Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review - Splinters by Joseph D'Lacey-PART2

Hello. As promised, here is my review of the second half of Splinters, the collection of short stories by Joseph D'lacey that I shall be publishing in a couple of weeks. Actually it's ten days. As I explained in the last blogpost, I feel that I am in a good position to review this book, despite the fact that i'm publishing it.
Yes, of course I think it's brilliant. I wouldn't be publishing it otherwise. By publishing this book, i'm doing a public service. I'm sharing with you the brilliance of Joseph D'Lacey.

 There are twelve stories in the collection. The first six I reviewed in the last blogpost. As well as reviewing the stories, i'll try and give you an insight into the reasons the stories were chosen and their order in the book.
Stories 7-12;

Armageddon Fish Pie
  This is a poignant, thought provoking story which follows one man as he prepares for the end of the world. Throughout the story, he watches the reactions of others and reflects on his past. This was one of the first stories I chose to put in the collection, because once again it shows how versatile a writer Joseph is. In fact, the last three stories are all so individual you may think they'd been written by different people. This is unlike any 'End of the World' story you would imagine.

  This story, based in and around New Delhi, is a warning of how too much heroin can transform you into something completely different. It's the shortest story in the collection, and there's something about it that reminds me of this scene in An American Werewolf In London.

Rhiannon's Reach
This, in contrast to Kundalini, is the longest of the stories in the collection. Previously published in a wonderful chapbook a few years ago, this is the story of a man who, after having a near-death experience whilst diving is now equally terrified  and obsessed with the sea. Much like being in the sea, this story carries us along, until we suddenly find ourselves out of our depth. Joseph once again touches on man's relationship with nature in this tale, which keeps you guessing until the very end.
Son of Porn
 Time for a little relief, in the form of Nutbuster McGooch. A porn baron who is possibly the most sexually depraved person alive. I think Joseph enjoyed writing this story and despite its light hearted nature, does ask a few questions about evolution. Possibly. After the last story, I wanted to add something that changed the mood. I think this does it very effectively.
What They Want (What Aliens Really, Really Want)
Another inspired and totally unique story, taking a whole new look at why aliens may be interested in the human race. It's actually 4 mini stories in one, each story looking at a different period of time and location in history. The last of these four stories is the killer. And the last line gets you just there.
So we've reached the last story in the collection. And we couldn't leave you without first giving you a zombie story. But as is the way throughout this collection, it's a different take on the traditional zombie story. So here it is.
The Food Of Love 
This is a beautiful, tender love story, in which a doctor and nurse fall in love trying to find a cure to a terrible illness that is sweeping the earth. Symptoms of this illness inevitably lead to death, but worse than that (for those still living at least), the dead come back to life shortly afterwards and are hungry for meat in whatever form it takes.
This story has it all, and Joseph really cranks up the emotion. There's a lot more going on in this final story than just zombies and it's a fitting way to end the collection.
There you go then. That's Splinters. It's awesome. If you like awesome, there are two free stories that aren't in the book on this microsite.
Oh, and if you haven't bought it yet and i've persuaded you to give it a try...ta.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review - Splinters by Joseph D'Lacey-PART 1

Yes, this is the book I'm publishing on November 1st. So, you'd expect my review to be biased.
Of course I like the book, and the stories in it. But I think I am in a fairly good position to talk about it, seeing as it's been a part of my life for the last six months.

Anyway here is a preview of the jacket. I imagine if you click on it, amazing things will happen.
This is a collection of twelve short stories by Joseph D'Lacey. It think it's fair to say that I have read more of Joseph's writing than pretty much anyone apart from Joseph himself. It is a credit to his writing that I still crave more.

The process of putting this collection of stories together involved me reading every finished short story that he'd written over the last eleven years. That's a lot of stories.
I wanted those we chose to put in the book to reflect the versatility of Joseph's writing. There is a stigma that comes with being known as a 'genre' author. Especially if it's science fiction, fantasy or horror. This was highlighted rather well by a fact about the Man Booker Prize for fiction that I learnt yesterday which is illustrated below.

This is from the Guardian btw

I realise this is just one snapshot, but what I wanted to show in this collection is that genre fiction, in this case horror, can be literary, accessible, challenging and very readable. Yes, by its very nature it can be disturbing too. But if books provoke emotion then is that so wrong?
What i'm trying to say is if you don't read horror, because 'well, it's horror, isn't it?', I would urge you to reconsider.

Twelve stories are included in the collection and here I shall try to give you a taste of each one. The first six I shall review here and the second six I shall review next week.

Here goes;

  Set in Gemini Apartments, the story explores paranoia, where nosey neighbours take on a modern twist. It's a multilayered story that starts off with a sinister uneasy undertone, which then spirals and spirals to a whole new level. I chose this story to put in first, because a) it's one of my personal favourites and b) because it sets a tone for the whole book.

Lights Out
  When you were young were you scared of the dark? Did you think there was something under your bed that might get you? This is the classic premise of this 10 pager. Our main character Joe has lived with this fear since he was young, but it has remained with him. As he has grown, his imagination of what could possibly be under the bed has grown with him. And now his son is beginning to worry what's under HIS bed. There's a twist. A brilliant twist.

By now, after two stories, you'll probably need a break. Not only to compose yourself, but to savour the stories you've just read.

Right, OK? Let's continue.

Altar Girl
  This story marks a change of direction in the book. Life, for Sophie has not turned out the way she'd dreamt. Her husband is a slob and her kids are spoilt and ungrateful. As she stands by the kitchen sink, she wonders to herself, 'if only things were different...'
It's a Wonderful Life never got this dark.

The Quiet Ones
  This tale follows an assassin's journey across a treacherous and inhospitable frozen landscape to eradicate a commune, who have chosen to leave behind civilization. What grabbed me about this story was how claustrophobic it felt, despite the vast open spaces this story is set in. It's also told by an unseen narrator, which adds to the sense of unease.
This short passage sums this up;
'You zero the crosshairs on her temple & let your finger rest on the trigger.
Death is a moment away.
You are the keeper of that moment'.

Four stories down .
I know, you're already convinced. So here's a helpful link to where you can buy it now

OK, now you've sorted that out, we'll continue;

The Unwrapping of Alistair Perry
  Another multilayered story, literally in this case. Our eponymous hero finds himself transforming into something different. Something he's always wanted, but something unattainable until now. But this is just the start of Alistair's journey. Where will this transformation lead him?
Another superb and well thought out surreal story that keeps you guessing until the very end.

The Mango Tree
  Joseph's previous novels Meat, Garbage Man & to a certain extent Kill Crew explore our relationship the earth the dangers of not living in harmony with nature, earning these books a further sub-genre 'Eco Horror'. Mango Tree also visits this theme.
On the island where he lives, Etoile is a loner. The islanders visit him to buy the fish he catches, as it is far superior than any other.
The children on the island avoid him & the other islanders warn them that he will come for them at night if they don't behave. When Etoile catches one of the children trying to pick a mango from the tree next to his hut, after a dare, we learn that perhaps there is something special about Etoile. Something very special indeed.
This story highlights, once again, how versatile Joesph is as a writer. The pace and style of it is completely different from the previous five stories in this collection. It is a beautiful piece of writing.

So, here are the first six stories. Yes, we're half way through now. There are still half a dozen little gems to go. Not a zombie in sight, yet.

There's only going to be 500 printed and each will be numbered and signed by Joseph. It's only £8.99 and if you order it before November 3rd you stand a chance of winning loads of stuff. LOOK HERE.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Man Booker Prize - I stick my neck out.

OK, earlier I wrote a post about our Booker Book Challenge and also to encourage you to vote for the book you thought would win the Booker Prize tonight. (vote NOW=>).
I was undecided about who I was going to plump for earlier, but I've had some time to think and I reckon I have decided who I'd like to win now.

I have already reviewed Deborah Levy's Swimming Home HERE.

But what about the others.....

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayl

Set in the drug riddled underbelly of Bombay in the 1970s, this is an atmospheric read and captures the smells and tastes of the city. But where Jeet Thayl excels is in the dream like drug fuelled undertone of the whole book. It's a dangerous, bleak and desperate read . Not all the characters in the book captured my imagination, although some, especially the tragic Dimple and truly horrible Rumi were spot on.
Although I found the descriptions of the various drug trips a little monotonous at times, this lively descriptive novel is full of great imagination.

Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

This is, ultimately a story about the relationship between Yun Ling, the only survivor of a Japanese POW camp  and gardener Nakamura Aritomo, the Japanese gardener who she employs to build a garden in memory of her sister who died in the camp.
It took me a little while to get into the story, but once there, it was wonderful. The writing is poetic, the imagery and the sense of place is spot on, and the story of the relationship and redemption is memorable.
There were a couple of things that slightly spoiled my enjoyment. Firstly, I got confused about the timeline of the book. It chopped and changed a bit too much for me to fully relax into the story and the author italicises the Japanese words throughout the book. I didn't know whether to google them or to just carry on reading and not worry if I didn't work out what they meant.
But overall, these are small complaints and I really did rate this book highly.
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
This is the story of Futh, a hugely unremarkable man in his 40s, recently separated from his wife and embarking on a walking holiday in Germany, revisiting a holiday of his childhood.
His circular tour begins and ends in a hotel in the town of Hellhaus. This hotel is run by Ester and her husband and it is ester who is the stories secondary character. She is trapped in a loveless marriage and consoles herself by having sexual encounters with the hotel guests.
The Lighthouse of the title, is a perfume bottle (shaped like a lighthouse) that Futh carries with him at all times. This is the only thing he has to remind him of his mother, who abandoned his family when he was twelve.
As Futh sets of on his holiday we can only watch as this shambolic, socially awkward and tragic character's situation becomes more and more desperate.
There are hints of Magnus Mills in her writing and although towards the end of the book, I could see what was ultimately going to happen, it didn't make it any less harrowing.
Alison Moore has written a wonderful novel, which I adored.

Umbrella by Will Self 

Bloody hell. Will Self. I love some of his books. Cock and Bull is fabulous, truly fabulous. But sometimes I wonder whether he makes it difficult for the reader on purpose. This is 400 pages of 'stream of consciousness' narrative, as far as I can tell. I haven't finished it yet, so I cannot give it a full review. The first 20 pages were almost enough to put me off completely, but I gave it a second chance and I am now (after 130 pages) beginning to 'Get it'.
But the argument remains. Books are meant to be read. Yes, they can be challenging (I encourage challenging), and I like a bit of stream of consciousness writing. My love for Mark Leyner, a master of this type of writing, is well documented. But they need to be accessible.
I withhold judgement until I've finished the book.

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (I haven't read).
Again, I am mental for Mantel. Fludd and Wolf Hall are two staggeringly brilliant books and I have no doubt I will devour Bring Up the Bodies. A review will be forthcoming.

So I have to stick my neck out and say who I think will win.
It depends what the judges are looking for.
I'll tell you what would be good for the book industry. Even if Mantel doesn't win, hundreds of thousands of people will read Bring Up the Bones. If Will Self wins with this book, I suspect he'll sell loads, but many people will not read it or finish it.
The most accessible AND LITERARY book on the list is The Lighthouse by Alison Moore. If this wins, it will raise the profile massively of the book, it will sell a hundred thousand at least and most of those bought will be read and enjoyed. I'd like to think this is what books are all about.
The Booker Prize judges should think about this when making the decision.
Or maybe they shouldn't. Hey , I don't know, maybe Hilary Mantel should win.
No. I think Alison Moore.
That's it. (I did enjoy Swimming Home too)

No Alison Moore it is.



The Man Booker Prize 2012

So, tonight's the night that the winner of the Man Booker Prize is announced. This is all very exciting for book fans. As a fan of books I am very excited.
Each year in the shop we run a Booker Prize Book Challenge. This is how it works.
As soon as the shortlist was announced, we ordered up copies of each of the books. Those who wanted to take up the challenge were invited to meet on an evening in September to say hello, take home one or more of the titles, and enjoy some rather lovely wine.
Over the next five or so weeks challenge was to make a concerted effort to read as many of the six shortlisted books as possible.
 The group will meet again, tonight to discuss each of the books. After a heated debate, the group will vote for whom they think should win. We’ll then watch the televised ceremony, and hopefully cheer as our choice and the actual winner is one and the same. Or more likely, shout and curse as our least favourite book takes the glory.
Take make things more affordable, for a one off payment of £25, people could borrow each of the 6 books and get to keep their favourite at the end.

This year I've managed 4 and a half (I will try and make it 5 by this evening) of the books. The one I haven't read is Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel. I remember, when reading Wolf Hall (the book that precedes this one), how difficult it was to read quickly. I adored Wolf Hall and wanted to savour the rich language and immerse myself in the story. I suspect the same applies to this one, so i'm going to read it without feeling any pressure to do so quickly.

So, of the 4/5 books i've read, I thought 3 were excellent. I am struggling to decide who I want to win (although I know who I really don't want to win).

My personal success at picking the winner is not great. I did choose Wolf Hall, but last year I was a big Jamrach's Menagerie fan and the year before I wanted The Room by Emma Donoghue to do the biz.

I have set up a poll on the side of the blog. It is purely unscientific. You can vote on who you think will win. We shall see if it corresponds with either a) the actual result or b) who the Booker Book Challenge group think should win.
Whichever book is leading  at 8.00pm BST, I shall bet £10 (TEN POUNDS) on, at my friendly local online bookies*.
Don't let me down.


*bet responsibly

Monday, October 08, 2012

London Tales by Greg Stekelman. Last 10 copies!

Last year I published my first book. It was called London Tales and it was by the brilliant Greg Stekelman (TheManWhoFellAsleep).
here it is.

What started out as a plan to reissue Greg's first book "A Year in the Life of TheManWhoFellAsleep" soon blossomed into this wonderful idea to create a collection of Greg's illustrations and turn them into this extraordinary and beautiful book. You can read more about it here.
 We produced just 250 copies of the book which are all numbered and signed.
Greg and I agreed early on that when we got down to the last 10 copies we would offer them at a discounted price.

We will be selling the last 10 copies of London Tales for just £25 (not, as Rhodri Marsden so eloquently put it "forty fucking quid" )
If you want to get your hands on a copy, please head this way.
Once these copies have been sold, that's it. It will no longer be available.

I'm really proud to have published London Tales. As someone who loves books and has spent many many (many) years working in the book industry, this has been a very special time for me. I hope, if you do decide to purchase a copy, you'll appreciate what a gorgeous book it is.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Ask Caitlin Moran a Question, Win a Signed Copy of Moranthology


Caitlin Moran is coming to the Big Green Bookshop tonight. 

Yes, you heard me right. 

Tickets have sold out for the event, but here's a chance for someone on Twitter to win a signed copy of her new book, Moranthology.

Simply tweet a question you'd like to ask her, using the hashtag #askcaitlin. 
We'll then print them off and ask Caitlin to answer a few of them. The person who asks the question that Caitlin deems the best will win a signed book. 

Go on. 

Remember you can still order signed copies of Moranthology from our website here