Michaela from Church Street Library has given us her review of this year’s Hay Festival. The Hay Festival is one of the biggest annual literary events of the calendar, including a mixture of musical performances and film reviews.
Over to Michaela to read what she thinks of the festival so far…
I have recently enjoyed listening to many authors talk about their books, writing and awards from the Hay Festival.
“The Hay Festival runs from 26th May to 6th June with many events happening throughout day, with activities, talks catered to adult fiction, junior fiction, teen fiction as well award winning to non-fiction titles.
It is a great chance to listen to authors and ask questions. I joined my first event on Monday night to hear Monique Roffey – the 2021 Costa Prize Award winner – talk about her book “The Mermaid of Black Conch”, and she answered my question live!!!!
Monique talked about how she crowdfunded to get her book into print via an independent publisher and fast forward to January, she won a major literary an award. Well done to Monique.
I have also listened to the YA writer Alice Oseman talk about her prize-winning novel “Loveless” which especially during Pride, was a worthy winner. Alice also talked about her comic strip writing of “Heartstopper” series which she loved writing, but it took such a lengthy time. It was great to hear how many young people commented on the Heartstopper series.
Lastly, I listened to Benjamin Zephaniah talking about his latest book “Windrush child “. Set from a child’s perspective, it was great listening to it being read with an older voice, as Benjamin admits with his dyslexia, he gets tongue tied when reading out loud. With Windrush day this month this is certainly a book I want to read. All around he was a delight to listen to.
Many other authors coming up include: Floella Benjamin, Gareth Nix, Sarah Winman and Chris Packham.
This festival has been a must for book lovers, video clips will be available later. 😊”
Over to Zvezdana from Chelsea Library for a review on a love story with a bite!
The love story with a bite: ‘Twilight’ – books and films!
Fifteen years ago, the first ‘Twilight’ book was published, followed by ‘New Moon’, ‘Eclipse’ and ‘Breaking Dawn’, telling a story of Romeo and Juliet with a vampiric twist. Since its release ‘Twilight’ was sold over 165 million copies (numbers from 2020).
In 2015 Meyer published ‘Twilight Reimagined: Life and Death’. The story is a gender-swapped retelling of the first book, and she introduced Beau Swan and Edythe Cullen in place of Bella and Edward. The ending is different, as Meyer decided to give full closure to the story, avoiding any chance of sequels.
Last year ‘Twilight’ fans finally got long-time-promised book – ‘Midnight Sun’ -‘Twilight’ retold from Edward Cullen’s point of view. When the story was famously leaked in 2008, the project was paused for twelve years.
What is the ‘Twilight’ story about?
The main character, seventeen-year-old Bella Swan, decided to stay for a while with her father in order not to be a burden to her happily newly remarried mother. So, she is swapping sunny Phoenix for Forks, a small and constantly rainy town in Washington State. Naturally, the landscape looked completely different- Forks is “too green”, lush, mysterious, like in fairy tales. Anything is possible.
The story is told from Bella’s point of view. A pretty and shy, geeky, book-wormish type; self-conscious and timid; pale, slender but not sporty, “lacking the necessary hand-eye coordination to play sports without humiliating” herself; Bella did not fit in anywhere. So, she was more than anxious on her first day in the local high school. Surprisingly, many people – boys and girls – noticed her and she found this new situation quite intimidating.
The focus of her attention was a group of five “devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful” boys and girls, the Cullen family, who kept to themselves. From the first moment Bella saw Edward Cullen, pale bronze-haired boy, in the school cafeteria, she fell in love with him. Her life thrillingly and dangerously swirled casting a spell on her (and the readers). The Cullens were vampires and Edward managed up to now, to keep his vampire identity secret. For him it was the first time in his mortal and immortal life that he fell in love with somebody.
Suddenly, we are following deeply romantic and extraordinary suspenseful story of two lovers who should not be together, whose love is wrong, forbidden, yet, they cannot imagine the life without the other one.
I cannot say that I was convinced by the idea of retelling the same story, yet, again. It sounded like KS2 writing task, something that Meyer’s assistants could easily supply. Suspicious, I gave it a chance, bought the book, read it and – I liked it. It I interesting to see how Bella and Edward are similar. From her perspective he is like dazzling god who does everything perfectly, while she questions her worthiness constantly. On the other hand, Edward is horrified that because of his selfish need not to lose Bella, he does not have the strength to leave her and let her have normal, human life. She deserves much more.
This is what the publisher, Little, Brown and Company, wrote about this book:
“When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.
This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?
In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.”
‘Twilight’ movies, from Summit Entertainment, became even bigger hit than books. From ‘Twilight’ in 2008 to ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2’, in 2012, the films were fantastically successful. (Budget for five films was around $401 million; Box Office – around $3.346 billion)!
Personally, the first film, directed by Catherine Hardwicke is the best. It closely follows the book. The critical scene when Edward saved Bella’s life and stopped the van, is even better, more plausible, in film than how it was presented in the book.
The crucial point was the perfect casting of Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. More than 5,000 boys auditioned for the role. Thanks to his portrait of Cedric Diggory in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’, Pattinson was in a very good position to get the role.
“There are very few actors who can look both dangerous and beautiful at the same time, and even fewer who I can picture in my head as Edward,” Meyer wrote. Although she previously said that Henry Cavill was “the only actor”, she had ever seen, “who could come close to pulling off Edward Cullen”, she was “ecstatic” with the studio’s decision to cast Robert Pattinson. That role made him a global superstar.
‘Twilight’ is not the only 2000s novel franchise getting a 2020 restart. Prequels and sequels are very popular, from ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Batman’ to ‘Hunger Games’.
Both, Stewart and Pattinson moved from Twilight saga and have successful careers, but in readers’ and viewers’ eyes they will always be the embodiment of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, similarly, as Colin Firth will always be Mr Darcy regardless how many film awards he may win.
If you would like to borrow books or films from the Twilight franchise or other works by Stephenie Meyer, have a look at our catalogue!
The Novel ‘The Evening and the Morning’ has been nominated for British Book of the Year 2021, one of our customers has kindly provided a review of the book.
Check out our blog to read Ben’s review…
‘Ken Follett is once again on fine form in this prequel to “Pillars of the Earth” part of his Kingsbridge Series. It is 997 ,The world is a violent place were power rules.
A Viking raid in South West England forces Edgar and his family to relocate to Hamlet Deng’s Ferry. Edgar discovers he has a talent for building things, the plot centre’s around him and his friendship with a Norman noble woman Ragna (who is locked in a loveless marriage with the local Lord Wilf ), a priest Aldred and their dealings with Wilf’s brother, a scheming and ruthless bishop, Wynstan.
Follett meticulously researches his books, for example in his previous novel – Pillars of the Earth – he spent two days or more in each Cathedral whilst researching it.
The story in “The Evening and the Morning” takes place over ten years. It does not reach the standard of “Pillars of the Earth” which takes place over decades. It is however a page turner and one can identify with the main characters. The seeds and structure that readers love of the later books in the series are set out in this book. The book also works as a standalone novel.
I would give it 3.5/5’
Have you read ‘The Evening and the Morning’, let us know what you thought down below…
Follett’s novel is also available to borrow from our catalogue –
Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo reviewed by Anton from Victoria Library!
Pedro Páramo is a short book (less than 150 pages), but it is a very important book.
Published in 1955 it is a precursor of the “magic realism” movement so important in latin-american literature and is cited as an important influence by authors such as García Márquez, Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes or Jorge Luis Borges. The author, Juan Rulfo is admired by writers all around the world, from Susan Sontag or Günter Grass to Gao Xingjian or Kenzaburo Oe.
In the beginning of the book we follow Juan Preciado, who promises her mother on her deathbed to travel back to her childhood town of Comala and look for his father (“Pedro Páramo” hence the title).
Comala is a kind of purgatory, a place where the present and the past mix, the people that we meet there are mostly ghosts from the past of the town when it was a lively place and not the dusty desert that it has become. Through their voices we hear the story of Pedro Páramo, or Don Pedro as he was known at the time. He was a successful landowner who would always get what he wanted through money, intimidation or violence. But he was also an unhappy man, unable to have enjoyment or connect with others. We find that he had one true love in his life, Susana San Juan, which was his childhood sweetheart but then moved away from Comala. When Susana returns to the town as a widow Pedro is determined to “get her” one way or another…spoiler ahead…it doesn’t end well.
Rulfo’s prose is mostly straightforward but this is a complex work; the fragmentary perspective defines the book, going from first person to third person, from the present to the past. The story becomes complicated with many voices interrupting the main narrative to tell their little own tales. It’s a book about hopes and dreams, death and redemption.
There aren’t many books quite like this: a really small work but with a large lasting impact in literature throughout the world.
If you would like to borrow a copy from our libraries, use our catalogue to make a reservation:
This week Michaela from Church Street Library is reviewing The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead.
Over to Michaela…
The Pulitzer prize winning novel of 2020 set in the 1960’s tells the story of Elwood living in Florida with his grandmother. Elwood’s parent had up and left one night leaving her to raise him on her own. Elwood was a very naïve young man who after listening to the recording of Martin Luther King Jr took his words to heart. Working hard from a young age all this was about to change.
About to enrol in college and having been an exemplary pupil, one error on his part has forced him to end up inside the Nickel Academy for boys. Here is freedom is taken away from him and he forced to see how the boys are segregated according to their colour and how there is little respect for the boys.
His friendship with Turner is something that the book evolves around and both boys make a life changing decision which will change their lives.
A rich vibrant book that makes you sit back and realise in many places’ life has not changed.
In our continual commemoration of LGBT+ History Month, Fiona from Brompton Library is reviewing Real Life by Brandon Taylor…
Over to Fiona…
This novel is set on a university campus and the story of Wallace, a young, black man studying on scholarship. Set over a few days, what happens proves to be pivotal for Wallace. The novel includes elements typical of classic, campus novels such as Catcher in the Rye, including coming of age, friendship, loneliness and isolation, and growing up. While it has these very classic elements, it is also very subjective and specific to the central character’s experience. We get to understand what it’s like for a young, gay, working-class, black male to be in the world now – we get to see the world through Wallace’s eyes.
It’s a very readable novel, engaging and emotionally raw which looks at issues, such as racism, in the eye. Taylor paints each scene carefully, and at the same time, the writing has an intensity and an energy not unlike the calm before a storm and I read it in a couple of sittings.
It is both classic and current – students who spend every hour they can get studying and striving to succeed seems very of today. At times very painful, and sometimes ironic, with an ambiguous ending that leaves us wondering about Wallace’s future, it’s a powerful novel that packs a punch or two.
This book is available in our library using our Select and Collect service!
This week, Sara will be reviewing Bridget Collins’ 2018 novel- The Binding. A tender and delicate tale covering LGBTQ+ issues throughout history as well as touching upon the supernatural….
Over to Sara to tell us more!
I saw this book in the windows of Waterstones in Victoria Street and was captivated by its beautiful book cover. After reading the short review beside it, I knew I had to read it.
Well, fellow bookworms, kick off your shoes, get luxuriously comfortable, pour yourself a drink and immerse yourself in a wonderful tale of imagination, history and love!
The Binding is told in the first person and follows the main character, Emmett Farmer. Apprenticed to a book binder in a world where books are forbidden, Emmett discovers that memories have been sealed away within the pages of books. This enables people to forget what they have done or what has happened in their pasts. Struggling with the moral implications of this, The Binding follows Emmett’s journey in this magical and imaginative tale.
I don’t want to tell you much more because you need to enjoy it for yourself. The characters in the book are strong and well rounded, and a love story is at the heart of its core.
If Sara’s 5* review has you convinced, pick up The Binding today at one of our branches. For a full list of our locations and opening times, please click here
This week, Richard from Brompton Library is reviewing Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami.
Over to Richard to tell us more!
First published in 2014, and published in English in 2017, this collection of short stories shares its title with Ernest Hemingway’s second collection. But there’s precious little male machismo to be found here in these seven short stories by Murakami. What you will find are some of those weirdly surreal conversations that recall earlier works like Norwegian Wood and After Dark. Tragedy and humor, the uncanny and the absolute ordinary go hand in hand.
The characters from these stories comprise students, ex-boyfriends, actors, bartenders, men, who, for whatever reason, find themselves alone. Take the story of Kino for example; ‘As he waited for his first customer, Kino enjoyed listening to whatever music he liked and reading books he’d been wanting to read. Like dry ground welcoming the rain, he let the solitude, silence, and loneliness soak in.’
Reading Murakami, I always get this sense of space and rumination, where you can almost catch yourself thinking.
If, like Richard, you want to be spellbound by Murakami’s enchanting literary style, check out Men Without Women from one of our library branches today.
A full list of our sites and opening times can be found here.
Lee Lawrence’s ‘The Louder I Sing’ is the bookies favourite for the Costa Book of the Year!
Over to Pauline to explain why this is such an interesting book!
The Louder I Will Sing by Lee Lawrence
Wow! What a book!
“The more you refuse to hear my voice, the louder I will sing.”
Taken from the Labi Sifre song (Something Inside, So Strong), these words resonate throughout this powerful story of racism in Britain, injustice and truth.
Lee Lawrence is the son of Cherry Groce, who was wrongly shot in a police raid on her home in 1985. These events lead to the Brixton riots, a culmination of repeated attacks and harassment by the police on the Black community in Britain at this time. Lee was 11 years old. His mother was left unable to walk and as a direct result, sadly, died of her injuries.
Lawrence speaks of these events and the fight to get justice and tells the story in such a way that will resonate. The book unfolds in different chapters, After the shooting and Before.
Lawrence relates what happened prior to The Metropolitan Police’s fateful raid on a family home with very little intelligence or knowledge. Mistaken identity, wrong information and what happened after, offer a visual picture. TheMetropolitan Police had never officially admitted that they were responsible for Cherry Groce’s injuries at the time. Would this ever change? Lawrence’s struggle to get justice gives you a positive, honest edge on events. He also offers context.
The story is never slow, and you are carried by the author’s voice. It is like as if he is in the room with you. One discovers more about these shocking series of events and about his mother, a person in her own right. More than just another casualty, a real person with thoughts, a history and what she meant to those around her.
The reader also discovers what happened afterwards to Lee Lawrence and the family. A positive, inspiring story, the rebuilding of lives and how that day in 1985 still impacts and is important today.
If like Pauline, you were touched by Lee Lawrence’s story, why not borrow a copy from one of our branches?
This week one of our kind customers Ana has provided us with her review for the book ‘The Five: The Untold Lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold’, over to Ana to tell us more!
‘While the mystery surrounding Jack the Ripper has captured the British imagination since the first killing, this is the first book which focuses solely on the lives of the women who fell victim to the Ripper. Each of the five ‘canonical’ victims are allotted their own chapter in which Rubenhold paints a vivid picture of their upbringing, their family, their romances and heartbreaks, and finally the circumstances which led them to Whitechapel at the cruel end of their lives. With the evidence presented (of which there is a surprising amount) we are forced to question what we take as fact about these women and why it is that we were led to believe certain myths. The most famous of these myths being that they all worked as prostitutes.
As far as history books go, the Five does not require any prior in-depth knowledge of the era or even of the Ripper mythology. Each chapter sweeps you up in the narrative of its female lead, and leaves you feeling shaken each time you remember how her story ends. Rubenhold successfully humanises these women, bringing them to the forefront and pushing the Ripper back into the shadows.
Beyond a Victorian sensationalised of a serial killer, we might wonder how a greater interest in the people who kill over the people who are killed affects media today. Overall, a very enjoyable and important read for anyone interested in history, true crime, or the representation of women. ‘
Have you read this book? Do you agree with Ana? Let us know in the comments section below!
If the cases of Jack and Ripper fascinate you and you enjoy reading True Crime stories, why not check out the book from our catalogue? Available as a paperback, ebook and audiobook.