An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘book blog’

Introducing Librarian and Author Matthew Selwyn

I am pleased to host on my publishing-themed blog an interview with a librarian. Often librarians can be overlooked in book-themed blogs, but I want to champion the likes of Matthew and other such individuals like him. With 25k followers on Twitter alone, he is fast becoming an influencer in the book blogging world. He has such a strong passion for books and writing and it keeps him very motivated in everything he does. Read on to find out more about him…

Librarian Matthew Selwyn

Librarian Matthew Selwyn

Please introduce yourself and give me an overview of your career so far.

Hi, I’m Matthew Selwyn – author, blogger, student, and librarian. I’ve been writing a book blog – www.bibliofreak.net – for around four years now, which I set up with the intention of forcing me to think more critically about books I had read and also to get me into the habit of writing regularly. I suppose it has succeeded on that score, as after writing the blog for a couple of years I started work on my first novel (****, or, The Anatomy of Melancholy). This was released late-2014, and I’m currently finishing the first draft of my second novel, so I’ve certainly begun to get the hang of writing regularly! I’m also lucky enough to work in a great academic library, which is somewhere I feel completely at home.

What are some of the most rewarding parts of working as a librarian?

There was a recent YouGov poll that put author and librarian as the two most desirable jobs in Britain, which made me insufferably smug for a few days. I am incredibly lucky to have fallen into a lifestyle that means I am around books all day – what better way to spend a life? – and I’ve always found the cosy world of libraries more appealing than the more profit-focused publishing industry, so things couldn’t have fallen out much better for me. My university has a gorgeous Victorian library, and being paid to spend time there is an absolute dream for a bibliophile like me. I’ve also worked in public libraries, and I love the sense of being part of a community and supporting people who wouldn’t have access to books, computers, knowledge, a friendly ear, and all sorts of other things, that libraries can provide. Obviously, though, the biggest advantage to working in libraries is a staff library card: almost unlimited borrowing right, priceless. (Yes, I am that sad / easily pleased.)

You state on your blog that you “love discussing opinions with others, and arguing various viewpoints. With that in mind I hope my blog creates an atmosphere that inspires debate, and that readers will interact, disagree and generally have a chat with me through comments.” Do you think it’s important that people have debates and differing opinions on literature?

I’m not sure it’s important necessarily – it’s good for people to be able to respond to art in whatever way they like. It is, after all, a very personal thing. For me, though, I know talking about literature and hearing interpretations and opinions argued has helped me develop as a critical reader. It is fun too. Reading, for all that I love it, is a very isolating experience; to be locked away from the world with only the words of an author far removed for company makes for a fairly lonely hobby, so being able to share that hobby with other readers is great, not just for its literary value but for its social value too. Given half the chance, I’d lock myself up in a remote hideaway with a big pile of books and only emerge when I’d exhausted my reading material. Curbing that instinct by making discussion part of my reading process certainly helps me to be a less insular hermit. Sort of.

I am incredibly lucky to have fallen into a lifestyle that means I am around books all day – what better way to spend a life?

You clearly read a lot of different types of books. Why is it important for you to read / review a large range of book genres?

I think I’m still finding myself as a reader – if that doesn’t sound too pretentious? I was a bit of a late-bloomer when it came to reading, so I’m still finding my way around the literary landscape and discovering what catches my imagination. It is important to broaden your mind as much as possible, too, and reading across different genres certainly helps me to do that. I haven’t yet found a particular genre that suits me better than any others – I suppose, like a lot of things, one day I fancy a particular type of book and on another I’ll want something completely different. I have realised, though, that I want a level of substance to books I read. When I was younger, a good story would do it for me, but now I want books to do something more as well: to address, on some level, the big issues of the world and existence.

You’ve recently interviewed big names – Philip Zimbardo being one of them. To what extent do you try to explore areas other than general publishing and books in your blog and your work?

I have things that really interest me (humans, mainly – funny old things that they are) and so I suppose you can approach all sorts of things, art and beyond, from different angles that tell you something about human nature. Professor Zimbardo was a really interesting interview – having studied psychology he’s someone whose work I am familiar with, and his recent focus has been on how technology is affecting what it is to be a young man in the modern world. This is almost exactly the theme that my debut novel deals with and it was wonderful to be able to exchange thoughts with such an influential thinker. The whole area of how digital space is changing our lives is fascinating: a lot like reading, it has the potential to be hugely isolating. Equally, in such an uncontrolled environment the flow of information is really forming the minds of young people today. We only have to look at the number of recent radicalisations where social media has played a key role to know this, but I think we, as a society, should be looking at the less dramatic cases – the way in which our attention spans are being obliterated, our ways of interacting with one another completely changed, and the mindless prejudices that are propagated through the internet (for me, the way men interact with pornography is particularly interesting/worrying). I suppose my own writing very much drives the focus of my attention – at the moment I am particularly interested in mental health issues – and this filters through to my reading and the interviews I run on the blog. I try to make sure I cover a range of topics, but inevitably it’s my own interests that inform a lot of the content.

Recently you’ve started collecting books. Why did you decide to start doing this and what are your favourite editions in your collection so far?

Something about human nature makes us want to possess the things we covet, which I suppose is the root of most collections. When I started out, I had some lofty notion of setting up a library later in life, which would be a philanthropic project of sorts. I’d like to keep a personal library and share it with young people to inspire them to enjoy reading. Public libraries have been a big part of my life and there is nothing quite like browsing a collection of books and knowing you can take any of them home. I suppose I had (ok, have) in my mind that I will one day have a small, antiquarian library that I’ll let anyone and everyone use, provided they’re prepared to listen to me banging on about books whenever they come round.  I have that librarian instinct to want to document and preserve books too, I think, and so knowing that I’m looking after what are, to me at least, important items gives me pleasure.

I collect mainly modern first editions at the moment, my bank balance not stretching to anything more extravagant. There is the added bonus, beyond affordability, of being able to come across these in any second-hand bookshop with a bit of luck, which is a good deal more fun than being restricted to antiquarian bookshops where everything is carefully catalogued and priced. Far more romantic to stumble upon a nice looking first in the corner of some newly discovered bookshop.

I have quite a few signed firsts of Martin Amis’s books, he being one of my favourite authors. My favourite of these is a funny little book he wrote in the 1980s on the subject of the arcade game Space Invaders. Invasion of the Space Invaders is often missed off of Amis’s personal bibliography and is rarer than a good number of his better-known titles. It’s a real juxtaposition to much of his high-brow writing and I really like having a book that gives an extra dimension to Amis as a young man rather than as an author. If I had to choose between that and my first of Money, it’d be the little green men any day of the week. On more traditional lines, I’ve got a 1920s copy of Alice in Wonderland, which is a lovely book with beautiful printing and illustrated plates. It’s something I hope to read to my children one day, and it is books like this, which combine aesthetic appeal with history that typify what I really enjoy about collecting books. A brand new paperback just doesn’t have the same appeal.

Digital vs. Print – which has your heart and why?

In case my eulogising in the previous answer didn’t rather give the game away, I am very much a print man. I like the idea that each copy of a book has a unique history, even if I might never know what it is by the time it makes it into my hands. The tactile experience of reading a physical book is something digital will never be able to replace, despite the evident portability benefits, etc. I’m by no means against e-books – they are a great tool, and I’m not precious about changing technologies: books themselves are a technology to convey the words within them, and everything moves on. There is a historic element to print books though. It gives me great pleasure to know that copies of Jane Austen’s books, for example, that were around at the time when she was alive are still around today. When things have gone completely digital that’s something we’ll feel the loss of quite keenly, I think.

And finally, what have you read recently that really had a lasting effect on you?

Good question. I think the best book I’ve read this year has been The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. There have been quite a few poor reviews of the book but I found it profoundly moving. It is, ostensibly, a fantasy novel but more importantly it is a rumination on memory and the endurance of love, amongst other things.

You can check out Matthew’s brilliant book blog here: http://www.bibliofreak.net/

To find out more about Matthew as an author and his books, visit http://matthewselwyn.com/

You can follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/thebibliofreak

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bibliofreak

Do you have a question for Matthew? Put it in the comments below and I will get it answered for you!

Introducing Book Reviewer and Blogger Mieke Bijns

Today’s interview is with Mieke, a book blogger and reviewer who writes for both English and Belgian audiences. It gives my blog an international perspective and shines a light on the publishing and book industry in Belgium and the Netherlands and discusses the differences in publishing culture between the two.

Mieke, the book blogger behind Boekenvlinder.

Mieke, the book blogger behind Boekenvlinder.

Please introduce yourself and give us a background of yourself and your career.

Hiya! My name’s Mieke, I’m 25 years young, I live in the Northern part of Belgium together with my boyfriend and two cats and during the daytime office hours I’m a full time Data Entry Coordinator at a company that creates and distributes thermal imaging and infrared cameras. In the evenings and in the weekends, I’m a book blogger and reading addict.

When and why did you start reviewing books?

I started reviewing books pretty much in high school, though I never published book reviews online. I only started my blog at the end of last year, so I’m still pretty new to all this. I started reviewing books because I was “forced to” at school but the more reviews I wrote, the more I started to like it and actually see the purpose of it. Writing down my opinion on the books I read helped me to remember them more easily, especially when someone asked me about my opinion on a book I read. As to my blog, I publish my reviews online because I want other people to know what I thought about it and probably help them decide whether or not they’re going to read the book I reviewed.

Mieke's cat Ezra - who crawled all over Mieke's keyboard and sent an email of unfinished interview answers over to me!

Mieke’s cat Ezra – who crawled all over Mieke’s keyboard and sent an email of unfinished interview answers over to me!

What platforms do you use for reviewing books?

Well, obviously I use my own blogs (http://www.boekenvlinder.be for the Dutch reviews and http://loveforbooksandbutterflies.wordpress.com for the English reviews), and other than that I also use Goodreads and some Dutch websites like dizzie.nl, hebban.nl,bol.com and standaardboekhandel.be. I also use my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/Boekenvlinder) and Twitter (@Boekenvlinder) to publish links to my blog or to other book-related websites or news items.

In my opinion, a badly written review is either a very short review or a very long one.

Which do you find is most effective in getting your reviews read widely? How do you build up traffic and exposure for your reviews?

I found that most of the traffic on my review posts comes from Facebook, so I’d say that for me, Facebook is the most effective channel for getting my reviews read. It also helps that I host giveaways frequently. That way, people get to know my blog and they’ll come back more often to read reviews.

In your opinion, what should all good book reviews have/do? What do you think makes a badly written review?

Now this is a hard one… I think all good book reviews should be unique and written by yourself. I hate it when I read book reviews that are pretty much an exact copy of someone else’s review. That’s also one of the reasons why I don’t read other people’s reviews before writing my own. Chances are I’ll think “ooh, I thought that as well!” and write exactly the same thing in my review.
In my opinion, a badly written review is either a very short review or a very long one. I also don’t like reading reviews with tons of spelling or grammatical mistakes, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad review.

Do you have a favourite genre of book that you like to review and why?

I don’t really have a preference, but If I get to choose between lots of genres of books to review, I’d choose war stories. They may be fictional but true stories -or stories based on true stories- are fine as well.

I think it’s important for authors to get recognition for their hard labour.

How does the Belgian publishing culture differ from and also how is it similar to English and American publishing?

Hmm tough question, since I don’t get in contact with English and/or American publishers much. I’d say English and American publishers are far more prepared to let readers acquire review copies of their books. When it comes to Belgian publishers, you practically have to beg for them, or you have to win some kind of contest.

Also, I found that English and American publishers have a more open mind as to the kind of books they publish and they’re far more ahead of their time. The genres Young Adult and New Adult, for example, are hugely widespread and a lot of different publishers actually publish these genres, but in Belgium we have to go looking REAL hard to actually find a publisher who wants to publish these genres. In The Netherlands, however, it’s not like this at all.

Which authors and books have really stood out for you? Which publisher do you feel is currently producing top quality content?

Currently, I’d say Anthony Doerr and Margaret Leroy or both authors that are standing out for me. “All the Light We Cannot See (published by Scribner) and The English girl (published by Sphere) are both fantastic books by publishers that are, in my opnion, producing top quality content as far as I know. In Belgium, both books are published by The House of Books and this publisher has always been one of my favourites, together with Xander Uitgevers.

I found that English and American publishers have a more open mind as to the kind of books they publish.

Why is it important for authors to get their work reviewed?

I think it’s important for them to get recognition for their hard labour. Out of reader reviews, they can get a lot of feedback and this might help them on writing their next book. They get to know what people think of their writing style, their language use and all that. I think reviews are also quite important to the publishers and editors of the books. It happens regularly that spelling or grammatical mistakes slip through the editing (and re-editing) and readers that notice them, could help getting these out of the book in future editions.

How do you achieve tact and gentleness in reviews that may not be so favourable? Or do you prefer to be blunt and to the point?

I always try to stay gentle in “bad” reviews. I might find a particular book quite bad, but someone else probably doesn’t share my opinion. If I have something negative to say, I always try to add something positive for the author to think about for a next book. Of course, that’s not always possible, but still… I try to thoroughly explain why I find a book bad so other readers can understand my opinion. Just writing “this book was awful and I wish I’d never read it” doesn’t really make a review (even though there really are books where I felt like this).

And finally, what are you reading at the moment?

At the moment, I’m reading Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little (in English), The Code by Fredrik T. Olsson (in Dutch) and Hitte by Lis Lucassen (in Dutch and it is currently being translated into English, as “Heat”).

Links for Mieke’s work can be found within the body of the interview!

boekenvlinder

Introducing Publisher, Author, Editor and Blogger Samantha March

Today’s interview is with a woman who completely blew me away when I interviewed her. Her motivation, efforts and work ethic are really to be admired, I don’t know how does it all. Her experience in publishing is vast, and she spends her days editing, writing, blogging, publishing, and proofreading – my dream career! Here she explains how she pulls it all off…

Samantha March, editor, blogger, author, publisher.

Samantha March, editor, blogger, author, publisher.

Please tell me a little bit about yourself and all the different projects you work on.

Oh, where to begin! Maybe chronologically? I started Chick Lit Plus in 2009, a book and lifestyle blog. I was hoping to gain some connections in the publishing industry as I had high hopes of publishing a book, and I also simply enjoyed writing and giving my feedback and thoughts on a variety of topics. From there, I did succeed in becoming a published author. My first novel, Destined To Fail¸ released in 2011, and I also started my publishing company, Marching Ink, at the same time. I have since published two more novels, The Green Ticket and A Questionable Friendship, and Marching Ink has ten titles total between myself and four other authors.

Let’s see…somewhere in between all of that I started CLP Blog Tours, a blog tour company. I love being able to connect authors and bloggers and readers, and the first tour was ran in 2011, and I love that I am still able to do something I love so much.

I am also a freelance editor, offer manuscript critiques and other promotional services via Chick Lit Plus. I work in marketing for Booktrope Publishing, and I also have an Instagram yoga page with my best friend, The Cheeky Chicks. But for my most important roles, I am a wife to my husband of almost two years and a puppy mom to our adorable Vizsla, Aries.

Tours are a great way to help increase exposure, make a connection with book bloggers, get more reviews for your book, and get more social media presence.

How did The Cheeky Chicks come about? How much success have you had since you started?

Oh, The Cheeky Chicks! My friend Holly and I had been trying to think of something fun to do for months before we decided on joining the Instagram craze. We actually started talking about fitness and beauty, two things we really love, but once we started we quickly fell in love with all things yoga and decided to dedicate our page to showing our daily practice and progress. We started in September and we’ve had an absolute blast. It’s fun, it’s good for our health, we’re learning new things, but we get to do it all together, which really is the best. As friends get older and get married and get new jobs, etc, sometimes friendships can slowly fizzle out or not be as strong as they once were, and this gives us another reason to talk pretty much throughout the day and see each other often for practice 🙂

How did you get into publishing? In what area of publishing do you work as an editor?

I first got into publishing when I released my first novel, and I also bought the rights to my own LLC, Marching Ink. My goal was to maybe one day publish for other authors too. Cat Lavoie was an editing client of mine, and I fell absolutely in love with her debut novel, Breaking the Rules. I put it out there to her that I was brand new but I felt passionately about her book and would love to publish for her, and she said yes! She also has published Zoey & The Moment of Zen with Marching Ink, and I’ve been so fortunate to meet her in person twice!

I do freelance editing with Chick Lit Plus, offering my services through the website. I also do proofreading and manuscript critiques!

You’re an author – tell me a little bit about your work and your journey into becoming an author.

I was nine years old when I knew I wanted to be an author. I always loved reading and wrote my own stories for years, and even though I still had the dream when I was in high school, I thought being an author was not very achievable. I told myself to get a “real” degree and if I still wanted to purse writing after graduation, I could. Well, one year prior to receiving my Bachelors degree in Business, I started writing Destined to Fail. Two years after graduation, it was published 🙂

With so many successful projects going on, how do you manage your time effectively? (I know I find maintaining a blog alongside a full-time job challenging, let alone working out and hosting a number of social media channels!)

It’s hard. Time management is by far the most challenging part of my day. I have myself to think about, but then my Marching Ink authors, my Booktrope authors, my blog tour clients, my editing clients. I need to be reading for book reviews and writing blog posts and keeping my social media up to date. It’s all me, I have no virtual assistant or anyone else helping me out with my social media feed, though I do have a team of reviewers with CLP and they totally rock. Little things I do to try to help is make lists and don’t turn the TV on while I work. No really! But my lists are a huge help. I have so many to-do lists and calendars it’s comical, but they really help keep me on track and not miss a deadline or special project. I also have my own office in my house, so I don’t work on my couch with my laptop on my lap with E! turned on. I have specific hours (that I make myself, yes, but I hold myself to them) and do regular things like give myself a lunch break and only a lunch break during the day. I try to remember this is my full-time job, and I need to treat it like that, not like a hobby. That really, truly helps me. And I love what I do 🙂

clp button

What work is involved in organising blog tours? What are benefits of blog tours?

When booking a tour, there are several packages to choose from. Authors can select tours with only reviews, release day blitz tours, tours with interviews and guest blogs, etc. I try to have a little of everything in there, because each individual case is different. My part is getting book bloggers interested in joining the tour, which means sharing a post on their blog on a particular day. Tours are a great way to help increase exposure, make a connection with book bloggers, get more reviews for your book, and get more social media presence. CLP Blog Tours sets up a tour page for each tour and promotes it even before the tour starts, and tweets 2-4 times in a day on each specific tour.

Which part of your vast career and experiences do you find the most rewarding?

Oh boy. I love making connections with readers and other authors. I think it’s really rewarding with blog tours to help authors gain that connection as well, because these are really so beneficial in our line of work. I love being able to meet someone online, and after months of chatting and finding all these bookish things we have in common, be able to call them my friend. I have met several authors and other bloggers at book events through the years, and that is probably my favorite part. It’s amazing what the internet gave us, truly.

I have met several authors and other bloggers at book events through the years, and that is probably my favorite part.

What would you say is the most effective way to market your book blog?

I think social media is huge. No doubt. Daily content is really big too. I have at minimum one new post a day on CLP, but more like 2-3.

Do you like to read other genres?

I do! I love a good mystery or supernatural book – those are probably my next favorites 🙂 And I would love to try a supernatural!

A Questionable Friendship, Samantha March's novel.

Happy Publication Day, Samantha!

Today is the publication date for Twenty-Something: A Collection, published by Marching Ink! The first collection from Marching Ink features three full-length novels in Twenty-Something. From the good girl that is tired of playing by the rules in the new adult novel from Laura Chapman, to the friendship between two women that isn’t what is seems in the women’s fiction novel from Samantha March, and then the loveable Roxy that will give us plenty of laughs and touching moments in the chick lit novel from Cat Lavoie. While all characters are indeed Twenty-Something, we believe this collection can be enjoyed by readers in a variety of ages.

20%BlogTours

Samantha’s blog tour company CLP currently has an offer of 20% off blog tours until 30 April! Check out http://www.clpblogtours.com/ for more information.

Connect with Samantha!
http://www.samanthamarch.com/

Facebook
Twitter
GoodReads

Chick Lit Plus Links
http://chicklitplus.com/
Facebook

Buy A Questionable Friendship:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble – eBook

The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

A week ago I posted an interview with the vastly popular Rowan Coleman, author of The Memory Book. (You can read her interview here.) Here is my review of The Memory Book itself…

The Memory Book, part of Richard and Judy's Summer Book Club 2014.

The Memory Book, part of Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club 2014.

I bought this book in the first couple of weeks into starting my new job. I was staying with a friend’s family at the time while I looked for a new house in a new city, and it provided me with a little escape from my exciting but extremely overwhelming life at the time. I would take a train to work each morning, and before leaving the station I would pop into WHSmith and buy a different book. Generally, I was buying whatever was in the current book charts there. And while The Memory Book was rightfully in those charts, it was actually my introduction to Rowan Coleman personally that lead me to buy her book. Had I not been so busy and in a world of my own, I would probably have discovered the book sooner.

This book was unlike any I’d read before; it was both heartbreaking and heart-warming, hilarious and sad all at the same time. Exploring themes of love, loss, memory and perception, it centres around a woman named Claire, a middle-aged mother of two who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and who slowly deteriorates throughout the novel. Her husband, Greg, buys her a large red scrapbook, in which Claire and the rest of her family write down memories of the past and thoughts of the present.

What made this novel so intrinsically fascinating was that it is written in the point of view of each family member, including Claire herself. Rowan Coleman’s ability to show us a perception of the world through the eyes and mind of someone with Alzheimer’s, alongside those of the family who are suffering around her, is truly breathtaking.

The thing I’m scared about the most is losing words.

Claire hasn’t yet lost her memory for good; it comes and goes, usually at the most dangerous or inconvenient of times. Sometimes it’s just words that slip her mind, other times it’s people, and occasionally Claire still believes that she is a child or a teenager and doesn’t remember that she’s a fully-grown woman with a family. Claire recognises her husband and knows that they are married, but often cannot remember how it felt to be in love with him. She leaves the house to go somewhere and forgets where she’s going, and who she is. Often she feels herself slipping away and tries to cling to her memories and normal consciousness for as long as she can. And when the memories and the world all come rushing back to her, you can almost feel Claire’s relief that she can understand and comprehend the world around her once more. This is what makes the narrative both heartbreaking and fascinating in equal measures.

…all the ill-fitting, scrambled-up mosaic pieces that make up the world around me fall into place and I see everything.

In writing the character of Claire’s oldest daughter Caitlin, Coleman has managed to create a thoroughly loveable and strong young woman whose internal struggle lies in being strong for her mother and dealing with her own frightening problems simultaneously. She has never known her real father, and so losing her mother in such a slow and painful way is incredibly hard for her to bear. But throughout it all, she never stops trying to protect Claire, and in this way the novel beautifully portrays the interdependence within the family. As strong as she tries to be for Claire, however, the little girl in her still comes out and the reader realises that she still needs her mother as much as her mother now needs her.

I know that, for now at least, I am around ten years old to her, and it doesn’t matter, not now. Because I feel safe.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking of all is the pain that Claire’s husband Greg goes through as his wife treats him like a stranger in his own house. Claire knows who Greg is, in principle, but her love has disappeared and often Greg makes her feel intimidated and uncomfortable, through no fault of his own. The passages written by Greg within the memory book are so heartfelt and emotional and show Greg’s inner strength. Even if Claire does not remember him, he refuses to leave and vows to stick by her until the end. He lives for those few-and-far-between moments when Claire remembers him, and her love comes flooding back. although these moments become less and less frequent.

Throughout all this sadness, however, the book is also very funny. The comic aspect of the novel stops the narrative from being all doom and gloom and gives the reader some regular light-hearted relief.

“I never liked him…I only met him once, but he brought me a box of chocolates when I was on a diet.”

Claire and her family try their hardest to keep things as normal as possible, and Coleman has succeeded in showing the reader how important love, family, and laughter is in life, no matter what is going on around you. Claire realises this herself, and often writes positive and amusing stories in the memory book for her youngest daughter Esther to read, so that the memories she has of her mother are happy ones. Coleman portrays in Claire a selfless, loving, sweet woman and mother, but who often makes mistakes and ill-conceived judgements. These only serve to make her more believable and relatable as a central character.

The book comes at a time when Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more and more topical. (The publishing company I work for, for instance, is sponsoring the Alzheimer’s charity this year.) So much is yet to be learned about this terrible and so far unconquered disease. With the publication and popularity of novels such as this, the literary world can help spread the word and raise awareness.

Charming, sad, funny, and thought-provoking with an unexpected twist of an ending, The Memory Book is a complete triumph for Rowan Coleman.

You can read more about Rowan Coleman here.

Follow her on Twitter @rowancoleman

Follow the publisher @EburyPublishing

More about the publisher here.

Buy the book here.

Have you read The Memory Book? Please tell me what you thought of it in the comments below!

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Fantastic book!

Fantastic book!

I first came across today’s particular book, The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, when I was in Manchester airport about to board a plane back in June. Already equipped with my Kindle, I really didn’t need to take any more books on holiday with me. But I had time to kill and it was – well, me. This book was in the charts at WH Smith and part of a buy one, get one half price deal. As I spotted John Grisham’s Sycamore Row glowing with an angelic aura on the top shelf, (review on this book to come shortly) it occurred to me that it would be silly not to take advantage of the deal…

So, The Hundred-Year-Old Man climbed out of the window and onto a plane to Tenerife with me.

From the moment I started this book, I just couldn’t (and wouldn’t) put it down. Luckily I had two full weeks of lying around in the sun, and so at all times between eating, washing, sleeping, and sightseeing, I was glued to this book. It’s definitely not your typical chick-lit beach read, but that didn’t matter. I went on holiday to have fun, and that’s definitely what I had whilst reading the book. It was an absolute joy from beginning to end.

As suggested in the title, the book revolves around 100-year-old Allan Karlsson, who is about to celebrate his 100th birthday with a party at the resident home in which he lives. Or so his guests think. Minutes before the party is due to begin, and with the press and a large party of people waiting for him, he decides to take his chances elsewhere and leaves through the window. From this point on begins a new adventure for the centenarian, as he encounters a number of colourful and eccentric characters in increasingly amusing situations.

Running alongside this narrative is a parallel storyline which takes the reader through Allan’s life from birth right up until moment at which the novel begins. It follows the protagonist as he stumbles through life, Forrest Gump-style, unwittingly becoming a key element in some of the most significant events of the twentieth century.

Allan Karlsson is instantly loveable from the first moment. His flippant and matter-of-fact outlook on the world surprises you from the beginning; his almost carefree attitude to danger and death takes the sting from any serious event that would normally threaten a book’s light-heartedness. He is a politically neutral soul who only wishes to mind his own business and yet somehow manages to involve himself with a number of the world’s most famous and infamous political figures – Churchill, Truman, Stalin and Mao to name a few. His goal in life is to remain suitably entertained with a constant supply of vodka, and he has no personal bias against anything or anyone. He is easy to please, intelligent in an uncomplicated way, and, also much like Forrest Gump, seems to be incredibly adept at many things he puts his mind to.

Along the way, as he moves continuously from one country to another, Allan shares his adventures with a brilliantly entertaining cast of people, including the owner of a hot dog stand who is a nearly-qualified expert at almost everything, a gang of witless drug dealers, a thief and conman, Albert Einstein’s dimwit brother and a rather demanding and spoiled elephant. Each character seems as flawed and corrupt as Allan himself, and yet the reader cannot help but fall in love with each weird and insane individual as the story progresses.

The narrative is laced throughout with a hilarious yet forgiveable absurdity. In any other novel, by any other writer, I might have found Karlsson’s life experiences way too far-fetched to be believable or enjoyable. However, Jonas Jonasson manages to pull the novel back from the sucking black hole of meaningless slapstick comedy and presents a brilliant comic twist on political commentary – with none of the usual heaviness.

The reader, however, needs to approach this novel remembering that it is a pure work of fiction. I have read some reviews that criticise the book for political reasons, which feels redundant to me. The reader just needs to do what I did, and read the Hundred-Year-Old-Man with a completely open mind without intention of taking it too seriously. Jonasson’s intention is to entertain, and he succeeds.

Since finishing this book, I have recommended it to so many of my friends and family, many of whom have relatively different tastes and yet all of whom I know would love it. The novel was published in 2012 by Hesperus Press and was made into a major motion film this year, which I am hoping to see soon. In the meantime, I highly recommend this book to all of my readers, too. A fantastically enjoyable read and a refreshing change from the norm!

“Revenge is like politics, one thing always leads to another until bad has become worse, and worse has become worst.”
― Jonas Jonasson, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

What did you think of the book? Do you agree or disagree with my review? I am always on the lookout for a debate, a chat, and a read! Leave your comments below and I will answer!

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You can buy the book directly from the publisher, Hesperus Press, here at www.hesperuspress.com

 

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