Meet the Bookworm – Ian McMillan

The next bookworm you’re about to meet is also the first male bookworm who has appeared in my “Meet the Bookworm” feature. There are books and authors on here that I’ve never heard of, which is great for me and you lovely people reading as it means more to add to your list. Please welcome Ian McMillan of Coatbridge, Scotland to More Books than Shoes.

Ian McMillanWhat age did you get into reading? I was fairly young when I got into reading. I can’t remember what age I was but I’m pretty sure it was before I started at school; so maybe about 4.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why?  As a youngster, I loved Roald Dahl, so it was probably The Witches. It was just such a dark, bittersweet and sometimes bizarre story that doesn’t skimp on the “gory” details. Dahl’s books were always quite subversive, and even at a young age I had a strange twisted sense of humour. It definitely helped shaped my future tastes. 

Do you have a favourite genre? I read many different genres so picking a favourite is difficult. It’s more about story and themes rather than genre for me. Looking at my books on the bookcase, I have lots of biographies, classics, etc, but there seems to be mostly JG Ballard, Hubert Selby Jr, Chuck Palahniuk, Camus, Kafka, Philip K Dick, Hunter S Thompson, et al, so I seem to lean more towards transgressive fiction. 

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to? I seem to be drawn to characters that are struggling to make sense of the world around them, or that feel completely out of place even within themselves. Palahniuk’s protagonists I can relate to: that feeling of looking at the people around you and thinking “I don’t understand any of these folk”.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? The Bank Robber Diaries by Danny King. Really badly written and full of truly detestable characters that the author obviously thinks are cool and hilarious. I used to always pride myself that I would always finish a book, no matter if it was good or bad. This book changed that. 

What’s your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? I think I’d have to say The Princess Bride. I may be influenced by nostalgia with this answer as it’s been a favourite of mine since I was a child but it is such a joyful film that totally reflects the book in every way (probably because William Goldman wrote both). Fight Club is also up there as it actually improves on the book. 

What was the last book you read? Lost Highways: An Illustrated History of Road Movies by Jack Sargeant and Stephanie Watson. The road movie is one of my favourite subgenres in film – the notion of the road as a metaphor for a personal as well as physical journey – and this book covers all the different types of road movie in relation to nationality, historical setting, political backdrop, etc.

What are you currently reading? Peckinpah: A Portrait In Montage by Garner Simmons. I love a biography and Sam Peckinpah is one of my favourite directors. As you may have noticed, I read a lot of film-related stuff.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. A dark, surreal tragedy about a family who run a circus freak show and who resort to desperate measures to keep the business going when popularity starts to wane, told from the point of view of the daughter who is a hunch-backed albino dwarf. It is both a very funny and very sad read.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? No idea. Probably “Winging It”. That’s all we really seem to do in life, isn’t it? Haha.

Thanks to Ian, and all the other lovely people who have taken part so far. If you’d like to be part of the “Meet the Bookworm” feature, please comment below.

Happy reading.

G.
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Meet the Bookworm – Brittiny Charee

The third wonderful contributor to my “Meet the Bookworm” feature is Brittiny Charee from Florida, USA. For as long as I’ve known Brittiny she has always been an avid reader and is also a blogger and a writer in her spare time. In fact, we have written some fan fiction together in the past and it was a great honour.  You can check out Brittiny’s blog here. There are some books on here, I’ll be sure to check out, and hopefully you will too.

Brittiny Charee

What age did you get into reading? I’d say 5 or 6.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why? But No Elephants by Jerry Smath. I think because it was a favourite to read with my grandmother.

Do you have a favourite genre? Not really.

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to? I tend to find one in almost every book I read.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? I can’t recall any off the top of my head. Likely because it was bad I voided it from my memory.

What’s your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? Jaws. They kept a good chunk of the book, and while there was a major character changed, it didn’t take anything from the story. I felt it was really well done.

What was the last book you read? The last book I actually finished was H.I.V.E. (The Higher Institute of Villainous Education)

What are you currently reading? Big Girl, As Old as Time, Girl in Pieces and Ninth Street Women.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? Wicked. It can touch on so many different issues, and I think we can all relate to Elphaba now and then.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? Roller-coaster of Life.

If you would like be a contributor for the “Meet the Bookworm” feature then please get in touch.

Thanks for reading.
G.

The Sleepwalker – A Review

The Sleepwalker is the third in the Aidan Waits series of books by Joseph Knox. You may have seen that I have posted about Joseph Knox and his incredibly captivating protagonist in previous posts, a character who has so much hidden in his past but we know very little about. He makes you want to go back for more.

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And this book is no exception.  I honestly have to say that the way the book starts, very much sets the whole tone for the rest of the book. There’s a sense of tension building throughout, a feeling that whilst reading, settles in the stomach and makes you on edge about what is to come. Aidan is once again catapulted into an investigation that is complex and has connections to some old familiar faces.  The relationship between Aidan and his new partner, Naomi Black, could have easily have fallen flat but somehow Joseph manages to introduce enough intrigue and tension that makes the dynamic between the two believable. In this book we find Aidan very much looking over his shoulder at enemies from his past, work colleagues, suspects and his new partner.

It’s hard to talk about the plot line of this book without giving away too much but it is much grittier than Knox’s previous work, and dare I say, his best one yet. Once again we see softer aspects to the otherwise mysterious Waits and the way Knox highlights the issue of the Spice epidemic in Manchester and its impact upon homeless people and those incarcerated is particularly hard to read, but incredibly important. It is the moments that take place within Strangeways and an inmate there that made me particularly emotional.  Once again Joseph has penned a masterpiece in Crime Fiction/Crime Noir.  Giving us plenty of drama, intrigue, twists and turns and also moments that will make you wince. This book is not for the faint hearted and the best thing is how he ends it. There’s no way of knowing what will come next, and that is why you should read it.

A rip roaring, page turner and one I highly recommend to those who love a good detective novel, trust me, there are things you will not see coming and they will leave you reeling.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have read it, so comment below. Happy reading!

G.
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Meet the Bookworm – Elika Jacobs

Next up in my ‘Meet the Bookworm’ feature we have Elika Jacobs from Manchester, UK. Elika is a fellow Leo, and for as long as I can remember she’s always been into horror so her answers do not surprise me. There are some books on here, that I’ve never heard of or read, so without further ado, please welcome Elika and her creepy book vibes.

Elika JacobsWhat age did you get into reading? I would say I was around eight years old when I fell in love with reading. I was obsessed with R.L Stine’s Goosebumps books growing up.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why? I think the first book that struck a chord with me, I was 14 years old (and it’s nothing profound in anyway) but it would have to be when I read the first book of the trilogy ‘The Rats’ by James Herbert. Simply because it freaked me out! My imagination went into overdrive with that book. The part that has always stayed with me was this character was left absolutely terrified in his basement in pitch black listening to these blood thirsty rats the size of small dogs, scratching and getting closer and closer to him, until he can feel them tearing at his skin and he is eaten alive in complete and utter darkness. I read that section of the book in bed turned my light off, got back into bed, I moved my leg and felt something scratch me! I jumped out of bed screaming thinking there was a fucking rat from the book in my bed. Nope just my spring sticking out of my mattress!

Do you have a favourite genre? I don’t have a favourite but similar. I love thrillers, horror, true crime etc

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to?  I think I resonate with a few characters from books I have read. However, I could see a little of myself in the sisters from ‘The secret life of Bees’ by Sue Monk Kidd.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? I don’t really remember the book that I would class as the worst one I have read. It came free with a magazine and wasn’t really up my street. I just remember not finishing it.

What’s  your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? That is a hard one as there is so many that you don’t even realise! But I would have to say ‘The secret life of bees’ I have recently re-read it and it is a phenomenal book. The director and cast did a sensational job bringing it to life.

What was the last book you read? The last book I read was a biography of the former slave who became well-known as an abolitionist and advocate of women’s rights called ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ by Sojourner Truth.

What are you currently reading? The current book I am reading is called ‘Need you dead’ by Peter James.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? Oh, wow that is a tough one, but I should’ve known it was coming! I think I’m going to give a cop out answer and say ANY of James Herbert’s books. If you’re into your horrors, thrillers, dark fantasy, etc he is the author for you! I’ve spoken about him that much recently that I think I’m going to have to take a trip down memory lane and re-read one of his books.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? Lemony Snicket stole my autobiography name (laughs) I think I would call it ‘My life! Fuck it, it is what it is’

If you would like be a contributor for the “Meet the Bookworm” feature then please get in touch.

Thanks for reading.
G.
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Meet the Bookworm – Hannah Simpson

Welcome to a new feature I’m hoping to make a regular thing on my blog, how regular is yet to be seen as it depends on the response of willing contributors and reactions. I’ll be asking fellow bookworms 10 questions about books etc. and including a photo of them. This will hopefully, show the diversity and reach of literature and also give you some book recommendations you may have otherwise ignored.

My first wonderful contributor is Hannah Simpson, from Manchester, UK. She is an avid reader and blogger/writer (you can check out her blog here) What I love about Hannah’s answers is the sheer passion and excitement that comes through. You can really tell how much she loves getting lost in the pages of a book, so without further ado please welcome Hannah Simpson.

Hannah Simpson.jpgWhat age did you get into reading? I’m really privileged that reading has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Both my parents are avid readers and my mum is a school librarian, so I grew up surrounded by books and constantly encouraged to read.  Some of my happiest childhood memories are of being read to by my parents, or exploring our little local library.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why? My first instinct for this question was either Little Women (which we will come back to!) or Harry Potter, but since the question is the first book, we’re going back even further and I’m going to pick something totally different.  We have a stash of Christmas-specific books that we would break out every year and one that I remember being full-on obsessed with is called ‘A Letter to Father Christmas’ by Rose Impey – it’s a really sweet picture book about a girl called Charlotte who accidentally sends her mum’s shopping list to Father Christmas rather than her own wish list.  I have no idea why this book got me like it did, but it just makes me so happy when I look back on it now.

Do you have a favourite genre? I tend to read contemporary fiction and am mostly drawn towards stuff which is best classified as ‘first world white girl problems’.  Basically anything that’s a bit like Jacqueline Wilson or Judy Blume (the queens!), but for twenty-something women.

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to? Jo March from Little Women was my first feminist icon and a big part of the reason I have always aspired to write for a living.  More recently, Johanna Morrigan from Caitlin Moran’s ‘How To Build A Girl’ and ‘How To Be Famous’ really spoke to me.  She is a character not often represented in (particularly YA) literature – bolshy and outspoken in contrast to the quieter, more reserved female characters who often narrate coming of age stories.  Johanna is a protagonist for the loud girls, the girls who have spent their lives being told to calm down and sit down and stop being quite so ‘much’.

 What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? This is a really hard question because I’ve got quite good at picking books that I’m fairly certain I’ll enjoy – my Goodreads account is just a load of four and five star reviews, because I don’t tend to read things that I don’t like.  One book I was really disappointed by was ‘The Virgin Suicides’ by Jeffrey Eugenides, because everyone loves it and so many women hold it up as this incredible piece of work so my expectations were high.  I just didn’t enjoy it that much – I didn’t really care about any of the characters.  Maybe if I read it again now, I’d get more from it?  I probably won’t bother.

What’s your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? I’m bending the rules and doing a top 5 for this (in no particular order) because I absolutely couldn’t narrow it down to just one.  ‘Prisoner of Azkhaban’ is my favourite HP book and the film is absolutely brilliant; the 1994 ‘Little Women’ has an insanely good cast and fills me with so much joy; ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ is one of the only book-to-screen adaptations where I think the film is actually better; the recent Netflix adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s ‘Tales of the City’ series is fantastic, with loads of diversity and LGBT representation within the cast; and the BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ remains some of the best TV I’ve ever seen and I loved all the nods to the books.

 What was the last book you read? The last book I finished was ‘Convenience Store Woman’ by Sayaka Murata, which is a punchy little Japanese novel about a women who has worked in the same convenience store for eighteen years.  It’s a really compelling exploration of the way society tries to force us to conform and what happens to those who don’t.  Very funny, well worth a read.

What are you currently reading? I’ve ended up with two books on the go at the moment, which I don’t normally do.  I started ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ (really fascinating and not something I would typically pick up) and then had a load of books I’d reserved from the library come through, so that’s on hold for now.  ‘Daisy Jones and The Six’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid is the one that stole me away and I can’t put it down – it’s an oral history of a fictional 70s rock band, and I’m absolutely devouring it.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? Either ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas or ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman.  Such powerful book.  Just read them.  Please.  They should both be on the national curriculum.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? I mean, ‘First World White Girl Problems’ pretty much sums it up.

If you would be happy taking part, please comment below or alternatively you can tweet me here or send me a message on Instagram here.

Happy reading!

G.
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An Evening with Joseph Knox

I’m fairly new to the work of Joseph Knox, my ex purchased me a copy of his debut novel ‘Sirens’ back in March (which is the nicest thing my ex ever did but I digress) The main thing that pulled me in was the fact that it was set in Manchester, my birthplace and home. Being able to perfectly visualise the surroundings made it easier to read, combine this with the fact all the chapters were named after Joy Division songs, albums or EP’s and instantly I was hooked.

Joseph wove a story full of complex characters, drama and dark imagery. At the centre of the story is Aidan Waits, perhaps one of the most intriguing characters I have come across in literature in recent years. I tore through Siren’s pretty quickly and moved onto his next book ‘The Smiling Man’ which pulled me in from the blurb on the back alone. So to have the opportunity to hear the man himself discuss his new release ‘The Sleepwalker’ wasn’t something I wanted to miss.

On a rainy evening in Manchester I sat and watched the unassuming Joseph Knox talk about his latest novel and the way he struggled with getting it out there. He spoke about how at times he felt like walking away from it. It’s commendable the dedication he shows to his craft, it took him 10 years to get ‘Sirens’ finished and published. He was working full time and only had time to write the book in the evening and weekends. Many people would have given up, he didn’t and thank goodness he didn’t!

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It was clear to see when he was talking the amount of thought and passion he puts into his work, proclaiming that he has a fear of repeating himself or churning out something with a constantly familiar story line. He refuses to do it. He talked about how with other detective books, you usually learn so much about the main protagonist within the first few chapters, but with Aidan Waits you don’t and that is part of the intrigue and my love for the character. Two books in and I still only know a few details about him, he’s a character that leaves you wondering. As Joseph said Aidan “plays his cards very close to his chest” which is an incredible skill for a writer to have, to be able to lure people in without giving away too much. It’s no mean feat, but Joseph manages it. I could be ignorant and say he does it with ease, but that would be an insult to the apparent hard work and planning he puts into his novels.

Joseph quashed the rumour that he’s a Mancunian; he was born in Staffordshire but always had a romantic relationship with Manchester, moving and working here when he was a little older. This is something that, for me, comes across in his second book ‘The Smiling Man’ the way Aidan views the city in the hot summer months through almost romantic lenses. I was born and bred in Manchester but it made me feel moved to hear the love and respect that Joseph has for this city, and the way he felt that it was the perfect setting for his crime noir books and the even more complex character of Aidan Waits.

But it is when Joseph talked about the way the City has changed in the past ten years and the spice epidemic amongst the homeless and the people in Strangeways and the way it’s impacted upon the most vulnerable of people in our society that I was truly moved. Joseph talked about how when doing research for ‘The Sleepwalker’ he came across a Government website that was faulty, he saw the amount of mothers/fathers emailing Strangeways expressing concern about their sons who are currently incarcerated seeming suicidal or becoming addicted to spice. They were reaching out asking for help or an explanation and were given none. The very people becoming addicted to the drug seen more as an unseemly thing that should be overlooked as opposed to helped. He talked about how spice is taken because for people living on the street or in prison it passes 8 hours as quick as the click of a finger. Admittedly very tempting for those people and not something others should be so quick to judge. Joseph physically teared up at this and said he was hoping that his new book could give those people an answer they deserve. It’s refreshing to hear someone in Joseph’s position using his skills to highlight and shine a light onto something so prevalent in our society and is seemingly going ignored by the powers that be.

Joseph talked about a 4th novel, but one that is not necessarily crime fiction and not part of the Aidan Waits series. Joseph said with Aidan being so complex and having a dark past, it was important for him to have a break from the character and I’m inclined to agree. I am yet to read ‘The Sleepwalker’ but the early reviews I have read have talked about how this book is his best one yet with some unbelievable moments. As much as I love Aidan Waits, I feel that Joseph has enough skill to pen something other than crime fiction, and know it would still be an equally compelling read.

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It was a fantastic evening, from a very humble, wonderful and talented author. I cannot wait to read ‘The Sleepwalker’ and cannot wait to see what else Joseph has in store with his writing career. This guy’s going places and I implore you to check out his work. You will not be disappointed.  I will be posting a review of his new book on the blog once I’ve read it.

Happy reading folks.

G.
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Love in the Time of Cholera – A Review

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I worked a lot during February, I was even working on Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind work at all, I happen to really love my job, nor did I mind working on Valentine’s Day. I’ve always been a firm believer that it’s just another day and if you love someone that much you shouldn’t need that one day to validate it or say it. Anyway, I digress, I went to Waterstone’s (other book shops available) a few days before and saw that they was doing a “Blind Date with a Book” and I figured as I’d be working and alone that I should play along.

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All the books were packaged in red paper and tied with brown string, a slight synopsis of the book inside, written elegantly on a brown tag with the price. I spent lots of time mulling over the choices but picked one out that I kept going back to. When I got home, I put it to one side and promised that after my 16 hour day in studio I’d open it up. Sure enough Tuesday 14th February arrived, the penultimate day of filming, it had been a long week, but I was trying to stay positive, just a few more days and then I had some time off to catch up on sleep and let my hair down. As luck would have it, it ended up being a really great day…I spent most of the day laughing, largely down to the company I was in that day. I went home feeling good, a smile on my face and after taking a quick shower I pulled the book onto my lap and tore the paper off. It was like Christmas, only with a gift I’d bought myself. And there it was. A book I had picked up MANY times previously but never bought, I smiled again.

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I have mentioned previously how passion is important, passion ignites the soul, makes your eyes shine brighter, and puts a fire in your belly. I ended up having a conversation with an amazing person about books in April and they mentioned this one specifically. Their passion came across to me so clearly that it was tangible, even though the conversation took place via WhatsApp. I swore to myself that when I got home that evening I would start reading the book, and that’s exactly what I did.

The style of writing was so accessible and beautiful that it was hard not to fall in love with it very early on, with Marquez using language so perfectly that was easy to envisage the people, the surroundings, the feelings. I felt myself following Florentino and urging him on, holding my breath and feeling his anguish as he waited for Fermina to reply. I melted at the romance, the declarations of love making me sigh and press my head against the tram window on my commute to work. The book spoke to my hopelessly, romantic soul and I was hooked.

My heart broke when Fermina returned and rejected Florentino and yet I remained hopeful that all would be okay, it had to be okay. Learning how the two lived over the years, separately yet still tied to one another, Florentino in his promise to never let go of his love for Fermina, Fermina with the ghosts of memories of Florentino sat in the park. Gabriel Garcia Marquez penned something so honest about the anguish of unrequited love, but also about the power of the human spirit, to withstand pain and heartbreak and still remain so vehemently hopeful. He writes of the passion of life and love and loss and does it so lyrically that there were times I forgot to breathe.

Even the more sensual aspects of the book, where Florentino takes various lovers, were written with an understanding that most modern writers tend to lack. I am a stupid, hopeless romantic and this book touched me. Entirely quotable passages that made me dog ear pages so that I could re-read them, tracing my fingers over the page to make sure I hadn’t dreamed them. This book is more than about love, it’s about the power of love, passion, the power of the human spirit, the courage to keep on going and to always keep hope. It’s made me crave for a simpler time, for more open communication and for less negative stigma attached to matters of the heart. Love is frowned upon and given negative connotations, like the advancement of technology, the world has become cold and demanding. Everything has to be instant. But sincerely why isn’t it ok to pen a love letter and post it? The excitement of receiving something you wasn’t expecting, a letter written in ink by the very hand you long to hold. I’ve never personally received a love letter, but the idea is so romantic to me.

This book awoken my soul and stoked the fire in my heart. A truly beautiful novel that will make you realise the importance of happiness and taking chances.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

“Sometimes their letters were soaked by rain, soiled by mud, torn by adversity, and some were lost for a variety of reasons, but they always found a way to be in touch with each other again.”

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Happy reading.

G.
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