Wednesday 24 November 2010

"The Lovely Bones" Alice Sebold

Like "The Da Vinci Code" this book is one that I think most people know the story to whether they have read it or not. A young girl is murdered and then watches her family from heaven. I was a new bookseller when it first came out in paperback and was hugely popular then. As with other books this put me off reading it. To be honest the story didn't particularly appeal either and the popularity of her real life book "Lucky" also put me off. It's second life as the film came out also didn't induce me to read it. I had no interest in seeing the film. So why did I finally pick the book up? A friend encouraged me to. She said I should ignore the hype, open up my mind and give it a try.

Unfortunately I did. The first scene is the murder scene. I have read my fair share of crime and horror books and so this shouldn't have bothered me. It did though. I found it very difficult to read and more than a little disturbing. I think if I hadn't promised my friend I would have put it down. As it is thinking about it still disturbs me a little. As a result I found the first half of the book a very upsetting.

Once I had gotten over that I felt the second half of the book was just boring. It read like a very bad teen book. Again I have read my fair share of teen books both good and bad so I know a bad one when I see it. The family live their lives with the dead daughter watching on and that's pretty much it. Nothing else happens. Sure they are still affected by her death (what real life parent wouldn't be?) but not much changes after the half way point. The family didn't even get closure. Instead they moved on as best they could as did the daughter in heaven.

In case you hadn't guessed I didn't enjoy it at all but at least I gave it a chance. I honestly don't get what the fuss was about. I don't understand how anyone can get enjoyment out of it or why anyone would want to make a film never mind go and see it. I do think that the author has used this book as some sort of therapy for her own experiences (unconsciously I am sure). If that's the case and it helped then maybe that's a good thing. It's the only positive thing I can say about the book.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Two book reviews in a row! Don't thank me yet.

Twin girls have been left a flat and a small fortune by an aunt they knew nothing about. If they wanted the fortune though they had to live in the flat for a year and their mother was not allowed to step foot into the flat. The twins immediately agreed and set off for London. As well as cultural differences (the twins were from America) they had to put up with a crazy neighbour, their aunts elusive boyfriend and their aunts ghost.

Before I tell you my thoughts on this book I feel I should set up the background of me wanting to read it. From that you will probably guess my feelings for the book but I feel the need to share anyway. Everyone, apart from possibly cavemen, will have heard of the authors first book "The Time Travellers Wife". If you haven't you will at least have heard of the film which came out a few years later. I read the book when it first came out in paperback. Round about the time it was hitting popularity. A friend recommended it to me and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was well written. It had some adventure, some mystery, a touch of romance and a touch of despair. This was one of those books I couldn't put down despite not wanting to ever reach the end. That year it was my favourite book. I raved about it everywhere (including another blog I had at the time even though I didn't usually use it for book reviews). I encouraged friends to read it and I even sent it to a friend in France who also loved it. The only person I loaned it to who didn't like it was my mum (and I was so disappointed I may have insulted her at the time but she did only read two pages before giving up). It was one of those books that I loved and felt that all my friends would enjoy it too. This is a rarity since we all have such different tastes.

You can imagine my excitement last year when this new book came out. I felt at the time that it was a long time coming. Despite that I was willing to wait. See the first book was one of those that I loved curling up with. I can't do that with a hardback. They are pretty but not the comfiest things to hold. I decided I wanted to wait until the paperback came out. Knowing that I possibly had 6 months to a year to wait until then I avoided all reviews (my book industry knowledge does come in handy sometimes). I refused to read the back. I ensured that I learned nothing from friends who had read it. I was successful. By the time it came out in paperback I still knew nothing about the book other than it was about twins. My book group decided to read it when it first came out which was my excuse for buying yet another book. Half of us had read it already and the ones that had were actually very good about it. They refused to say anything as they wanted to hear what the half who hadn't read it thought.

I thought they were being good to us but turns out we might not have read it if we had listened to their opinions. This is quite possibly one of the worst books I have ever read. It borders on the absurd but not in a good way. The good way the absurd is usually intentional (and when that happens a classic can be created). In this case it wasn't. I could rhyme off everything I hated about it but I would be hear all day so I will only go into some of it. The characters first of all. Absolutely none of them were likable. Each and everyone was self absorbed and horrible. The problem is that I don't think they were meant to be. The only character I hoped would have a good ending was the crazy neighbour and his storyline was secondary to the plot. I know some people didn't like the fact that one of the twins fell in love with the aunts boyfriend. That didn't actually bother me so much. The age difference wasn't that bad and she never knew the aunt. What did bother me was that she dressed in her dead aunts clothes to go on their first date. No one in the book seemed to think there was anything disturbing about that. Then there was the plot so that one of the twins could gain independence from the other who was too controlling. In the normal world she would have waited out the last 6 months, taken her half of the money and then went on her merry way. Not quiet good enough for this book. No instead she faked her own death, which involved the mortuary agreeing to fake the embalming, only to have her body stolen by her aunt who turned out to be her mother. If that wasn't ridiculous enough the boyfriend knows what happened and isn't happy. He still runs off with the body stealing aunt and gets her pregnant. After setting up house and she then has the baby he decides he can't stand what she has done and does a runner. Since he knew about it from the start surely he wouldn't have run off with her in the first place!

As you can tell I was overwhelmingly disappointed with the book. I can't believe that this was the same author. There was actually a bidding war for publishing rights and a movie deal has been signed. I have also since learned that the reviews were all good and yet vague. It's almost as if no one can quite believe how bad the book actually is. I actually wanted to toss the book across the room after I finished. Thankfully I am not alone in this feeling. I have come across just one person who liked it. A friend returned her book straight to the store and the rest of us palmed our copies off to second hand book stores. There is no way I would pass it on to a friend. I like my friends too much. Sadly lots of people are going to buy the book. After the success of the first it's no surprise and the book was number one in the charts for a long time. I have learned my lesson however. I won't say I will never read a book by this author again as I still say the first one was good. I will be more cautious. There will be no more expectations of greatness. I will also probably just borrow a copy from the library rather than hand money undeservingly over to the publisher (authors generally make peanuts).

Saturday 16 October 2010

The Innocent by Ian McEwan

Yes, gasp in horror! After a month of all quiet I have another book review. That doesn't mean I have stopped reading. It has just taken me that long to write these. I now have a back list.

Leonard has moved away from home for the first time. He is excited and proud to be learning to live for himself. He is also going to be starting a new job as part of a surveillance team. A young and innocent Brit in the city of Berlin just after WWII. Culturally out of his comfort zone and away from his friends and family. Yet his (author would probably say innocence but I would say arrogance) doesn't let this enter his head. His innocence of other cultures and social and work situations get him into a bit of bother now and then. Nothing series other than a sharp reprimand from his only friend and boss. His ignorance of these things though mean he doesn't understand he has done anything wrong but instead feels hurt or angry. He also falls in love for the first time and once again his lack of knowledge gets him into a bit of bother. One horrible night though everything goes wrong and any innocence he had is stripped away. The events instead threaten not only his future but the future of the British-American surveillance team.

About a year ago now (possibly more than that) I finally got round to watching the film "Atonement". I had heard nothing but praise for the film. Whilst it didn't seem like my kind of thing the praise meant that I was curious (took a long time in curing that curiosity). I loved it! I don't mind admitting that I shed a tear or two and from then on was a fan of James McAvoy. By the following weekend I had also read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I found myself riveted to the war scenes which is also very unlike me (I skipped them when reading War and Peace). At the time I decided I would have to give his other books a try. To be honest that really doesn't mean much. I say that about a lot of new authors I try. I have good intentions but am always distracted by other books. There are too many new ones catching my eye so that I never get round to reading other authors back lists.

However, a while back I was at a second hand book sale. This one was still there by near the end and I felt I should take it home with me since out of most of the other book there this was actually a good author. I started it that weekend although the blurb at the back didn't really appeal to me. Once again I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Especially since I didn't find the main character in any way likable even taking his innocence and naivety into consideration. Despite the era it was set in I felt at the age of 25 he should know better and that even then there was no excuse for some of his actions (one in particular involving his girlfriend). There was, however, something endearing about him. I think I could relate to some of his social awkwardness although not his response to it. In the end I wanted everything to turn out for him. I kept this hope as I read desperately to the end. The ending wasn't quite the one I had hoped for but I think it was better for it.

As a result I have added Ian McEwan to my list of favourite authors. I have no doubts that I will read his back list. I have even looked up some of his other titles and they all look very good. I have added "Saturday" to my 'to read' list. I think what made me so cautious of this author is my friends reaction to him. People I would expect to like him and that I have shared tastes with didn't. It made me a little wary about trying others even though I loved Atonement. Not so wary now though.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Hospital - Toby Litt

Apologies for my prolonged absence. Being back at work has taken it out of me a bit. I haven't stopped reading though. I still find time to pick up a book no matter how tired I am. I have read several since my last post but thought I would do a review of one I finished more recently.

I have to confess that I picked out this book mainly for it's cover. I have eyed it up the last couple of years but because I knew of no one who had read it I was put off a little. Then about a month ago I was book shopping. I was looking for a book for the a-z challenge I am doing with a friend and needed an author for L. There was one copy of Hospital on the shelf and it was signed. I decided that this was a sign to finally go ahead and try it.

The book is set in a generic British hospital in a busy city (I am assuming London). My first impression was that it was going to be a romantic comedy. The first character the book focuses on is a young nurse who is new to the trauma team and she is in love with a handsome surgeon (although he is unaware). It came across as very 1950's. You know, those films where the nurse and the Doctor fall in love as they save the day? So I assumed it was going to be a spoof and I settled down to enjoy it as it's just my sense of humour. However, as I read it became something else entirely.

Some of the trauma team were conspiring and I assumed them to be having an affair. Turns out they were actually organising a satanic ritual involving a sacrifice. A nurse made entirely out of rubber wanders the hauls doling out punishment and no one sees this as a little strange. The porters are preparing for a voodoo ritual. A mysterious young boy wonders the halls just trying to get home. Not so strange is a young couple giving birth to their first set of twins. This all culminates into the outside world disappearing and everyone starts to miraculously heal. All except one man who arrives at the start of the book and can't wake up.

I only have a few criticisms. The first is that it was a little slow going. It seemed to drag a little before anything happened but I can understand why. The author wanted to set up the scene and and a pace that slowly speeds up. The second is not really the fault of the author just my own squeamish nature. I found some of the scenes a little hard to take. Particularly those involving the Satanists. My stomach turned at a few of them and I even had to do some skimming. I also felt that despite speeding up towards the end that it dragged on a little. I think though that has more to do with me than the book as I have found that with most books I have read over the last few months. I loved the bizarre nature of the book. At times it bordered on the ridiculous and this appealed to me. I also loved the fact that Toby Litt is writing books for each letter of the alphabet. Makes it a little apt that I decided to read this one for the a-z challenge.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

To Ebook Or Not to Ebook?

I love my gadgets! Every time I get a new one it's my new baby. Unlike most gadget geeks I don't seem to know the complete specs. I just like having them. I suppose I am quite shallow in that sense, all about the outside. I am, however, a book geek. I love books themselves. There is nothing like turning the pages, the smell of new books and not to mention the pretty covers. I love the unusual or limited edition books. Yes, I am that person who will fork out extra for a limited edition by one of my favourite authors. I am also that person who geeks out when a publisher releases some classics in new covers. In some cases this has lead me to have several copies of the same book. I am that sad!

So when ebook readers came on the market I was dubious. How can an electronic device replace a printed book? Book lovers will tell you that the content of the book is only part of the experience. Despite my dad nagging at me that maybe I should get one to replace all those piles of books I have (a sure sign of a non book lover if you ask me) I didn't pay much attention to them. Although I have to confess that the gadget loving me was curious.

I then saw a friend of mine with one. This friend is just as much of a book geek as I am so I know it wasn't a replacement (she still spends a small fortune on books each week). I couldn't help but instantly covet one. It was small and sleek which I wasn't expecting. It's ideal if you have to travel to work. My friend says she uses it to try out authors she has never tried before and I thought that was perfect. She downloads free samples before deciding to buy them (yes I know you can flick through the book in a shop but she has difficulty getting to bookshops sometimes). I wanted one but not enough to pay all that money. In that time I had to replace my laptop, phone, camera and ipod and to me these things were more important than an ebook reader (why do these things break down all at once). When I started selling them I wanted one even more. It didn't help that my dad was also considering getting one and we would spend time arguing over which ones were the best.

Well, I now have one in the form of my ipad. I downloaded the iBooks app and have been enjoying some books from it. It sill won't replace the read thing but there are certain aspects that I like. I love how I can jump from one book to another whilst travelling. I love that I can read in the dark. I also love the fact that I have tried some new authors thanks to this device and for the most part have enjoyed them.

There are things though that have caused many rants from me over the last few weeks. Sorry ebook producers but I am NOT going to pay full price for an ebook when I can have the real thing in my hand for the same price or less. It's madness that you have to pay the expense of a machine to read these things and then still pay the same as everyone else for a normal book. It's even worse for hardbacks. I recently bought "The Passage" as it has been raved about so much (haven't read it yet). It's a rather large hardback and obviously you are paying for that. Out of curiosity I looked up the cost on iBook and it's the same as what I paid for it. It's madness.

My second rant involves the availability of ebooks. Now I have only iBooks and amazon kindle to compare to each other in this case. However, I have come across the same situation in both. As I have said I love the ebook for trying out new authors and so I have been looking up several that I have been curious about in the past. With most of these authors their first book isn't available on iBooks or amazon kindle. Not a problem you would think except that in every single case it's been a part of an ongoing series. Book one is usually essential reading when it comes to a series. Logically you would make that available before book 2. Clearly that's just me though.

I do wonder if in some cases availability has something to do with the author or the publisher. A few very well known books I have looked up have also been unavailable. It's a little frustrating when you can download a book that encourages you to draw and paint on it with watercolours (wonder how my poor ipad would feel about that).

That being said I still use it. Every now and then I will get over my frustration and look up some books. I think this is going to be a love/hate relationship.

Monday 16 August 2010

Back In The Game.

For the next few months I am going to be a bookseller again. It's only temp work but I can't wait to go back to working with books. This will probably be the only time I mention it whilst I am there. So there will be no bookselling stories (at least not yet). Don't think it's fair whilst I work for a company on a temporary basis.

Thursday 12 August 2010

"Cold Granite" by Stuart MacBride

I don't know what it is about Scottish authors but they seem to gravitate towards writing crime. Ian Rankin, Christopher Brookmyre, Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Alexander McCall Smith and Alex Grey are all Scottish crime writers. How many of these have I tried? None! Actually that's not quite true. I gave McCall Smith a go a few years ago and found his writing style just wasn't for me. If I am going to be completely honest, when it comes to Scottish authors I am poorly read.

With my new found interest in crime I decided it was about time I tried one of the many crime authors Scotland had to offer. I chose Stuart MacBride for a few reasons. First of all a number of friends recommended him. Second I had heard he was funny and at the moment I like a touch of humour in the books I am reading. He did a signing at the store I worked in and I was so sorry I missed it. He had everyone singing along to a dirty rhyme from his latest book. I have to confess that was when my interest in reading him truly started. So I finally got round to it and the OCD in me decided to start with his first book "Cold Granite".

This is the first in a series of books that follows the criminal investigations of DS Logan MacRae. Logan is just back after a year recovering from a stab wound. Believing he would return to light duties he is thrown into the deep end helping to capture a child serial killer. If that wasn't bad enough he has to work with an estranged girlfriend, a new book and a baby sitter. Oh, and he is being stalked by tabloid journalist Colin Miller.

My friends weren't lying when he said this was funny. Despite the dark content I found myself chuckling away quite regularly. I would say that 70% of the humour is locally based. Unless you understand Scottish humour or Scottish slang you might not get some of it. I don't think that would spoil much for the non-Scottish reader. Especially if you are an avid crime reader.

One of the things I loved about it though is Logan himself. Basically he isn't portrayed as a brilliant detective. Instead he is human. He makes mistakes and sometimes he behaves more like an adolescent than a grown man. Some of his discoveries are even accidental. There is something refreshing about his character. It makes a nice change from brilliant but moody.

Over all I was impressed. In terms of Scottish authors I don't have much to compare it to but I very much enjoyed it. I will definitely be reading more by Stuart MacBride.

Monday 9 August 2010

Book Snobbery

I have a crime book to review and it seems only fitting that before I do I post a little bit about book snobbery. Rightly or wrongly this is something you learn over time. I personally think that worst type is by those who don't even realise they have it or those who do but don't think it's wrong. I also personally think that every reader has the potential if not a little bit of it already there in their own way. I'm going to use my history of crime reading for this basically because it links in nicely with my next review.

I call it my crime reading history but to be honest I don't really have much of one. Like most kids who are moving on from Enid Blyton and the like I went on to read the books my parents liked before discovering my own favourites. So in my early teens I read John Grisham because my dad was a fan and James Patterson because my mum liked those. Now I honestly couldn't tell you with out looking it up which ones I have read and which ones haven't. It's been that long and clearly they had a big impact on me (actually the only ones I remember in detail are the ones I saw as movies later). I soon moved away from them as I discovered I much preferred horror, sci fi and fantasy and I never really went back to them because I eventually became a bookseller.

I am the first one to admit that being a bookseller turned me into a bit of a book snob. I say a bit because I didn't actually judge others for what they read. I honestly thought I had good book knowledge before then but I was so wrong! So when I first started as a bookseller I was only willing to admit to one particular kind of trashy read (and most booksellers have them) and in this case that was fantasy because it was what I was reading most of at the time. After that the only way I would go near crime was to shelve it or help a customer. My book knowledge grew thanks to this job. I learned and loved so many different authors I probably wouldn't have otherwise. My book snobbery also grew though which is quite funny since I would happily work my way through children's books (and still do). Actually you will find an awful lot of booksellers who do. It's more common place than you think.

I then moved stores and it was a little bit like a breath of fresh air. For once I was probably one of the biggest book snobs there. Most people there didn't care what others thought of their reading choice (unless of course you were sharing a favourite book or author). They also didn't care what you read unless of course they were interested. Some of these people became my closes friends and they all read crime quite happily. They would make fun of the fact that I refused and eventually gave up trying to get me to read them. We shared plenty of other tastes so it didn't really matter.

I don't know what made me do it but eventually I picked one up. I read "The Bone Collector" by Jeffery Deaver. Surprisingly, I very much liked it. I have now only a couple of books left in the Lincoln Rhyme series to read. It's been fun as I know a number of others who are fans and have loved talking to them about them or swapping books. I didn't really try any other authors until last year when I read the Millenium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. I haven't stopped raving about these books since. Not only are they well written but they have the ability to make you lose all sense of time as you read. The last one I stayed up till 4.00am reading. As a result I have decided to open my mind to reading crime. I have recently finished the first Charlie Parker book by John Connolly (an author I greatly admired previously anyway) and have picked up a few others.

I am still a book snob don't get me wrong. You won't catch me in the romance section. You certainly won't catch me reading chick lit (a pet peeve of mine). You also won't catch me reading biographies by famous people barely out of their teens. I will keep a more open mind though because I can't help but wonder what else have I missed out on?

"Blood, Sweat and Tea" by Tom Reynolds

Yes, I am going to actually talk about a specific book today! Tom Reynolds (or rather Brian Kellet as he is actually called) is a blogger and a paramedic for the London Ambulance Service. He blogs about his days (and nights) working and usually manages to do so with a touch of humour. Which I think is amazing considering the job he does. The book "Blood, Sweat and Tea" was released in 2006 and is a compilation of some of his best entries up to that point.

A few things stand out in this book. As I already mentioned the humour is the first one. He manages to find some humour in the most frustrating of circumstances. In his place I would have been sent off on a rant with a rather large number of choice words. He on the other hand manages to see the funny side and it comes across in his writing. I still felt the need to rant but I couldn't help but laugh along with him. He also manages to find a silver lining most days. He could be having a very bad day but usually manages to find something that reassures himself and the reader that the world isn't all bad.

I imagine it would be tempting to write about being a super hero but he doesn't do that at all. He admits he's human and can make mistakes. In fact he admits on many occasions through out the blog is that his biggest fear is that he will make a mistake and it will cost someone their life. The main thing I saw though is just how much he loves his job. Despite the alcoholics, being treated like a taxi and the fakers (seriously you people who fake being unconscious to get out of an argument what is wrong with you?) and the potentially dangerous situations he loves what he does. Making the slightest bit of difference can make a horrible day a good one. Reading this you can't help but feel inspired.

There are the occasional rants but lets face it we all love to have a rant. Plus reading the reasons behind them you can see it's more than justifiable and you want to rant along with him. I certainly felt my blood boil at the ignorance of some of the general public. I think complete disbelief is the best way to describe how I felt reading what some people think is perfectly acceptable behaviour towards one of our emergency services. I actually had my sister reading this book yesterday and every so often you would hear "What is wrong with people?"

In case you can't tell I loved this book. I was riveted from page one and I thank my very good friend for suggesting I read this. I had three other books on the go at this point and they all got left until I finished this one. I highly recommend it. I would actually say that anyone who abuses the ambulance service in any way shape or form should be forced to read it. Wishful thinking but maybe a few of them would see the error of their ways.

Oh, and you can read his blog here; Random Acts of Reality.

Saturday 7 August 2010

Like Father Like Daughter!

As I mentioned in my last post I have a new toy. No sooner had I got it than I found a library app which allows you to load all your books onto a catalogue. Fellow book geeks will understand wanting this. I got to sort the books into genre and watching each one grow was something else. This little process has taught me two things. First, I am a more well rounded reader than I though. I see myself these days as mainly reading contemporary fiction and YA. However, my crime books are growing and my non-fiction collection (aside from my craft books) isn't too bad.

The second realisation is more disturbing. I take after my dad! When I was younger I always assumed my dad was a reader. I could talk endlessly about childhood library trips and my dad trying to get me to read his favourite books. I won't though. Needless to say I always thought he was a reader. It wasn't until maybe only a few years back I discovered that he really started reading in his late teens. I think my mum may have influenced him there because as a child she would rather read a book than go out and play (in that sense I take after my mum).

Anyway, because of my growing book collection and the fact that I used to be a bookseller my dad started coming to me looking for specific books before going out to buy them himself (quite rightly if I had it he could just borrow it). Pretty soon he was reading "Artemis Fowl", "Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time" and "A Short History of Nearly Everything" to name a few. I couldn't follow what he was really interested in as he would jump so quickly between genres and he wouldn't always finish the book.

He then started reading classic sci fi. There were a few authors he was reading but the only one that springs to mind is Philip K. Dick. He also seemed to be sticking to it and I thought 'brilliant, I can buy him some books for Father's day'. I actually put a lot of thought into picking out these books. I spent ages after my shift one day going through the entire section trying to think what he would like. Eventually I narrowed it down to three. First of all I picked out "Red Mars" by Kim Stanley Robinson. It was a sci fi but with a lot of politics running through it. I thought my dad would appreciate that since he is into his politics. I then chose the "Reality Dysfunction" by Peter F. Hamilton as it's a good example of how good modern science fiction can be. Lastly I chose "The Forever War" by Joe Haldeman because it's a classic and it's also one of my favourites. I was actually looking forward to hearing what he thought of all of them. It's been a few years since then and those books are still collecting dust on his shelves. He had moved on to Robert Lewis Stevenson.

Back to the main point. I was going through all my books and pulling out a few I hadn't looked at in years. They brought back happy memories. All those hours spent reading Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Donaldson, Stephen King and Anne McCaffrey. If I tried I could pin point the year I read them and what was going on in my life when I read them. I can't remember now when I last picked up a classic sci fi or any sci fi for that matter. The same goes with fantasy. My catalogue is filled with fantasy and yet I rarely read it now. Horror is another genre, unless you count the supernatural romance popular now, that I once couldn't put down but rarely touch.

It was then I realised I am like my dad and that I don't really specialise in a genre. Instead I move on once I've discovered something new. Last year I read mainly teen books. This year they have been almost replaced with crime. I still read a wide range of books but like my dad my focus changes although maybe not quite as quickly as his.

Oh, and in case you are interested, he is reading free books from iBooks. Once his iPad novelty has worn off I'm sure he'll move on to something else.

Friday 6 August 2010

A Small Welcome!

I think it's fair to assume that I love my books. I would even call myself a devourer of books if I didn't have friends who could and do read ten in a week. As a result of all this reading I usually have all these thoughts running around my head that I want to share with others. I do have a book group and 98% of my friends are readers but this isn't always enough. Mainly because I have these thoughts usually late at night and they are only vaguely still there the next morning. I've had blogs before and the one thing I miss is the sharing of random thoughts in my head. Whether the rest of the world misses them or not remains to be seen.

This is what this blog is for. Random thoughts about books. Or not so random as they are usually set off by something. If you are looking for an in depth critique of books I am afraid you aren't going to find that here. I left all that behind me at school years ago. I know some authors put meaning behind every sentence that they write. I don't believe that all of them do though. I think it was Stephen King (I can hear your eyes rolling you know) who said that sometimes a story is just a story. I am a firm believer of that. I wonder how many of the old classic authors who would be surprised at the amount of meaning English teachers can glean from just one paragraph of their books. How many would be sitting scratching their heads and muttering "I just wanted some conversation filler there"?

I am also an avid reader of blogs although I am a fickle one. I have my favourites but others I can go by months without reading and then suddenly go back to it and catch up on old posts. The ones I don't go back to are the ones where every book they had read is just amazing and their favourite. In some cases I do know that these bloggers have the authors and publishers following them so it might be hard to say exactly how you feel knowing you might offend someone. Or maybe they do genuinely feel that way. It's a bit off putting though and it's not me. If there is something I don't like about a book I will say it but I will also rave about the books that I love even if it's trashy nonsense to others.

Now that I have got all that out of the way I can tell you about my new toy. I got an Ipad for my birthday (long story behind as to why as my birthday gifts usually aren't that extravagant). I also have been reading through iBooks since I got it. I swore I wouldn't but there you go (I also swore I would never buy music digitally but I can't remember when I last bought a CD). Last night I downloaded and read a book called "Bookstore Lore" by a blog with the same name. The book is based on stupid questions asked by customers in a book shop in San Francisco. The author mentions that the owner of the shop encourages creativity and so the staff keep these notebooks everywhere. The manager then emails some of the best to the author.

The book is only 30 pages long and I read it within 20 minutes. The first thing I did was text my friends and say "I bet we could do better." The truth is the book store I worked in wasn't an independent and we had one of these notebooks. I bet that most book stores or stores that attract the creative have them. Out of context some the questions just weren't at all funny. Others also didn't actually seem like stupid questions. What's wrong with a customer asking advice on a book? Those are the customers we actually liked!

As a result I have decided to compile some of my own. These weren't just my own experiences but also from colleagues who share them in the break room.

"Do these stairs go up?" I was told this would be a common question when in my first week. Didn't really believe it until I experienced it.

"Where are all your books?" bookseller looks around at all the very full bookshelves rather confused.

"Can you tell me how to get to _____ restaurant?"
"I'm sorry sir I don't know."
"I thought this was supposed to be information?"
"Not tourist information I'm afraid but we do have city guides that might help."
Customer walks off in a huff.

"You look like a character in a book I just read."

"Where Can I find the devil's autobiography?"

"So why don't you stock out of print books?"

"What book do I need to answer this essay question?"
"I'm sorry but I'm here to sell you books not do your homework."

Man calls to complain that an article about the worrying rise of anti-Semitism is missing from his magazine article.
"Are you aware that Anti-Semitism is a problem within your store?"
"Sir, if that was the case all five copies of the magazine would have been tampered with. Since a large number of students come into the store I think it's more likely that it was one of them. I can put an undamaged copy of the magazine aside for you."

Customer looks at uniform, looks at tag and then looks at large pile of books in hand. "Do you work here?"

Customer walks past the information desk, past two other booksellers and goes to the one balancing precariously on the top of a stool with a large pile of books. "Can you help me?"

"Where's your pick 'n' mix?"

Customer 1 "I don't read"
Customer 2 "No me neither."

"I'm looking for a book."
" Do you know the author or the title?"
"I think it's red." booksellers across the world will recognise that one.

Customer asks for help find a book for her grandson. After getting some idea of tastes bookseller then tries to get an idea of his reading level.
"He's no that bright hen!" happens more often that you would think.

This last one (and I promise it's the last) is one of my favourites. Not a funny customer or a stupid one just one that brought a smile to my face at the end of long shift.

"I'm looking for Enid Blyton books for my grand daughter."
I proceeded to take her over to the section and talk her through the different series.
The customer notices there is no one else there then leans over and whispers.
"They are actually for me. Used to read them when I was wee and loved them. Just wanted to read them again."