Book Empire Vol. 21

All the book news you need to know, on a need-to-know basis.

We understand how busy you are and how difficult it is to keep up with all the book news that’s being thrown at you every day. To make your life a little easier, we’ll compound the most important bits into 1 blog post every week, exactly telling you what you need to know. Please don’t worry your pretty little head about the possibility of propaganda or censorship. We’ll do that for you.

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Apartment Therapy made a list of famous authors’ bedrooms. Take a look into the secret sleeping lives of Virginia Woolf, Truman Capote and William S. Burroughs.
Fun fact! A lot of these authors slept in a one-person bed…

Sci-fi has been predicting the future since its beginning, but do we have any idea how accurate they have been?  The fine folks at Printerinks, a printer ink store, have created a thoughtful infographic to showcase you just how many of our current technologies had been thought up by visionaries from the past.

Do you also wonder how Wes Anderson comes up with all these crazy movie ideas? He must read a lot, because The Airship has made a collection of books to be paired together with each of his movies.

Another book pairing situation is happening at The A.V. Club. Dan Wakefield, longtime friend of Vonnegut wrote up a list to tell you which Vonnegut book to read just before making specific big life decisions.
I started reading Welcome to the Monkey House immediately.

Screwpulp is here to bring your book to the masses. Fed up with good books being written, but not finding their audience, Screwpulp came up with a solution. All the books on there are for free, the only payment required is some social media promotion. This way the books can find their fan base without the hassle of traditional publishing.

At the end of this month the most awesome literary festival just got a bit more awesome. Hay-on-Wye, known for the insane amount of bookstores, is hosting the yearly Hay-festival with a crazy line-up of authors. This week they also named Stephen Fry the new president of the festival and he couldn’t be more proud.
Do I see another book club outing in store?

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Book Empire Vol. 20

All the book news you need to know, on a need-to-know basis.

We understand how busy you are and how difficult it is to keep up with all the book news that’s being thrown at you every day. To make your life a little easier, we’ll compound the most important bits into 1 blog post every week, exactly telling you what you need to know. Please don’t worry your pretty little head about the possibility of propaganda or censorship. We’ll do that for you.

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Publishers Weekly created a list with the best books of the summer. Start stocking up for your vacation right away, because what else are vacations for besides reading?

Our well beloved children’s book The Big Friendly Giant is up for an adaptation by Stephen Spielberg. And although we are filled with dread, it might just turn out pretty awesome? Can it please?

Lolita is a great book, but that doesn’t keep publishers from turning the cover into smut. The New Republic compiled a list of the ‘sexiest’ covers the book has had throughout the year. And of course the Dutch version is the most racy of the bunch.

We all know that feeling of sadness that comes when bookshops need to close up for the day. We come home late and miss our chance to browse around for a while. For the people in Beijing, this is no longer reality, because they opened a 24 hour book shop just last week. I would never go home ever again!

Harper Lee might be old, but she still is pretty awesome. At age 88 and after a long legal battle over the rights of  To Kill a Mockingbird, she gave the green light to turn her masterpiece into an ebook.

As part of the great World Book Night, teens were passing out free copies of The Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian. However, on many school library lists the book is banned for its sexual and mature content. The citizens of Idaho didn’t take kindly to that and decided to call the cops on the kids.
Yes, because arresting children who are giving books away for free is really something that needs to happen. 

People might not read books as much as they used to, at least books as a physical object are still desired. The New York Times wrote an article about how decorating with books might be the reason the physical book has survived this long.
We all love our floor to ceiling book closets with a ladder attached to it, but do we love it because of (Beauty and the Beast-) nostalgia or our love of reading?

Bookish is musing on what will be the next big thing in YA novels. Will it be Virtual Reality Cyper punk, Fairy tale retelling or male main characters? Maybe they should look more into the diversity corner for this one?

I’ve read Five Star Billionaire, now what?

Our latest book club meeting discussed the book Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw, a story about five people trying to stay afloat in Shanghai. The book got very mixed reactions from our readers, but for whoever liked it, or liked parts of it, we will give some further reading recommendations.

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The first recommendation is always more work by the author himself. Tash Aw has written two other novels of which The Harmony Silk Factory is the most praised. It won several awards and turned Aw into a household name for Malaysian English literature. The Harmony Silk Factory is about a textile merchant called Johnny Lim. He’s a Chinese peasant that moved to British Malaya and the story is set in the first half of the 20th century. The book delves into the history of China and Malaya and tries to discover the identity of Johnny. Is he the hero that fought the Japanese when they invaded or is he a crook and collaborator that betrayed the people he should have served? Just like Five Star Billionaire, Aw experiments here with multiple point of views and unreliable narrators to showcase how subjective life can be.

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If you liked the self-help aspect of the book and want to learn more about becoming rich, try Mohsin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. The book is also written like a self-help book pretending to teach you how to become rich. It suggests get rich quick schemes and ways to stay alive in the cut-throat large cities of Asia. Just like Five Star Billionaire this book has multiple narrators and an emotional story that is hiding out as a tacky self-help novel.

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Phoebe, one of the main characters from the novel is a factory girl, a typical kind of migrant working in large factories all around China. Tash Aw used the book Factory Girl: From Village to City in a Changing China written by Leslie T. Chang as research for his own novel. Factory Girl traces the lives of two real life girls who are trying to escape the assembly lines to rise to the top. Chang researched one specific sneaker factory in Dongguan which is large enough to house its own hospital, movie theater and of course karaoke bars.

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An often remarked point about Five Star Billionaire was that all the descriptions of Shanghai as a city were beautiful and very life-like. The city itself became a character in the book and was almost equally important to the plot.  If you like rosy prose and pretty descriptions of Asia, you might want to give The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng a try. Also a Malaysian author, he writes with the same calm and slow rhythm that you can enjoy from Tash Aw.

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If it was the narrative structure of the book that got you going, you should take a look at Communion Town by Sam Thompson. It’s a story told from 10 different voices, all talking about the same city. The stories interject and connect with each other, the characters meeting without them knowing it. The book reads as ten short stories all about the same setting that can be read separately, but ultimately form a whole. And it’s even recommended by Tash Aw himself!

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Although many of us didn’t enjoy the revenge plot of the novel that much, there is nothing wrong with a good avenging story! So give True Grit by Charles Portis a shot! You might have seen the movie, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read the book (we should make this our catchphrase or at least a new category of blog posts). In True Grit the 14-year old Mattie Ross is out to avenge her father’s death and to do this she enlists the meanest Marshall in town. Very different in tone from Five Star Billionaire with much more humor as a dead-pan western.

Boring Book Recommendation: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

10194157How would I have said goodbye to Mal anyway? Thanks for being my best friend and making my life bearable. Oh, and sorry I fell in love with you for a while there. Make sure to write!

What is this book about?

Imagine Durmstrang, the Russian school of Wizardry, but then more awesome, more powerful, more dangerous en much more glamorous and you might come close to explaining Shadow and Bone. The story is about Alina, an orphan peasant girl who is, just like everyone else in Ravka, part of the King’s army. The nation is at war and isn’t just scared of the other tribes, but also of the Shadow fold, a mysterious pitch black sea filled with monsters. When Alina finds out that she is part of the magical Grisha, a special branch of the army with magical abilities, she is swept away by their leader the Darkling and is hailed as the savior with her unique ability to summon the sun.

Why is it boring?

Oh god, is it yet another trilogy about magical young adults? Is there yet again a love triangle between two hunky guys and a girl who thinks of herself as plain and ugly? Will the main character of this book turn out to be the most special and powerful Grisha yet to come? YES, YES! All of that is true, but is that really such a bad thing?

Who would you recommend it to?

Lovers of anything magical, Young Adulty and hunky bad guys. The world building in the Grisha trilogy is insane. If I could wish to transfer myself to a different fictional universe, I would have a hard time choosing between Harry Potter’s magical London and Ravka. And although it is a young adult novel, don’t expect whiny teens and uncomfortable first sexual encounters. All the characters are tough as nails as whining as a Grisha will get you cut in half. Oh and those hunky bad guys I was talking about? The book is filled with them, but no one can beat the Darkling.

Why should I read it if it’s boring?!

A magical story to rival Harry Potter isn’t enough for you? Well Alina is an awesome heroine, being much more snarky then any other character in YA history. The love triangle isn’t annoying, which is a feat in itself. Mal, one of the corners of the triangle, gets to tell you romantic lines that rival Augustus Waters and will make you weak in the knees. But besides the book being a love story, it is also about power and greed and the story does not waste any time before throwing you down into the darkness of the Shadow Fold and releasing scary Volcra on all of the characters. However, I can’t stress enough that this book contains a character called the Darkling who is hunky and dangerous and scary and awesome and should be plenty of reason for you to pick up this book.

Rating 4/5
If you want to read Shadow & Bone you can order it here!

Join the Goodreads group to (re-) read the first two books of the Grisha Trilogy, just in time before the final installment will be published!

Book Empire Vol. 19

All the book news you need to know, on a need-to-know basis.

We understand how busy you are and how difficult it is to keep up with all the book news that’s being thrown at you every day. To make your life a little easier, we’ll compound the most important bits into 1 blog post every week, exactly telling you what you need to know. Please don’t worry your pretty little head about the possibility of propaganda or censorship. We’ll do that for you.

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Boston, the birth place of Edgar Allen Poe, has built a new statue in the writer’s honor.
And it is the most bad-ass statue you will ever see.

You can pretend it’s not true, but every single one of us was disappointed at age 11 when the acceptance letter to Hogwarts didn’t arrive. But the world of Harry Potter knows our trauma’s and they are here to help! You can now download the actual letter and frame it, but even better, follow a 9 week course in wizardry!

Gender differences in literature and publishing are happening, if you like it or not. Recently we introduced The WoMentoring Project to you, but men and boys might need some help as well according to these articles. It states that boys aren’t reading because of all the female publishers and that most men prefer to wait for the movie to come out.

We’ve all heard the stories of our favorite authors and their crazy writing routines, but how much of that is actually true? And even more important, why are we so obsessed with it?
I guess I can now stop writing upside down on a manual typewriter while being surrounded by twenty white cats.

Rachel Fershleiser has made an amazing Tedtalk about why she hearts the bookternet.
We promise it will make you heart the bookternet as well!

If The Mystery of the Author’s Identity Is The Most Interesting Thing About Your Book, Your Book Might Not Be That Good.

This review was written for American Book Center’s You Review. The advanced reading copy of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August written by Claire North was gracefully provided by ABC.

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If you’ve never heard of Claire North, please don’t be embarrassed. If you Google her name you will find out that Claire North is actually a pseudonym for a ‘an acclaimed British author’. Do we have another one of J.K. Rowling’s works in hand? I sure hope not.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is about the kalachakra, a specific type of people living throughout all times who live their own lives over and over again. These kalachakras or ouroborans form a club – The Cronus Club – to support each other through life and help smoothen the transition from life to death back to life again. Our main character, Harry August, is of course a kalachakra and we follow him through his first 15 lives which ends with him hunting a super villain who hides inside the The Cronus Club destined to destroy the world.

All this sounds rather exciting, but it turns out to be quite a dull read. The premise of living your life over and over again is interesting, but done much better by Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life. However Harry August is not in the business of being a novel that exposes human nature and horrors of our history. The book should have been a fast-paced exciting sci-fi story, something you can’t put down because you know the world is going to end and the future is inevitable. The ‘science’ behind the kalachakra should have been mind-boggling, but it’s mostly confusing and – even worse – boring. Nothing in the book made me marvel at the world created by North and the only character that was even remotely interesting was the villain of it all, trying to unravel where the kalachakra came from by way of a quantum mirror. I wish the book would have focused more on the origins of the time-travelers and the possibilities this lends to a story and widened its focus the the actual end of the world described at the very start of the book.

That said, it’s not a bad book. It’s well written and interesting, but it’s definitely not the genre-crossing sci-fi/literary fiction work of genius people make it out to be. It’s a great book for people who want to ease themselves into sci-fi reading or people who are fully emerged in the genre and strapped for reading fodder.

Written by Esmée de Heer
Would you like to write a review for the Bored to Death book club BLOG? Just send us an e-mail at boredtodeathbookclub@gmail.com!

Book Empire Vol. 18

All the book news you need to know, on a need-to-know basis.

We understand how busy you are and how difficult it is to keep up with all the book news that’s being thrown at you every day. To make your life a little easier, we’ll compound the most important bits into 1 blog post every week, exactly telling you what you need to know. Please don’t worry your pretty little head about the possibility of propaganda or censorship. We’ll do that for you.

Dive into the very fascinating world of celebrity ghostwriting. We all know on some level that most non-literary, non-funny celebrities don’t really write their own biographies and memoirs. But what we don’t know is who these ghosts in the machines actually are.
So meet some of these cogs in the larger publishing machine and see what the life of a ghostwriter is really like.

There is good news for self-publishing writers! You know get a chance at world-wide recognition and actual monthly literary prizes.
At least actual as in, these are made up especially for you.

The Uni Project, based in New York, is yet another example of how easy it is to incorporate reading and books into everyday life. The project will create reading rooms in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world. These ‘rooms’ we be created out on the street with the help of small movable reading rooms that can be put down just about anywhere.
They will also ship these reading room kits all over the world. Maybe we can all chip in!

The final season of Mad Men has started and this means we are in for yet another wild ride of Don Draper reading books. However, Don Draper doesn’t just read, he also inspires original works. Leah Umansky is the author of the chapbook Don Dreams and I Dream which contains Mad Men inspired poetry.
Yes, it’s called a chapbook. Look it up.

If you are feeling a little down but you are not yet at the ninth level of hell depression level, Douglas Coupland has made a reading list especially for you! He told the AV Club about the best nihilistic books that you have probably never heard of.
With titles like Tales of Young Urban Failures and Kill Your Friends, you just can’t go wrong.