Category Archives: Pretty Books

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

dark eden chris beckettFor 163 years the Family has patiently awaited rescue from the sunless planet they call Eden, hardly daring to stray far from the landing circle where their common ancestors Tommy and Angela landed on the planet so long ago. The 532 members of the Family, all descended from these original ancestors dream of a return to the planet they’ve heard about in the legends handed down through the generations, a planet where the whole world is made as bright as the insider of a whitelantern flower by the sun in the sky, and they will return there, if only they follow the rules and make themselves worthy to return to Earth. As the family grows larger and food grows scarcer, teenager John Redlantern tears the Family apart, questioning the meaning of the stories they’ve been told and searching for new ways for the Family to survive…

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, winner of the 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year has all the ingredients of an intelligent and assured work of Science Fiction, is a clever reimagining of the Adam and Eve story on a sinister alien world which explores the nature of humanity through the figure of John Redlantern, a righteous rebel in a society which never took a bite of the forbidden fruit of knowledge. Oppressive and terrifying in its credibility, it explores a society stunted by its vague adherence to the rules written down by “our mother and father”. Genetic disorders are rife as a result of inbreeding, formal education has long been abandoned and innovation is seen as a threat to tradition.

The plot is genuinely compelling as you become caught up in the events building up to and following on from John Redlantern’s expulsion from the Family, but for me the most interesting aspects of Beckett’s new world were the cleverly imagined language shift which sees the nascent development of a new grammar system and a new vocabulary which takes account of the Family’s very different environment (especially the conflict between older and younger members of society when it comes to words relating to chronology- older members preferring concepts such as years, but younger members referring to wakings and wombtimes which are a more measurable concept in their sunless world) and the bastardization of Earth history which sees the family believing that Hitler killed Jesus, and some members of the Family looking to Hitler as a positive role model in times of conflict.

It’s an interesting read for anyone interested in dystopian fiction and narrative. John Redlatern’s habit of considering how his present actions will be interpreted by future generations and the pointed counter-analysis of his character by Tina Spiketree add an extra dimension to a genre which has often been accused of flat characterisation.

Cover design nerds will appreciate the clever effect that has been used to make rainbows play across the cover- I hadn’t seen this done before, is it a special laminate or foil?

dark eden chris beckett cover effect

 

Book Jewellery- Best Bits for Readers

While putting together my Christmas list for Santa (yes, I’ll believe if it gets me presents…) I’ve come across some amazing book related jewellery that I’ve just had to share. So if you’re looking for some bling for the bookworm in your life, the trinkets below are a good place to start:

 

Fans of the written word will get a lot of attention with these amazing fountain pen earrings from Etsy which are made from vintage 14k gold antique pen nibs and are a bargain at £.9.57

 

 

 

 

 

I love this Alice in Wonderland Necklace inspired by The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party which is £12 from Notonthehighstreet, a bargain gift for any book lover.

 

 

 

 

Harry Potter fans with flowing locks may like this carved horn phoenix hair pin £15 from the V&A which looks like a wand and is reminiscent of Dumbledore’s favourite bird.

 

 

 

Sherlock Holmes fans will appreciate this quirky magnifying glass necklace, £25, but it’s a great gift for anyone who keeps misplacing their reading glasses as the dainty magnifying glass is a working model.

 

 

 

Fans of Patrick Rothfuss will be excited to receive their own set of Eolian Talent pipes, available from his website for $50. Whether that is any substitute for the long-awaited but yet-to-materialise third book, who can say.

 

 

Following on from the release of The Great Gatsby film earlier this year, you can get this adorable bow tie necklace with one of the best quotes from the novel for just £12.

 

 

 

 

 

This Alice in Wonderland brooch/pin £15 is super cute and would be great for keeping your scarf in place. I have trouble styling scarves (or anything) but a cool present for those who are a little more sartorially minded.

 

 

 

 

A pricey option at £85. this Galleon necklace from the V&A made me think of The Princess Bride, Peter Pan and every pirate story I’ve ever read. Very unusual and very cool.

 

 

 

Birdcages are still having a fashion moment, so this lovely Jane Eyre quote necklace is a must for Bronte fans at just £12.

 

 

 

 

This compass necklace with a quote from The Lord of The Rings would be a great gift for any Tolkien fan, not least one who is as excited as I am about the new Hobbit film (yes, even if they have changed it from the books…)

 

 

 

 

And for anyone who was looking for something a little more literal, check out these cute book necklaces:

Made from acid free paper and hand stitched, this little leather volume is rustic but cool.

 

While this simple silver design is fairytale cute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magical Books Exhibition at Bodleian Library Oxford

My exhibition leaflet

My exhibition leaflet

Yesterday afternoon I took a detour while shopping in Oxford to drop into The Bodleian Library’s exhibition of Magical Books. As with any Bodleian library exhibition, this did not disappoint. It was so exciting to see hand written manuscripts, art work and artefacts that some of my favourite writers created or were inspired by.

Along with the usual suspects like C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkein and Philip Pullman who you would expect to see at an Oxford based exhibition of fantasy literature, there were some real gems that I hadn’t expected to see like medieval manuscripts on divination, the Rawlinson necromantic manuscript and, my personal favourite, the plates which inspired Alan Garner’s The Owl Service.

We read The Owl Service when I started secondary school and I can remember how I used to get told off for reading ahead in lessons when we were meant to be reading along with the class. It’s the first time I’d really appreciated that a story was updating and twisting an ancient myth into something new and modern (even though the book was at least 30 years old by the time I read it). I think that this is where my love of fairy tale and myth inspired novels has come from so it was really nice to be able to trace out the flower owls like Alison did in the story.

Unfortunately, I’m not able to share any pictures from the exhibition here, but the lovely people at the Bodleian have made the entire exhibition available online for anyone who wasn’t able to make it to Oxford to see it.

Jane Austen Stamp

I’ve probably mentioned that I’m not the biggest Jane Austen fan in the world but this stamp really brightened my day when it arrived on a letter in work:

Jane Austen Anniversary Stamp

Sense and Sensibility Stamp

Isn’t it sweet? This is why I should post more letters. Then I might receive more of the same!

View from my desk

When I arrived in work this morning, it had snowed and the view of the trees from my desk was the prettiest it has ever been. I took a picture of it at lunchtime to send to my boyfriend, and was quite impressed with the silhouettes of some of our more recent books as they stacked up against the snowy scene outside so I thought I would share it with you too:

Books, trees and snow

Books, trees and snow

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

Jacob Portman always thought his grandfather’s tale about fleeing from Poland to escape monsters who he later went on to fight was something like a fairy, a tale he’d concocted to articulate the horrors of life during World War II to his small grandson. But when Jacob is sixteen, a horrible family tragedy occurs. Soon, Jacob finds himself travelling from Florida to Wales, in search of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It isn’t long before he begins to wonder whether there might have been more truth in his grandfather’s stories than he could possibly have imagined.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a haunting fusion of photography and narrative. It represents a labour of love for Ransom Riggs (is this his real name? it’s amazing) and his fellow collectors who salvaged the vintage photographs which are a key part of this eerie scrapbook novel. Though the photographic element of the novel is compelling, this is in no way a gimmick to sell an inferior piece of writing. The story and characters would be engaging on their own, but the photographs do add a disturbing realism to this tale of the paranormal. The designer and production team deserve some kind of award, it’s a real work of art.

Upon finishing this novel, I not only wanted to know when the follow-up is due(Quirk Books has an untitled Miss Peregrine sequel as being available from June 2013, no cover design as yet) but found myself wanting to know more about the improbably named and wholly brilliant Ransom Riggs. Wikipedia tells me that he is an American author, but he must have spent some time around the Welsh because even as an enthusiastic (and slightly prickly) Welshie, I found myself laughing at the realistic representations of Anglo-Welsh dialect “I said shaddap, ya dozy bastards” and the slightly Chavvy boy rappers Dylan and Worm, who might easily have been inspired by Maggot and his friends in Goldie Lookin’ Chain.

Not only am I looking forward to reading about Ransom Riggs’ peculiar children, but I will be experimenting a bit more with titles from Quirk Books. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a little gimmicky for my liking, but I think that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children demonstrates a genuine commitment to a more experimental type of publishing and they have to be applauded for this.

I’m really excited about some of the promising sequels being released in 2013!

Everything Oz Review and Book Giveaway

I know that when I went to see Wicked I mentioned that I had a slight obsession with The Wizard of Oz when I was growing up. This may have been something of an understatement.

As well as naming my rabbit and guinea pig Dorothy and Scarecrow, walking around quacking songs from the musical (I might even share footage of this one day) and watching the film on repeat until it wore out, I insisted upon having Wizard of Oz themed birthday parties and for a while would only wear red shoes. For Halloween I dressed up as a witch, every year. I wouldn’t let my little sister dress as anything else either. My grandfather taught in a secondary school that had a production of The Wizard of Oz when I was about two and I went along to watch and meet the cast. It may have been the best moment of my life ever, though I was terrified of the cowardly lion. It’s one thing to have a lion on the TV, but to meet one in person? Terrifying.

Terrifying

Though I have overcome my initial fear of people dressed up as lions, I haven’t really grown out of my Wizard of Oz obsession. I have a Wizard of Oz tray, glasses and mugs. When I had my operation in November, a friend from work bought me a sing-a-long Wizard of Oz DVD. I have been banned from watching this when my boyfriend is at home.

In light of this, you can probably imagine how excited I was when my favourite craft authors  Christine Leech and Hannah Read-Baldrey who wrote Everything Alice (and unwittingly led to my house being overrun with lavender-scented dormice…) brought out their new craft book Everything Oz: The Wizard Book of Makes & Bakes. I’ve been feeling rubbish all week with some kind of evil tonsil virus, but when my copy of Everything Oz landed on my doorstep it lit my little world up. It is better than I ever hoped for. I am so excited to start on some of the crafts in there- they will be perfect for making the house and garden very much me. And everything will go beautifully with the “There’s no place like home” print my boyfriend’s sister Laura got me.

This is an absolute must have for any fan of Dorothy and Oz. Since I want to make absolutely everything in the book, I’ve been trying to narrow down my favourites to decide which to start with (I will obviously end up making myself the ruby slippers, but I will need to build up to these). It hasn’t been easy, I’ve even roped my boyfriend in to help me make the final selection, but here goes:

Dress up Dorothy and Toto from Everything Oz, published by Quadrille Press

1. Dress-Up Dorothy and Toto

This doll is unbelievably cute, especially when dressed in her little lion mask on page 13 of the book. I would have loved a doll like this when I was little. As it is I’ve been looking for some nice book ends for my dining room bookshelf for a while now and haven’t been able to find any that I’ve really loved, so when I make this little lady I will fill her with rice or lentils to give her a bit of weight and let her do the job. I will let you see her when she’s done. I think she’ll do a great job.

2. Toto Cushion

Not only does this look incredibly snuggly and cute, but it is the perfect way to recycle the many, many jumpers and cardigans my boyfriend has shrunk recently. He’ll also make a great Christmas present for my mother who has a Scottie and is very slightly bats about them, and my older sister who will appreciate the Radley look (while my bank account appreciates the break).

3. The Decorated Dog House

If my enthusiasm for all things Oz hasn’t made you doubt my sanity, the next thing I’m about to say will. I have an imaginary corgi called Mr Whiffles. So far, so bonkers. But fear not dear readers, I remain in possession of most of my wits- I know that I don’t really have a corgi called Mr Whiffles. I just talk to my boyfriend as though I do in the hope that he will let me have a corgi in a desperate attempt to stop his friends thinking I’m madder than a hatter… a cunning plan I assure you. Anyway, when I have Mr Whiffles, you can rest assured that I will make him this absolutely gorgeous dog house to sleep in. If it transpires that I will not be allowed a Mr Whiffles any time soon, I’ll make one for my rabbit and train her as a dog. Creative solutions, that’s what we’re about here.

4. The Cowardly Lion Hand Puppet

He is so cool, and really makes me wonder how I could ever have been scared of the poor cowardly lion. I think he’d make a great toy for amusing a baby, and I’m pretty sure that my niece who is nearly four would have a great time with him. I have a soft spot for Wizard of Oz themed puppets. After I was run over I had to spend an entire summer in hospital, and my Dad (who is incredibly crafty and a great artist) made me a marionette wicked witch. She’s probably at home in Wales still. I’ll have to dig her out. In addition to the cowardly lion puppet, there are some really simple cut out and split pin puppets which would make a lovely rainy afternoon project for little crafters.

5. The Oz Apothecary

After all of this crafting I intend to do, I am going to have to make everything in the Everything Oz bath time section to chill me out that little bit more than I already am. There’s a great range of lovely looking things including Put a Brave Face on It Skin Tonic which will be good for my dry skin and allow me to make use of the glut of roses in my garden. I also fancy the delightfully named Sleepy-Time Salt Scrub with Lavender but the thing I’m really excited about is the Face Mask of Eternal Youth which looks like it will make something similar to an overpriced product I buy too often in Lush. The savings start here!

Quadrille have very kindly supplied me with a copy of this book to give away to a lucky reader. To be in with a chance of winning it, send an email with the subject header Everything Oz Competition to bookandbiscuit(atsign)hotmail.co.uk replacing the (atsign text) with an @ to outwit those pesky spammers by July 16th 2012.

1850 Copy of David Copperfield

When I visited my boyfriend’s grandparent’s a few weekends ago, his grandfather (who has the most amazing ability to remember hundreds of lengthy poems by rote) very kindly gave me this 1850 version of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. He said he thinks it might be a first edition, and it is certainly a very early one. I love that it has so much history.

Autocorrected to show title on spine

The poor book is showing its age though, as you can see in the pictures below. I’m going to take it for conservation work to prevent it becoming any more damage and to hopefully buy it a little more time. Luckily a father of a good friend of mine works as a librarian and was able to recommend a reputable conservator.

Damaged spine

I hope that in a few weeks I will be able to show you a much happier looking little book.