Peter Mendelsund’s WHAT WE SEE WHEN WE READ

9780804171632I read this after listening the fabulous Bookrageous Podcast which read and discussed the book for their book club and then interviewed the author. It is a fascinating look at what is happening inside our minds when we read. The author, Peter Mendelsund, is a book designer for Knopf in the US but also has a background in music. He uses his knowledge of design, music and books to explore and to try and make sense of what happens when we read books.

The book itself is intricately designed. There is no way an ebook or other digital edition could do the way the book is presented justice and I highly recommend completely avoiding this book in any other form than print. The text is interspersed with illustrated examples and cues and the form and use of text is also important in conveying the processes reading has on our minds.

I never do this but I found myself marking numerous pages as I ploughed through this book and ended up reading the book in a day. We all have a sense of what we think happens when we read. For many people they describe it as like seeing the movie in their head and most of this book debunks this “myth”. Much of what prompts our imaginations when we read are not visual descriptions but instead other signifiers and traits that stimulate memories of familiar places, people and experiences. More often than not we fill in gaps that aren’t given to us on the page. However I did wonder if your life has had fewer experiences does this limit or diminish the effect a book can have on your imagination? Or is it the opposite? Are our imaginations more free if they are not limited by experience?

The book shows that reading provokes our minds and senses unlike any other medium. Different books (fiction, non-fiction) and different genres (mystery, literary) do this in many different ways. Peter Mendelsund likened this to travelling down a road. Some roads we fly down in our cars while others we walk down more slowly. Some roads (and therefore books) are designed to be travelled slowly and allow closer inspection and reflection. Some roads/books are designed to be quick and driven through at speed. Things rush past because the destination is more important than the surrounds. And some roads/books are both.

One of the things I began thinking about while reading this book was that it would form the basis of an interesting study on the differences between print books and ebooks and how readers interact with them. A lot has been made regarding the impact reading on tablets has on our eyes and brains but there is nothing I’m aware of that looks at whether there are any different mechanics in how we read print versus digital. Two examples Mendelsund uses in the book look at how our eyes and minds actually read ahead. I have occasionally caught myself doing this and have found myself unable to do this with an ebook because of single page layout and lag when “turning” a page. The other example is daydreaming while reading. I find I also do this while reading certain books but much more rarely if I am reading an ebook.

This book made me think a lot about my own reading and I can’t wait to look out for examples when I read my next novel. One of the great mysteries for me as a reader is what makes a book grab me and what makes me put a book down. The processes Mendelsund outlines in this book have given me a greater understanding of what is happening in my head when a book magically grabs me and what is not happening when I just can’t get into a book. I think this book would also give writers a fascinating insight into their craft and the reactions and mechanics words on a page stir up inside readers’ heads. The what and how a character or setting is described is just as important as how each is not described. That balance between the two is the magic, readers and writers alike, endlessly pursue.

Buy In Store

Buy Online

Download

Listen

pnpcurl boomerang icon kobo_icon-100x100 audible
FREE Shipping
Use promo code
bitethebook

 

 

 

 

 

ISBN: 9780804171632
ISBN-10: 0804171637
Classification: Literary reference works
Format: Paperback (203mm x 135mm x 23mm)
Pages: 448
Imprint: Vintage Books
Publisher: Random House USA Inc
Publish Date: 15-Aug-2014
Country of Publication: United States

Laura Lippman’s HUSH HUSH

hush-hushI am not a fan of long running crime series. While a recurring character can be like a familiar friend sometimes the longevity of a series means it falls into the realm of incredulity. Tess Monaghan was a character I fell in love with but was also quite happy when she was put on the back burner. Added to this is the fact that the stand-alone novels Laura Lippman started writing were truly exceptional and amazingly got better and better which meant Tess wasn’t too badly missed (although she did pop up from time to time in these stand-alone novels).

This is the 12th Tess Monaghan book but only the third one since 2008 (one of which was a novella). While I was not overly excited to see Tess return I was still keen to read as it had been a long while since last she appeared. And I have to say I did miss her. Not only was it great to have her back and refamiliarise with her sense of humour, appetite and life but I think this is one of the best Tess Monaghan novels yet.

9780062083425The last we saw of Tess she was pregnant and not enjoying it. We catch up with Tess three years later. Tess is balancing her life as a PI with her three-year old daughter Carla Scout and her de facto husband’s bar. Like all working families Tess’s life is in fine balance that is constantly tilted by the life of a toddler. Laura Lippman captures this balancing game brilliantly and Tess, despite a severe lack of confidence in herself, is perfectly suited for it.

Tess gets a case which she thinks is going to be perfect for paying the bills. A wealthy but controversial woman has returned to Baltimore from overseas. 12 years previously she gave custody of her two daughters to her husband after being found not guilty in the death of her third daughter by reason of insanity. She has returned to try to be a part of her now teenage daughters’ lives and to make a documentary film. Tess has been reluctantly hired to assess her security arrangements. A soft gig she takes despite misgivings about the woman’s intentions. But when strange notes begin being left for the woman and then quickly escalate Tess must try to put aside her own judgements to discover the truth. A truth no one wants to confront.

This novel is everything Laura Lippman has been doing so well in her standalone novels but this time with Tess Monaghan. Lippman takes a confronting but tragically all too familiar crime and explores the fallout, years later, for all those involved. Combined with the ups and downs of parenthood this is not only a page-turning addictive mystery but an exploration of motherhood and the lengths, good and bad, mothers will go to for their children.

Buy In Store

Buy Online

Download

Listen

pnpcurl boomerang icon kobo_icon-100x100 audible
FREE Shipping
Use promo code
bitethebook

 

 

 

 

Hardback
ISBN: 9780062083425
ISBN-10: 0062083422
Classification: Crime & mystery , Thriller / suspense
Format: Hardback (229mm x 152mm x 31mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: William Morrow & Company
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Publish Date: 24-Feb-2015
Country of Publication: United States

Paperback
ISBN: 9780571321407
ISBN-10: 0571321402
Classification: Crime & mystery
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 320
Imprint: Faber & Faber Crime
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publish Date: 2-Apr-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Ben Aaronovitch’s RIVERS OF LONDON

9780575097582I’d been meaning to get to this series all of 2014. After being totally amazed by both The Girl With All The Gifts and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August I asked the person the Australian publisher who had recommended them both what I could checkout next. And this was the series they said. So having failed to get around to it in 2014 I thought I’d kick off with book one first up in 2015.

I think part of the reason I kept putting off the series was the quote from Diana Gabaldon that the series was like “if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz”. Not because I have anything against a Diana Gabaldon quote (I am loving Outlander, can’t wait for Part 2 of Season 1 and now know why early in my bookselling career so many people kept asking for the next book in the series!). The reason I think I delayed was because I already had my “Harry Potter for Grown Ups” obsession in 2014; The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman. So two in one year didn’t feel right. So again, new year, new obsession. And I am definitely obsessed with this series.

To sum the book up it is a British police procedural full of wicked humour and a big dollop of magic. Peter Grant is a freshly minted police constable in the London Metropolitan Police Service. He’s hoping against hope he gets assigned somewhere glamorous and not given a boring desk job. When he attends a brutal murder scene and takes a witness statement from what turns out to be a ghost his concerns about a boring assignment are completely forgotten. Instead Peter is introduced to London’s underworld. No, not the underworld of gangs, drugs and crime but the underworld of wizards, vampires, nymphs and river gods. And things are not on the up and up in this under world. On top of territory disputes there are other tensions bubbling to the surface. Tensions that threaten to burst onto the streets of London in a full-scale riot. Peter must navigate through his new circumstances learning not only the craft of magic but careful diplomacy at the same time as tracking down a spirit which appears to be at the heart of all the violence and trouble that is slowly flooding the streets.

I am well hooked on this series and cannot wait to get into the rest of the books. The humour is that pitch perfect British variety that combines the sardonic with surreal in perfect balance and the blend of London history, real and magical makes for truly entertaining reading.

Buy In Store

Buy Online

Download

Listen

pnpcurl boomerang icon kobo_icon-100x100 audible
 FREE Shipping
Use promo code
bitethebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISBN: 9780575097582
ISBN-10: 0575097582
Classification: Fantasy
Format: Paperback (197mm x 131mm x 29mm)
Pages: 432
Imprint: Gollancz
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Publish Date: 25-Aug-2011
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Duane Swierczynski’s CANARY

9781444754186It’s been awhile between drinks for a Duane Swierczynski novel but as always it has been worth the wait. Straight away its like jumping on a runaway train with that instant pleasure of having no idea where Duane Swierczynski is going to take you this time.

After the brilliant insanity of the Charlie Hardie series Duane Swierczynski grounds this story in college in Philadelphia. Sarie Holland is an Honours student who stays well away from trouble. That is until she gives a friend a ride and is left holding the bag. Busted by the cops she’ll do anything to stay out of trouble including turning into a confidential informant. A role she quickly discovers she has a talent for.

The only problem is someone appears to be bumping off snitches and that’s when trouble doesn’t just come looking for Sarie it is literally hunting her on the streets of Philadelphia. Now this Canary must unearth the rat who is helping bump off Philly’s CI’s while keeping her family in the dark about her new after school job AND study for her final exams. You just know this isn’t going to end well for a lot of people. And in Duane Swierczynski’s hands that’s just the beginning of the fun.

This is probably Duane Swierczynski’s most conventional crime novel since The Wheelman (and yes there is a link if you keep your eyes open). Packed full of the humour, unpredictable plot twists and history of Philadelphia’s underbelly fans have to come to expect this is another original page-turner that keeps the throttle on full right until the end.

Buy In Store

Buy Online

Download

Listen

pnpcurl boomerang icon kobo_icon-100x100 audible

 

 

 

ISBN: 9781444754186
ISBN-10: 1444754181
Classification: Thriller / suspense
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 400
Imprint: Mulholland Books
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Publish Date: 26-Feb-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Celeste Ng’s EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU

9780349134284This is an incredible exploration of grief, family and identity and the pressures of expectations that come from each.

The book opens with a death, one that nobody else knows about yet, the death of Lydia Lee; middle child of Marilyn and James and sister to older brother Nathan and younger sister Hannah. Lydia’s death and its aftermath exposes the cracks and fault lines in the family life and tenuous relationships of the Lee family. Feelings and incidents that have gone unspoken all come bubbling to the surface as each family member tries to come to terms with the circumstances of Lydia’s death and the parts of her life they didn’t know about.

Celeste Ng tells the story in an intricate chronology that mixes together past, present and even the future all in a non-linear fashion. While this could get easily confusing in her hands you are never lost. Instead you slowly gain an insight into each member of the Lee family, their experiences, hopes and dreams. How those have shaped them and influenced others around them.

James Lee is from a Chinese background and Marilyn is not. Their relationship in 1950s America has been controversial with Marilyn ostracized by her mother following their marriage. James is a professor of American History who has always strived to fit into the country his parents adopted. Marilyn was a gifted scientist who gave up her academic studies to start a family with James. Both these experiences have fed into what each of them expects of, and for, their children.

While this is ultimately a very sad story it is also a moving and insightful story about the weight of identity. How that weight is put on us by people around us and how that weight is passed down generations and how the best intentions can have tragic and unforeseen consequences.

Buy In Store

Buy Online

Download

Listen

pnpcurl boomerang icon kobo_icon-100x100 audible

 

 

 

ISBN: 9780349134284
ISBN-10: 0349134286
Classification: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Format: Paperback (197mm x 125mm x 18mm)
Pages: 304
Imprint: Blackfriars
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 13-Nov-2014
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Monthly Blog Round up – December

My blog posts from December

9781472120151Roxane Gay’s AN UNTAMED STATE

One of the most uncompromising, unflinching, page-turning books I have read in a long time. It is a harrowing story that forces you to confront and challenge many important issues; gender, poverty, race and class to list but a few. Read more…

9781742614052John Birmingham’s RESISTANCE

John Birmingham takes up where he left off at the end of Emergence. Dave is enjoying a well-earned rest after the battle of New Orleans while the rest of the world is coming to terms with the fact that monsters (Orcs, dragons, super-sized bugs, you name it) are now among us and wanting to re-subjugate their old food source. However human technologies are proving more than difficult, if not impossible, for them to overcome. New hordes of monsters soon start popping out all over the world and Dave quickly realizes that superpowers do not mean he is infallible. In fact they can even make him a bigger arsehole that he was previously. Read more…

9781781254097Attica Locke’s PLEASANTVILLE

Attica Locke announced herself as a writer to watch with Black Water Rising and in her new novel she returns to her main character, Jay Porter. Fifteen years on Jay has built his legal career on the massive payout he won against Cole Oil. Even though they have yet to pay Jay’s reputation has seen him take on other similar cases in Texas and Arkansas. But the recent death of his wife has left Jay shaken and changed his priorities on life and his legal career is now at the bottom of that list. All of which is about to change whether Jay wants it to or not. Read more…

My Year in Reading – 2014

Firstly if you want to know what my favourite reads of the year were they are all listed here…

The last couple of years I have looked back at my year of reading and specifically looked at the gender balance. This year I decided to track my reading not just on gender but also format, genre and nationality. I did so using a spreadsheet which means *drumroll* charts!

image (2)

I read 75 books in 2014, 5 more than last year. In 2013 25% of my reading was by female authors, this dropped to 22%. Goodreads released an interesting infographic based on their data about the gender balance among female and male readers.

image (1)In previous years I did not measure what format I read in. Audio books appear in the lead but 56% of my reading was non-audio. My audio listening is high because I have a lot of time to listen to books. I listen to an audio book every morning when I walk the dog and on my drive to and from work, which depending on traffic gives me between 2 and 4 hours of audio books on work days.  Although Serial ate considerably into my audio book time.

image (3)There were no real surprise here. My Science Fiction reading has gone up considerably in recent years but Crime fiction is still my most favoured genre. My non fiction reading was particularly low this year. Poetry only made the grade because of Kevin Powers.

image (6)This one is glaringly obvious. My local reading is very poor and I have a huge bias to American fiction. I also don’t read enough international fiction either. I’m loathed to do a reading challenge but will try to make a conscious effort to read a bit more widely and push out of my comfort zones as well in 2015.