell of new/old books and feel of paper in your hands) but not as many. Most important though is a book itself. It will still find its way to conquer my mind. It will be in a different form. But is buying books in a different form a publishing treason? Ages ago, people strived to find ways to publish stories. It was a long and exhausting procedure before the printing machines were invented. Nowadays, it all can be done in a matter of clicks.

Sometimes I wonder what majority of authors think about having only virtual publications of their books. I would love to have my book on a library shelf, not only available in an ebook form.

If I win the lottery, I will buy a huge house, then I can have my own library. In the meantime, I might consider buying a Kindle – I will see how I feel about it, once I have it and use it.