Judging a book by it’s cover

I’m sure your mother told you, NEVER judge a book by it’s cover but sometimes,  I have to disagree; of course you can judge a book by its cover. That’s precisely what the covers of books are for. Judging the book.

That’s how you know what the book is called and who wrote it, and there’s often even plot synopsis on the back. Whether there’s a picture of a pirate clutching a booby lass with their blouses blowing in the wind, or a knight confronting a fire-breathing dragon in the cover illustration, you’re going to get a fairly accurate impression of the genre and I feel this can be a good start.

Despite trying not to, it can sometimes be tempting to judge a book by its cover. Hooded figure? Science fiction. Black background and grey font? Erotica. Silhouetted man? Thriller featuring a renegade who, damn it, doesn’t play by the rules. Let’s face it, we all do!

I’ve found these are some common themes on book cover art and styling:

Nonfiction advice or self-help books often display a picture of the author-as-expert, surrounded by a blocky title font.

Literary novels often feature a whimsical, decorated, or cursive-stylized title font, with soft shades of colour and possibly a contemplative picture or imagery.

Romance novel covers usually have a man or woman (or both), no doubt locked in a close embrace, passionate gaze, or another “love” position…

Thrillers or action/adventure covers display the author’s name and title in big, bold lettering, superimposed on a graphical representation of a main story element.

Most readers—me included—will pick a book off the shelf because its cover interests us: the title intrigues; the cover illustration attracts; the author’s name is one we trust.

If you don’t know the author of the book, the nature—and implied promise—of the cover becomes even more important.

If the book does not deliver on the promise of the cover, it will fail with many readers despite its value. A broken promise is still a broken promise. I say cover, not necessarily the back jacket blurb, because the front cover is our first and most potent introduction to the quality of the story inside. How many of us have picked up a book, intrigued by its alluring front cover, read the blurb that seemed to resonate with the title and image, then upon reading our cherished purchase been disillusioned with the story and decided we disliked it and its author?

This is because, as readers, from the moment we pick up a book, we engage in an agreement with the story’s author (but in actual fact with the entire publishing company) for a story whose promise we have interpreted from its cover image, title and blurb. It begins with the cover. A book’s cover is its sales pitch: “This is what I’m about!” the cover proclaims in shades of colour and texture. The cover sets the tone and attitude with which a reader will interpret the book’s title and back jacket blurb and it’s interior.

I feel that the take home lesson for readers and shoppers is this: don’t judge a book by its cover; certainly pick up the book if it looks interesting, then read with an open mind and let the story take you to where it needs to, despite what you may have expected from the false advertising. Chances are, the unexpected journey visited upon you may be a welcome surprise. And don’t blame the writer for something he didn’t have control over.

I know that recently in a lot of bookshops I’m seeing a lot of Blind Date with a Book which is an idea I love, I have been trying to expand my “normal” reading routine and things like this really help. You get a synopsis of the book and a brief overview but with no preconceptions, you might be able to find a new gem!

I am seduced by beautiful covers, by intriguing covers, by covers that know what they’re doing and by covers that have a little mystery. Right or wrong, covers are usually what I see first – they are what prompt me to look inside and find out more. They are just a part of the story, but are they the start of the story or the end? I find cover design endlessly fascinating, but ultimately it’s up to me how I use the information covers provide, the clues they drop and the temptations they offer. Right or wrong, I’m going to assume a cover featuring a vampire is going to mean a story about vampires, but what do covers say to you?

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2019 Reading Challenge

So, in an effort to a) expand my reading and b) prompt me to write more about the books I read, I decided at the start of the year to sign up and actually use the Good Reads site – ok, i’ve been on there for 7 years apparently but this year is the year i’m really challenging myself to be better.

I’ve set myself a challenge to read 40 books this year. To be honest, that isn’t that many, so longs as I get the time to read and have the impetus. Those who have read previous blogs know that I have many issues with writers block so I wanted to do a total I could hit, as opposed to setting myself up for failure.

I think for this blog, I’ll list the books I’ve read so far and a little bit about each one, I am aiming to properly blog about some books which have specifically stuck with me but for now, simply as it’s been so long since I did any consistent blogging.

I decided that the easiest way to break myself in would be to write about what I’ve read so far and give a basic idea of what I thought:

  • Googlewhack Adventure –  not a new read for me, but still a good one, especially when suffering from insomnia as I need books I know well to be able to drop off – reading a new book whilst not being able to sleep is a definite no no for me, the yearning to find out what happens would mean I’d never sleep! Following on from Too Much Information, this shows the comic genius of Dave Gorman and also makes me feel that my stupid challenges to myself are really not that bad!
  • The Librarian of Auschwitz – This was a really wonderful book. As a book lover, the fight people put in to make sure such wondrous items were available in such a dark place in our history, made me feel quite emotional. I know that there is a certain amount of creative license in this book but the story was engaging, deep, emotional and affirming.
  • The Fifth Elephant – another classic from my collection. Pratchett holds a very special place in my heart and there are so many themes he has hit on and managed to put things into a story which actually reflect well the world around us, but with a bit of Terry’s special magic.
  • The Shepherds Crown – The last Discworld novel, so one I had been putting off for years. A good read and despite the sadness that the book itself carries, it has some wonderful storylines, views and is quintessentially Pratchett.
  • LA candy – a book by Lauren Conrad. Ok, I’ll admit it, this was bought for a quid in the local poundland when I was looking for something to read on a bus journey. Turns out, didn’t even take that long! I quite enjoyed this, despite it basically being her writing about her time on “The Hills” with new character names thrown in.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole – a memoir by Holly Madison. Another guilty not guilty pleasure! I came to the Girls Next Door series relatively late (6 months off work and pretty much unable to walk will do that to a woman!!) so to read a book by one of the main characters really appealed to me. I’ll be honest, I think a lot of cleansing has gone on (that or the author is trying to sell her side as much less sleazy then it was) but for me, I found the book interesting. I know that there are a lot of negative reviews out there about this, but I will do my best to not just rip it to pieces.
  • Jingo – ok, I’m seeing a pattern developing here. I always have a Pratchett on the go, no matter what else I’m reading as sometimes I just want to slip into a comfy read and then just let the familiar comfort wash all over me! Yet another excellent example of Terry taking a common theme here on Earth and applying it to the Disc. Here, racism and war is looked at through the Turtle shaped lens.
  • I am Pilgrim – I first read this book a few years ago and it is a great thriller. I feel it’s one of the “Da Vinci Code”-esque style of books, terrorism, science, religion and a lot of contrasting views each of which has good and bad points. I would recommend this to anyone who is after a book to read on the beach somewhere. There’s enough there to get you through a week and plenty of drama to keep you hooked – I even found upon multiple reads that the story has so many different things to take in, each read gives you something new to think about.
  • Meg – When this film came out last year it automatically ticked a lot of my boxes – massive animals, Jason Statham punching stuff, drama, thrills etc. I still haven’t actually seen the film but when I saw this book in a charity shop, I just had to grab it. It was actually more interesting than I thought it would be, some science which seems to make sense and some interesting facts that make me go “oooooh” whilst reading. I’m not going to say the story is the most believable but it was a good old romp of a book that once I’d finished it did make me want to hunt out the rest of the series!
  • I shall wear Midnight – I decided before Xmas that I would read the final Tiffany series from the Discworld. I’d been putting them off for a long time so these books were a long time coming but I feel glad to have done so, they were kept for their rightful time.
  • Chavs – I’ve been a fan of Owen Jones for a really long time and have wanted to read this book for years, for whatever reason I haven’t been able to find it and when I tried to read non – fiction before, my short term memory wouldn’t allow it – nothing more frustrating than starting a book and having to re read each page about 4 times before it went in! – anyway, I have finally read it and it made some really good points as to the state of the world we are currently living in! I know not everyone would agree but there were a lot of points he had used which makes sense to me and I feel this helps me formulate and cultivate my own ideas and views and gives me more reason to fight for the things I do.
  • Wintersmith – A really special Terry Pratchett book, probably my favourite of the newer books I hadn’t previously read. A very interesting and compelling story and another book where Terry showed what a brilliant story teller he was. In “Wintersmith” Tiffany makes a mistake that draws the attention of the elemental who controls winter. The beauty in this is that it’s not the sort of plot motivating accidents and serendipity guiding series like Harry Potter, where characters are essentially powerless and shuttled through circumstances beyond their control. This entire story comes about because Tiffany screws up and must deal with the consequences. I would heartily recommend this book to a fan of Pratchett, maybe not as a starter story but definitely they’re heading in a new direction.
  • A Hat full of sky – This is more of the same for this subseries – which is a good thing! More adolescent witch adventures, more growing up too fast, more dry humour with teeth underneath.
  • The Shakespeare Secret – A book in the Da Vinci Code style of writing, but set in the Uk (mostly) and chasing up the lost plays of Shakespeare. I’d say this is a book that came about simply due to the popularity of the DVC, it’s a good thriller, with some interesting historical parts and it does bring up points that make me think more about the authors named within the story itself. Another possible beach page turner I think.
  • The Antipope – Robert Rankin is one of those authors I discovered around the same time as Pratchett, but Rankin is odder, more random and dryly funny, more humour is found in his style of writing as opposed to puns and observational humour. I find his writing tickles me in silly ways, and his use of language is amazing.  It is Rankin’s first novel, and the first book in the Brentford Trilogy (which, as of July 2010, consists of 9 novels – see what I mean? Mad a box of frogs!! but brilliant fun too) and a book I am happy to go back to and restart the madness again and agin.

So there you have it, a little bit about what I’ve read thus far in 2019. Not as many as I would normally have read but as |’ve previously said, the reading is the easy part about having a book blog!

Have you got any reading challenges this year? Let me know how you’re doing and how you’re finding it, we can all spur each other on!

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Write about a book you love, and one you don’t really like……

This is a toughie because all books I’ve read i’ve been able to find something positive, even for those books that my brain tried to stop me reading.

I adore books, in general I’ve always had a better relationship with books than with humans so this is actually going to be tough to think about just one book that I love and just one that I dislike, or at least, like less.

I think for once I’m going to write about books that aren’t Pratchett – more than anything to prove I can haha – so the book I will write about as one I love is Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (ok, sorry, I tried!)

good omens

I found this book brilliant, I was obsessed with Pratchett and this just introduced me to another one of my (now) favourite authors.

The subject of the end of days shouldn’t be funny, but the way this story comes together, there is humour, pathos, satire and it is remarkably easy to read. I’ve met a couple of people who read and didn’t like or enjoy the telling but most people i’ve lent this to tend to spend time giggling or snorting out loud in public (seriously, don’t read this on a bus unless you don’t care what people think) and then buying me a new copy as they keep it or pass on to other people.

I don’t want to spoil the story for those who haven’t read it and for those who are saving themselves for the TV series but for me, this is a book I can finish, and then just start again. I find if very difficult not to like a book about how plans for Armageddon hit a snag when a scatterbrained Satanic nun misplaces the Antichrist and about a clairvoyant witch of the Nutter family.
The characters of Aziraphale and Crowley are a brilliant dynamic and I’d like to think that if there were such things as Angels and Demons, this is how they would be, stuck on a planet together for thousands of years, thrown together and after so many years, of course they find something in common – even if that’s just fine dining and feeding ducks. It’s even a book where Kids don’t irritate me, the Them as they are known should be in some kind of Norman Rockwell world but are still brilliant, fun and makes me yearn for that kind of youth – unfortunately now long gone.

I would recommend this book to anyone, i’ve gone through 4 or 5 copies of this by doing that but am pleased to be passing this info on and hopefully igniting new passions in my friends.

Ok, a book I didn’t like as much, hmmm, I could write about a few different books here, for example, Harry Potter. Ok, before you all shout me down about how “they’re the best books ever” they “introduced reading to a whole new generation” blah blah blah I know that’s what a lot of people think but the first 3 books in the series (which were the only ones I could force myself to finish) were written for children, so when I get adults preaching at me about the quality of writing etc, it tends to rub me the wrong way. Whilst I do appreciate a new generation of readers, I don’t think that the writing was of sufficient quality to rave about as an adult……but then, saying that, a lot of people I know read and seemed to actually enjoy the writing in 50 Shades of Grey (and if you haven’t spent loads of time reading the negative reviews of this on Amazon, you’re missing out!) but anyway, I digress.

A book I like less, would be Stephen King’s IT.

IT COVER.JPG

This is a great book, a brilliant story, but for me, a common problem I have had with Stephen King is that he seems to lose steam halfway through the story. It’s a real shame because I want a thrilling book, which I can absorb, become part of but the last third of this is like he’s run out of ideas and is just scratching the bottom of the barrel to reach the required word count. It’s a real shame as the premise of this speaks to my soul (clowns terrify me) and it’s one of those books that I do enjoy but get tired of.

Some parts were truly creepy at first and initially, as often happens with King, I couldn’t put it down. But then, as also often happens with King, it hits a brick wall and becomes so over-long and has so many unnecessary elements that get in the way of the main story that it becomes a bloated, endless chore to finish. People often say they hate the ending of this book…I did not hate it or love it. I had checked out at that point and simply wanted it to be over no matter who lived or died or whether they defeated It or not.

This book is at least 300 pages too long and that is the least that could have been completely cut out without hurting the story in the slightest. Included in those 300+ pages are some particularly disturbing sequences and elements which were just sickening, unnecessary and, to me, actually took away from the main story.

So, what do you guys say? Have a book you love (or one you hate) that you HAVE to tell people about? What’s the first book you would lend out of your library? Or of course, if you hated Good Omens or love IT, why not try and sway my thoughts? I’m always happy to talk about books with people and have different views to my own.

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Reading as a child

I was obsessed with reading as a kid, I mean, pretty much all of my life as a younger person I was safe when I was surrounded by books. My brother and I were really lucky as kids but once he left home, I felt a lot lonelier and retreated more into the safety of books, this was only compounded by being the weirdo, the loner, the one who just generally was not liked by kids – that’s not 100% true, my friends were always and always have been amazing – but there were a lot of bullies who found me an ideal target to harass.

My mum says that even as a kid, she knew reading was a big thing for me because i’d read the back of packets, the papers, even when we went shopping, she knew I would take myself off to the paper/books area and just perch myself down and read. I got through countless books in this style which i’m sure the supermarket was thrilled about!

I had an excellent little book set as a child of the entirety of Beatrix Potter’s tales, all mini hardback with gorgeous artwork and they were kept in a special box, this was something that until very recently I have always had with me. I’ve never even dreamed of having kids so i’ve never really known what to do with them but you know when you have something childish yet wonderful that you can’t imagine being without? I think I gave them back to my mum and asked her to sell it, or at least find a home for them where hopefully they will bring as much joy to someone else as they did to me

beatrix 2

I was obsessed with Enid Blyton as a child, The Tales of the Faraway Tree made me wish for excitement, and new friends, and talking trees – ok, the last of those may have been less possible that the first two – and made me see magic in the oddest of places. She made me look at things differently and I’m sure that seeing creatures, clouds and trees and beginning to apply anthropomorphic characteristics to them comes from her.  Plus another joy of a group of friends who stuck together through everything, through thick and thin was appealing to me, I know I had a small group of friends at that point of my life and we used to do similar escapades when we could – going on bike rides, building forts, just playing and imagining what our lives were going to be.

malory

I included Jennings and Derbyshire in this list as although they were not specifically favourites of mine, they have a very special place in my heart as mum used to read them to me when I was in the bath as a kid. I used to love them and for a long time kind wanted to live in that jolly hockey sticks, ginger beer kind of world. I think maybe my obsession with Mallory Towers and the Twins at St Clair’s also started around this time and made me consider that that kind of life was an option – which at no point was it but I always remained hopeful!!

jennings

Reading back the previous list this is all sounding a bit 50s housewife dream kind of style of reading, I swear I read other things too! Like Point Horror – which I’ve no idea are still in existence or if you are younger than me and now asking yourself “what the fudge is a point horror?” but before I started reading lets say, more adult horror stories like Stephen King and Shaun Hutson (if you’ve not read his stuff and like some gore and mental horror then he’s a good person to investigate); I was a bit obsessed with a sort of horror light. It was a series of books which tended to be passed around my group of friends and mostly they were mild frights but for some reason I can remember one book (weirdly my brain has scrubbed over most of the details – including the name) which really terrified me! Well worth it to be scared in the middle of the day with all the lights on….I’m too much of a coward nowadays to read books like that anymore!

point 1

We moved to Spain when I was 14 and thankfully I got a lot of books as leaving gifts from people, these became my closest friends when I arrived as I spent so long stressing about not being able to hold even the most basic of conversations without massive pauses and a dictionary so the joy of just being able to open a book and not have to worry was a joy. This is where my love of Pratchett came from. I’d read some beforehand but they really took hold of my imagination at that point. As I said, I really relished having books I could read without having to worry about not being clever enough – which is how I always felt when speaking to people.

I know I’ve banged on about Pratchett in many of my blogs and #PratchettPostal is actually going really well (i’m buying up second hand copies or cheapish bundles from fleabay, advertising them on twitter and then sending them out to fellow fans/new readers. He was such an influence and support to me that I would love to pass that on. If you’ve never read Pratchett you’re missing out but if you are on twitter, come find me at @polmoose83 and maybe come get yourselves a new book – or just come and say hey anyway, I love to have many people around to talk to!

So there we have it, once again, no real specifics but many different options. I would love to be more of a book reviewer in specifics and have read a few good book blogs which have inspired me but currently I’m not sure i’m good enough at specifics and writing my views. We shall see what 2019 has to offer in the way of challenges.

Upcoming reads

I’ve started (as those who’ve read my previous posts) a reading challenge for the year but until I managed to actually get my ass down to the local library I’m going to read as much as possible and try to push me out of my standard reading comfort zone.

My mum and dad bought me for Christmas a copy of one of the Terry Pratchett books I hadn’t actually read yet, the Long Earth series is amazing but very different to the Disc and to be honest, silly though it may sound I’ve always been a bit worried to read it. I love the Disc for it’s whimsy, for the way he looked at the world and held up a mirror to the world and for the way it ALWAYS felt comfortable, and safe. I’m not sure the Long Earth is like that as the writing was shared with Stephen Baxter (someone I have never read) but I’m quite looking forward to the challenge and also to have some Pratchett I’ve never read.

I (in the same vein) also have bitten the bullet and started reading the last 5 books in the Discworld (the Tiffany Aching series) which until now has always brought me to tears to even consider actually reading. I always put it off because I feel I’d have no more Terry, ever again and that thought really scared me, I mean, I KNOW that sounds foolish but that’s the truth, I feel scared to not have that kind of safety coming ever again. But after enough time – and being told by enough people that reading the books are the point of it all. He would be happy to know i’m still reading which I suppose does make sense but we shall see how long they take me!! I’ve read the first two now but will have a bit of a gap before cracking on with the third, I am aiming that this blog isn’t totally Terry centric…….wish me luck!

I popped back into my office today to run a report and to find that someone had left a book on my desk for me to read and see if I liked, I’m not sure about it yet but I’m very much looking forward to amending my reading habits abit over the year and seeing what other Genres I find which might consume me as much.

I will read and then spend some time thinking about my views but I will do my best to do as many reviews as possible. Probably not ridiculously in depth but definitely I’m always up for new books, new challenges and if there’s things you’ve always wanted to know about a book and I read it (or you suggest it) please, drop me a line.

Genuinely, if people have suggestions, let me know in the comments and who knows, if you send me interesting ideas, you might pass on a new love to me 🙂

The Journey Begins

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Well Hello & Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

Books have always been an escape for me, a freedom from the world which isn’t always particularly nice and a good way to hide from responsibility! I think i’ve always been obsessed with the written word, the way people can form ideas, descriptions, pictures and simply transport me away from the real world is a real talent – one I don’t have but one I am very willing to learn from. I can remember my mum talking about me as a child being so into reading that I would read everything, ingredient lists, the paper, her books and novels – ok so Stephen King at 8 or 9 may not have been the best, but at least neither of them every told me I couldn’t read something so I’ve never held with “reading ages” or specific genre snobbery. I’m just happy to be able to read and relish.

I decided to start this as I’ve started blogging more (see my other page – halfbakedproductions.blog for more random non book related stuff) and given my obsession with reading, this seemed like a logical leap to take.

I’m starting with a reading challenge (see below) but am also looking for suggestions, inspiration and introductions to new authors so if you see something or have someone in mind that you’re burning to share, please do – EVERY suggestion welcome.

So yes, thank you for joining me and welcome to this new adventure, I’m hoping that 2019 will be fun, cozy and book filled.

READING CHALLENGE 2019