I have just discovered this slide widget on the website of Tall Story Books. I thought I'd share it as I know the booksellers among you might find it useful for your websites. You could use it for showcasing craft, or art or anything. It was the work of a moment to pop a few book images into it.
Just a reminder that the fabulous Testament by Alis Hawkins is this month's book club read at Cornflower and the discussion begins tomorrow, Saturday 23rd. I don't know why I haven't heard it shouted from the roof tops how good a book Testament but I really enjoyed Teresa's review of it on Shelf Love and am glad to see she loved it as much as I did.
You can read my original review of Testament here and the author Alis Hawkins blogs here.
The in-text link is to Amazon UK but copies can also be had with free world wide delivery from The Book Depository. FYI both are affiliate links.
Literary Tattoos! What! You mean you don't have your favourite Persephone Books quotation across your shoulder blades? Well, actually me neither, but have a look at this.
Tattoos are obviously a form of communication and often a written one. You can't get more economical than 'love' and 'hate' across your knuckles; eat your heart out Hemingway.
I have had an interesting book on the subject in stock, Written on the Body edited by Jane Caplan ("Substantial collection of essays covering many aspects of the social, political or semiotic significance of the tattoo. Covers: late Roman Empire, Early modern England, Australian convicts, Indian convicts, class, religion, Celtic tattooing and much more ") but have long since sold it. Copies can be had from Amazon though don't get it confused with the Jeanette Winterson novel of the same name.
Edited to add: thanks to Mae for this link to more literary tattoos. As I said in the comments hats off to anyone prepared to get four full lines of Longfellow permanently applied to themselves (in the post called Life is real!).
I have mentioned novelist's Fiona Robyn's Blogsplash before on the ibooknet blog but thought I would mention it here as the Blogsplash is getting nearer and she would like more bloggers to join in. Here's the lowdown:
Fiona Robyn is going to blog her next novel, Thaw, starting on the 1st of March 2010. The novel follows 32 year old Ruth’s diary over three months as she decides whether or not to carry on living.
To help spread the word she’s organising a Blogsplash, where blogs will publish the first page of Ruth’s diary simultaneously (and a link to the blog).
She’s aiming to get 1000 blogs involved – if you’d be interested in joining the splash, email her at email@example.com or find out more information here.
Also if you would like to recruit bloggers for Fiona's Blogsplash she is having a signed book giveaway for those that help the most. You can read more here. (I am not recruiting for this reason - I have asked Fiona not to include me as I am "trade" - but because I like her work!)
Another new acquisition for my own shelves, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, and isn't it lovely? It will certainly keep me quiet for a bit and is as heavy as you would expect. It feels as nice as it looks with a proper cloth on the boards and the well balanced design in the smart grey, white and orange colour scheme. Inside the type face is pleasant though the paper is necessarily thin, and the endpapers have an attractive, subtle design to them.
The orange card band round the middle declaring the translators to be Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky and quoting a review from The Independent is just slipped and folded on: it will remove without trace. Horror of horror however is a label, round and orange, praising the trasnlation. Heavens, you don't buy War & Peace without thinking about it, you don't make snap decisions based on info on labels. What were you thinking about Vintage? You go to the trouble of creating this lovely and reasonably priced object and stick an orange sticker on it. What a true horrible thing!!
If I seem to be over reacting then it is frustration. I spend part of everyday giving first aid to books that I buy for the stock of my business. I tip plates back in, strengthen joints, mend dust wrappers, remove library detritus and clean covers. I do not expect to have to spend half an hour or more giving first aid to a brand new book vandalised by its own publisher.
For those similarly afflicted - tips on removing labels.
Don't remove labels from a fragile surface, think twice if the the surface is not water resistant (like proper cloth isn't, Vintage you noodles!). In these cases living with the label might be better than trying to remove it.
If removing from a laminated paper back or laminated dust wrapper then try warming the label first. I use a hair dryer on low, not too close nor for too long. Some dealers stick the book in the microwave but make sure the microwave is not greasy (obviously!) and that there is no metal (ie gilt) on the book. Once the label is warm you might be lucky and get the whole lot in one go, if not you should still have removed more of it than doing it from cold. Repeat until you've got as much as you can off this way.
Deal with the remainder with sticky-stuff remover that you can buy from Betterware and other similar companies. Follow any instructions re gloves or ventilation. If there is any smooth surface left on the label that can keep the remover away from the glue so try and scratch that off gently.
Keep wiping over until free of sticky residue.
Let the book air for a few hours. For hard backs a polish with Backus Bookcloth cleaner is a good finish.
N.B. Always test on a small area first and send expensive books to a professional restorer!
You can get the bookcloth cleaner and stronger label removers from Papersafe. That is not an affiliate link by the way, just a link to where I shop for my own supplies.
The Necropolis Railway by Andrew Martin is a truly original piece of historical crime fiction. The current crop of historical detective fiction tends to the cosy and sentimental; that is not a criticism as such, as the best of these like the Dandy Gilver series combine this with sharp plotting and a witty narrative, but Jim Stringer Steam Detective, as seen here, is really quite something else. The plot is not particularly remarkable but the handling of it is certainly out of the ordinary.
From the start the voice is original: a very young man, keen on railways and determined for success, leaves London to make his way on the London railway. He is quite flawed as a person and as a detective. He is not at all suited to big city life, the exigencies of being an adult on his own resources, or the fact-finding required in his detecting. He is not always a pleasant narrator, but he is endlessly interesting.
The main premise of the book is such a winner that I am astounded that it hasn't been done before. There really was a Necropolis Railway which ran from its own station just outside London's Waterloo station on the London and South Western Railway to the massive Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey, from 1854 until 1941. Brookwood Cemetery was meant to deal with the after effects of a fast rising population: the fast rising numbers of deceased persons requiring a place of rest. At the time a railway was fast and a convenient way of transferring coffins and mourners out of London both to and through the cemetery. So for atmosphere the premise cannot be beaten: we have smokey Edwardian London, bustling, gas lit and enigmatic, we have locomotives and sheds full of steam and grime and plenty of places to hide, we have special trains full of coffins and not many living people, we have the cemetery itself, and we have a naive young man straight from the altogether fresher Yorkshire coast.
Our detective and guide, Jim Stringer, narrates throughout. He is no fool but he is not altogether up to speed either. When he arrives to work on the railway he realises that his predecessor has disappeared. What next? We get the facts in the end by luck as much as by deduction, but Jim does have redeeming features: he is a brave man, he is dogged, and unlike those he chases he has a strong sense of justice. As the book goes on he learns and grows, moving away from the gauche boyish enthusiasm for engine driving, an enthusiasm driven by books and magazines, to realising that both real life and engine driving are not as simple as they seem.
Why did I not take the chance to flee? I did not want to go back to portering, but there again I could see the moving shadow coming for me, and present in my mind always was the cemetery, with the railway on hand to take me there on a one way ride. It was better to be a porter imprisoned in a too tight, over-decorated waistcoast than to take that trip before my time. But I now somehow knew that all these horrors had always been waiting for me, because becoming an engine man was no mere matter of book learning. Engine men, I could not deny, looked different from me, and they looked different because they had been through just such a thing as this. This was the life of London and the life of men, where threats and fears came, and they had to be stood down.
Like any good historical novel the time and place are almost another character. From the dingy digs with the grumpy landlady to the bullying men in the loco sheds, place and time are crisply evoked. It is a dark world, and one certainly full of grit, but this is not a gritty novel in the sense of being hard, or pseudo-realistic as works billed as "gritty" often are. Instead this is a lightly played and thoroughly unpredictable piece, as evil and corruption flit through the shadows and the smoke.
I hope everyone enjoyed their New Year and I wish everyone all the best for 2010. By way of a little retrospective I have blogged on the ibooknet blog about three of my favourite blog posts of 2009 - these aren't Juxtabook's posts, they are ones I have read on other poeple's blogs and been impressed with. You can read about them here, here and here.