Buenos Aires and Montevideo – A Book-lover’s Paradise

If you love books (which I’m going to assume most of you do), then the one thing you must add to your bucket list is a trip to Argentina and Uruguay. Not the most obvious of choices, I know, but trust me when I tell you that you will not regret it. Here’s why.

The beauty of South American bookshops

The beauty of South American bookshops

Last month I spent 10 beautiful days in Buenos Aires and Montevideo generally feeling very good about myself. The reason being that almost every single street corner housed a bookshop and I felt very literary and intelligent while I browsed through their offerings. From run down, second-hand fares to slick branded chains and cozy independents, there are bookshops for everyone in these two cities. Here I will tell you about my top 3.

We stumbled across Libros del Pasaje on a sunny Monday afternoon in Palermo Soho (the bohemian neighbourhood in Buenos Aires) whilst trying to find somewhere to eat – a task that was developing into quite the adventure.

Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires

Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires

Libros del Pasaje

As soon as I entered I had one of those ‘WOW, this-is-where-I-belong’ moments.

Libros del Pasaje, Buenos Aires

Libros del Pasaje, Buenos Aires

If you’re not a hardcore books person, then I’ll give you room to cringe, but the rest of you know what I’m talking about – the floor to ceiling shelves, the rolling ladders, the cozy chairs, the creaking stairs, the coffee shop nestled in a corner…. It was just perfect.

ldp3

Though it was my last day in Buenos Aires, I couldn’t resist spending a couple of hours in the sunny conservatory eating my cake and reading my book. A rare moment of serenity in the bustle of Buenos Aires. This place is a real treat.

Reading books, eating cake, drinking coffee = bliss

Reading books, eating cake, drinking coffee = bliss

ldp2My second favourite spot is in the old part of the city of Montevideo, Uruguay. It’s just off Plaza de Independencia and would be difficult to miss with it’s large, airy windows.

PV Restaurant & Lounge

PV Restaurant & Lounge

It’s strange because I don’t know the name of the bookshop, but the cafe upstairs is called PV Restaurant & Lounge. I had some beautiful scones there, washed down with this uh-mazing hot chocolate (it was surprisingly windy and freezing in Montevideo). I swear it had massive chunks of real chocolate just melting all over the place.

pv

pv3pv4

The beautiful stained glass windows, the grand staircase leading you up to the first floor (or, alternatively, there’s an ornate, old-school elevator that can crank you up); it’s all so elegant yet so cozy and welcoming.

Now for the final bookshop (which is back in Buenos Aires), set in an old theatre and is just simply so breathtaking in its grandeur.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

El Ateneo Grand Splendid is just so very cool, with the box seats set up as private reading nooks and the main stage having been converted into a cafe. What’s not to love?

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

What made me sad about all this is that we don’t have anything even remotely like this in London. Amazon has taken over the publishing world and all the independents have closed their doors, leaving us with the likes of Waterstones and WH Smiths. Life is unfair. Make up for that by taking a trip to South America.

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Looking for New Writers!

Newwriters Hello my dear readers (if there are any of you still left!),

This is an odd blog post. Mostly because I haven’t written here in forever (very shameful, I know), and also because this isn’t a review. I’m looking for writers. Real writers who have written an actual novel. If this is you, I’d love it if you would send your work my way.

I work at a literary agency and haven’t read anything good in so very long that (in addition to wanting to kill myself) I’m desperate to find something new to get excited about. In terms of what kind of stuff I’m looking for: something commercial yet upmarket, literary. My blog should give you an idea of the kind of books I like to read (even if your book is nothing like the ones I tend to read, if you feel it’s well written, get in touch anyway). I should probably point out that what I don’t like to read is historical fiction.

Please get in touch using the CONTACT ME page on my blog with the title of your novel in the subject line. Provide a brief synopsis and if I think it’s up my street, I’ll email you back and ask to see the opening three chapters. Feel free to ask any questions by commenting below and if you have any friends that have something good hidden away somewhere, tell them to get in touch too. Can’t wait to hear from you guys (she says with barely veiled desperation)!

The Best and Worst of Book to Movie Adaptations

Believe it or not, there are some books out there that were made into pretty damned good movies. It happens. Admittedly not very often, but it does. My top four best screen adaptations are as follows (in no particular order):

We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver

I was not thrilled with the casting of Tilda Swinton as Eva Khatchadourian or John C. Reilly as Franklin.  Quite possibly the most unlikely pairing I’ve ever witnessed on screen. Despite this, it was acted out brilliantly, was true to the book, and I don’t think it’s possible to have come across a more chillingly convincing Kevin.

Fight Club – Chuck Palahnuik

There’s a reason why this film has cult status. Dare I say it was a smidgen better than the book? It was visually quite amazing although reading/studying the book in university after I had watched the film, gave me a deeper appreciation of what Palahnuik was trying to do/say about masculinity and consumer culture.

American Psycho – Brett Easton Ellis

In my opinion, one of the best books ever written. And although nothing can quite capture the alluring monotony of the book, I think Christian Bale did a pretty damned good job in Patrick Bateman’s shoes. He was both horrifying and funny, a difficult combination to execute well.

The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas

This was very well done – very gritty, very real. Whoever’s idea it was to turn it into a mini series with each episode dedicated to a single character, was brilliant. With movies made from books, you’re usually always disappointed with casting and how it’s never quite how you visualised it. Not the case here – it was better! The script/actors really bought the moral complexity of the whole ‘slap’ situation to life.

And the ones that failed to live up to their books….

The Help – Kathryn Stockett

Very few people will agree with me on this. It’s not that the film was bad, but it was all so bright coloured and light hearted, doing very little to remind me that I actually cried when reading the book. Seriously, the film was like a comedy.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason – Helen Fielding

I genuinely do love to watch the Bridget Jones series whenever I need something mindless to do. The first Bridget Jones movie is great, but the second one? They successfully managed to turn Bridget into a bumbling fool slash moron. Hopping around like an idiotic penguin, there’s no way I would be seen out with her let alone anyone resembling Mark Darcy. It’s almost as though because she’s ‘fat’, she has to be an idiot, the butt of every joke. The Bridget Jones in the book is not an idiot.

One Day – David Nicholls

The failure of this film still hurts me, and I know I’m not alone here. To say I was disappointed with this movie would be an understatement. I absolutely fell in love with the book then spent the hour and 47 minutes of the film wondering why on earth they chose Ann Hathaway to play someone supposedly from Yorkshire and why the chemistry between the two main characters was lukewarm at best. And don’t get me started on that whole thing about Dexter’s letter that was never delivered being omitted from the movie. The whole thing was just infuriating.

My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult

This has got to be the all time biggest book to movie FAIL. How you can just go and change the ending of a novel so that the meaning of the entire story is completely different to how the author intended, I don’t know. I have never been so infuriated by the ending of a movie as I was with this. By simply ignoring the author’s twist it’s just another story about dealing with cancer.

And just to finish off; Films that you probably didn’t know (but don’t care) were books first:

  • Charlie St. Cloud (Book called The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood) – YAWN. Even Zack Efron’s face couldn’t save this disaster.
  • Love and Other Drugs (Book called Hard Sell by Jamie Reidy) – Half way through watching this film with my sisters, we paused, looked at one another and realised that we simply did not give a damn what happened to either Anne Hathaway or Jake Gylennhall. Filled with gratuitous nudity that was more embarrassing than titillating, this was an hour (that’s as far we could handle it) of my life I will never get back.
  • The Silver Linings Playbook (Book has the same name, written by Matthew Quick) – The most overrated film of 2012. Fact.
  • Riding In Cars With Boys (Book called Riding In Cars With Boys: Confessions of a Bad Girl Who Makes Good by Beverly Donofrio – Completely unmemorable.

The Book Cover Wars: UK vs. USA – Part 2

So, last week, inspired by The Millions, I compared the UK and US covers of some of the books I’ve reviewed on this blog. This week, I’ll be comparing the rest of the book covers from this blog. Fun times. As before, UK on the left, US on the right.

First up is this gem of a book by Emmanuel Carrere. What’s interesting about this book is that the UK and US publishers have each chosen to publish this book under different names: ‘Other Lives But Mine’ – UK, and ‘Lives Other Than My Own’ – US. I’m genuinely not sure which title or cover I prefer (which sorta defeats the purpose of this post). From what I understand, the US cover does have this tattered notebook printed on it, it’s not the notebook that’s the actual book. I find that a bit odd and I’m not sure what it’s supposed to say about the book either. And I (surprisingly) get the oversimplification of the main themes of this book by putting two hands holding onto each other on the cover, but think the UK cover, which depicts the devastating tsunami that is central to the story, ultimately does it better. Even if a bit flat.

A total no-brainer. I am completely shocked that the UK book cover was ever allowed to see the light of day. Honestly one of the worst covers I’ve EVER seen. Which is a shame because the book deserves to be read. But you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a poorly constructed textbook for young children. The hatred I feel for this cover cannot be fully expressed through words. It honestly offends me. Which is why the US wins. But neither of them have nothing on these amazing covers I found on this website.

Because this is one of my favourite reads of last year, I find it difficult to say anything negative about it. Difficult but not impossible :). UK has opted for boy running in field whilst US have gone for blurry image of father and son playing in the ocean. I quite like the colour tone of the photograph on the UK cover (though it has very little to do with the story), so my first instinct would be to pick that edition up. But when I look very carefully at the American version, I notice things like the ‘good’ in the title to be written roughly in pencil, giving varying connotations to the word. So, at a push, the subtlety of the US cover wins over the shelf appeal of the UK.

So this is a slight anomaly because it hasn’t been published in America. So the cover on the right is the German edition (I think). As the UK cover seduced me a very long time ago, I think it’s obvious which one I’m going for. I find the cover so strikingly beautiful. And so stark and spare – exactly like Judith Hermann’s prose style. The protruding nipple on the German cover gives a Lolita-esque impression that is neither titillating nor accurate.

Although it’s a bit unfair because the UK copied the US hardback cover to produce this paperback one on the left, and the somewhat less appealing US example I’ve used here is their paperback version; I’m gonna say UK wins. The silhouette of the little girl on the country road work very well as it’s an image that haunts the characters in the book. The US one is a bit meh.

If my memory serves me right, the American version was published by Amazon Publishing (don’t even get me started) who clearly had no idea how to capture the humour of the novel so thought they’d date it and make it look like a manual. Although a bit literal, the UK cover has a nice texture to it and uses a much more interesting font.

zzz

Both sides of the pond opted for the same cover. It’s certainly eye-catching and I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t influence my decision to buy the book. But after reading these stories, I’m not sure that it necessarily has anything to do with anything. Does this matter?

A fascinating book with good, very different covers on both sides! I know that lobster has helped to sell many books here in England and I can see why – It’s very intriguing. The US cover hints at a dinner that is not as simple as the title implies. The burnt tablecloth revealing the title details underneath mimics the reading process where we discover the true nature of the narrator as the dinner progresses. The curiously curly/scratchy font also works really well. Well done to America.

thisiswhereileaveuAgain, both sides have the same cover. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it. People who read Jonathan Tropper read him because they’ve heard that he is one of the funniest authors out there, not because his book covers are amazing. I know this is being made into a film (CANNOT WAIT!! EEEK), and I dread the day when the book is reprinted with the movie cover. Those covers are NEVER appealing.

As it was the UK cover that prompted me to read this anticlimactic book, it makes sense for me to pick it over the US one. If you haven’t read the book yet then the US cover is just a girl standing in front of a house. Having said that, the woman’s legs (presumably swimming) in the water, though somewhat creepy, has absolutely nothing to do with this book. But it’s certainly more striking, and as it’s a publisher’s job to sell books, I understand why they went for it.

I’ll be reviewing this quite funny book next week (I promise). Both publishers went with the same idea but executed it in a slightly different way, and I prefer the UK version. The US one is certainly more angular, which I found strangely appealing, but the differing fonts used for title and author’s name is very irritating (also the placement of the author’s name?!?!). And unless you’ve already read the book, you wouldn’t make the reference that those blue triangles behind Bernadette’s head are actually icebergs. The UK wins by only a tiny amount because something about the cover screams chick-lit, which this book definitely isn’t.

So that’s the end of these cover comparisons. The UK won this time around – 6 to 3, so maybe these publishers know what appeals to us more than we do. But then, the US won in my last cover comparison, so perhaps there is no science behind the art.

The Book Cover Wars: UK vs. USA

We all judge books by their cover. Fact. Something that I’ve always been aware of is how books over here (England) are produced very differently from those in the US (down to the actual texture of the books) –  the idea being that those of us here in the UK respond to cover images differently to those in the US. After seeing this done on The Millions, I was interested to see how the UK and US covers for the books I’ve been reviewing on this blog, differ from one another and which I prefer. I’ve picked the best cover from each side of the pond, whether it be the paperback or the hardback cover. Your expert opinions and comments are most welcome. UK covers on the left, US on the right.

My first ever review was ‘A Visit From the Goon Squad’. I love the bold simplicity of the US cover and that bright aqua colour, and I also love the raining musical notes on the UK one. I’m not sure which one I prefer to be honest, but at a push, the UK cover better captures the random, unclassifiable quirkiness of the book.

HowToBeBlack_3D_w_LowResThis is a great book  that has been published in exactly the same way everywhere. The simplicity of the textbook-like cover works well in reiterating the tongue in cheek How-To manual feel. I prefer the white on black.

I don’t think either of these hit the mark, but the American version even less so. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with these covers if they’re looked at independently of the actual story of this book. But in the context of Germany during World War II, the UK cover gives a better sense of place and captures the mystery of the story. UK wins.

This is not even a question; US wins, hands down. I hate the UK cover. You can almost imagine the brief for the photo shoot: get a little girl, have her hold some lemons and make her look kinda thoughtful and sad. It’s so literal and so uninspired. And don’t even get me started on that curly ‘book club’ font. The chocolate (and presumably lemon) cake on the US cover looks great. Yes, I have a weakness for cake, but if you look at the shadow of the cake it’s of a person – a little more intriguing than ‘girl holding lemons’. My review of the book is here.

I have no idea what the UK publishers were thinking with this. It’s so incredibly flat; I have no idea what’s going on. Although I like the tagline of the UK cover, the US one wins for the sheer fact that it doesn’t look like it was put together in 1981 and bothers to make reference to the dictionary aspect of the novel.

Back when I read this book last summer, I harped on about the cover (the UK one), and I’ll do so again. I absolutely LOVE it. It’s a book that I bought full price from the bookstore (something I rarely do) because I just had to have it on my bookshelf. It is simply beautiful. The washed out wateriness of the text and the way the black bleeds into the page edges is simply breathtaking in the flesh (I often find myself stroking it for no apparent reason).

Both the UK and the US went for the same approach. I think black/white/grey is more striking than the red/pink/white combo on the American jacket, and I also think the not necessarily positive quotes on the UK cover make you want to pick it up. But way better than either of these is the jacket on the right. I THINK it’s an American cover, but not sure what edition. The naked female body lighter is very clean and modern and has the air of that postmodern sh*t you get in art galleries where you put a box in a room and call it ‘art’; but it works! It captures the explicit sex of the book quite well.

I like how these covers approach the notion of spring from completely different sides – the sunshine and the inevitable rain. There’s definitely an air of romance in the dusky sunshine of the UK cover, and I love the hazy, translucent lettering of the title. And I also like the eye-catching red umbrella on the US cover, the words ‘spring’ on it almost tongue-in-cheek. For this latter reason, I think the US have really understood the essence of David Szalay’s painfully true account of romance in a modern city.

No contest. US wins. The symmetry of the chairs appeals to me quite a bit and also has an element of musical chairs to it – marries well with the idea of a waltz. Book review here.

Wow, I’m surprisingly very much on the side of the Americans with these covers! I didn’t expect this! The randomness of the dirty Converse on a book titled ‘What the Dog Saw‘ really works for me. The literalness of the dog on the UK cover, not so much.

US cover – house with happy family in it – YAWN. I’m not even quite sure what that picture is trying to say. But the UK one – genius. LOVE. IT. The house inside the jar very effectively relates the idea of a family trapped inside their own personal grief.

So I think the Americans win this time around – 6 to 5. Tune in next week (let’s hope I get my sh*t together) for part 2 of the BCWs (book cover wars) where I’ll compare some more covers of the books I’ve reviewed on this blog. Until then, Happy Easter folks!!

Creative Constipation

For me, blogging has become that older relative that you need to go and visit but keep putting off, the longer you leave it the harder it gets, and then it reaches that stage where you’re too embarrassed to even show your face. And that’s where things are getting to with me right now. I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last posted. Life appears to have rudely interrupted my blogging. A day seems to have turned into a few more, into a week, into a month (hopefully not more), without me having noticed. Perhaps I’ll just blame it on the books I’m reading – not feeling strongly enough about them to tell you guys. I’ve given myself until Friday to get back on the Blogging Train. Choo choo.

 

I’ve been meaning to write…

type-1…but I just haven’t got round to it. So instead of writing (although I appreciate this is also writing) I thought I’d share my favourite bookshops with you. There are only two.

Wandsworth Oasis Charity Bookshop

Wandsworth Oasis Charity Bookshop

The first is the Wandsworth Oasis bookshop. It’s a second hand charity one that supports local people with HIV. I know I shouldn’t promote this cuz I work in publishing, but the books are so damn cheap, it’s  a friggin’ dream. Where else can you get five books for £3.50?! Some of the titles are indeed old, but what really stings is when, amongst the endless stacks, you notice that new-ish book you just bought for full price in the regular bookstore. This place is truly amazing. Last time I was there I got a total of seven books (including the latest Lionel Shriver in hardback) for £4.50 (after a lil’ negotiating)! Wandsworth Oasis is 100% responsible for my inability to fully open my bedroom door. And there’s something to be said for picking up and reading a book that you know has been passed through many hands: the pages that have been folded over, the little scribbles in the margins, the doodles on the cover, the yellow-stained pages, the private birthday/anniversary/thank you message penned on the opening page dating back to 1992 or 2005; all that history. I love it.

My second favourite is the Waterstones near Tottenham Court Road station. For no other reason than it’s quirky and cute and has signs like this:

Cult

Cult

Hounslow-1

Reading

You could literally spend hours in either of these places. I get excited just thinking about my next visit. I don’t think it’s quite possible to feel this way about Amazon. Clicking on the ‘Kindle Daily Deal’ button does not excite me (you’re bound to uncover trash). And on that note….until next time (which will hopefully be very, very soon). waterstones

 

New York Times 10 Best Books of 2012….meh

So I wasn’t blown away by this list if I’m honest. I’m not eager to buy any of these titles though I do own Jim Holt’s ‘Why Does the World Exist?’ (it was a free book acquired during an internship; can’t say no to a free book). The only books from this year that I’m eager to read are ‘The Art of Fielding’ by Chad Harbach and ‘This Is How You Lose Her’ by Junot Diaz. What have been your favourite books of this year (if any)? Or like me, do you find that you read random and sometimes obscure books from any time period?