Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Coventry Cathedral second hand book sale and Earlsdon Festival

Reading in the Ruins

This weekend Coventry Cathedral is holding a huge second hand book sale. The ruins will host thousands of books so go and grab a bargain. All money made will go towards the upkeep and maintenance of the beautiful ruins.

And to continue the wonderful bookishness that Coventry hosts, our beautiful selves will have a stall at the Earsldon festival on Bank Holiday Monday! It's held on Earlsdon Street (the road closes for the day) and has been very popular since it started. Go to the website for more info.

I'm now making bunting and some mystery things ready for it.

Michael

Saturday, 27 April 2013

I've just come back from the Nuneaton Spring fair

I have just come back from holding my second stall, this time at Nuneaton URC for a spring fair. Unfortunately the rain put paid to a lot of visitors, so much so that I ended up reading The Tales of Beedle The Bard from cover to cover!

I made a few sales but it was all a little deflating, hopefully the next stall we have at Earsldon Festival will prove a hit. Although I didn't sell much, nearly everyone that I spoke to has said they love the idea of the shop and this time I had my business cards at hand.
The stall(s), early morning. I got 2 tables!
One thing I need to look at is the layout and actual books on show. I took more or less the same books to this fair than the last, with a few new additions. I stacked them, fanned them and made them look pretty but I'm thinking I may need to have less books, concentrating on just a few genres rather than as many as possible. It's a learning curve.

Are there any specific genres that you'd like to see on the stall at all? The more input from you, the better!
Finally, I've just come across a great new bookshop start up in local Kenilworth called the Tree House Bookshop. Go and view them HERE

Michael

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Da Vinci Code - The Friday Adaptation

As it's Dan Brown week on our website (all DB books reduced!) it seems the best time to have another look at one of the most controversial books of recent times, along with it's film companion. Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code was released with massive uproar in 2003, and I mean book-burning, marching-on-the-street uproar due to it's 'challenge' on the relationship of Jesus with Mary Magdalene. In hindsight a lot of people have decided it was all a bit over the top (you think!?) and all the hoo-har only helped to actually promote the book and shift an extra few million copies. With most things that get hyped be it a book, film or game, it was only a matter of time until it was turned into a film.

The UK book cover
I read the book around the time it came out and was sucked in from the start. In 2 days I had consumed all 500+ pages. Many people have said how appalling the writing is but at the time I just wanted to read fast paced, ridiculously high concept genre fiction and it's exactly what I got. But what about the film, seeing as this is the Friday Adaptation? It held so much promise. Taken from a major novel, directed by Ron Howard of Apollo 13 and Happy Days fame (and one of my favourite films Frost/Nixon), featuring Tom 'Can-do-no-wrong' Hanks and several highly regarded character actors including Gandalf, Doc Occ and Leon. But boy, did they mess it up.
It's a box! A magic religious box! Let's talk about it!
The issue I have with it is that it's just plain boring. The high stakes, high paced action from the book seems to have taken a back seat. Sure there is action but it seems subdued, as if the director thought the story might be lost in an array of explosions and blood. What it needed was MORE chases, MORE explosions. It is the perfect vehicle for it. Maybe the critics of the book were right and the source material is just not good enough but the way it is directed is more akin to a political thriller than an action thriller. A director as unsubtle as Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) could have made a better film. Howard, you dropped the ball on this.

The one thing that sticks out more than anything else though is Hanks. He is known as a nice guy, a charmer, so why is his Robert Langdon such a dullard? Unlikable in fact. Leaving his charisma behind was the biggest gaff.
Dan Brown, looking like a boss
The film made a tonne, so much so that another Dan Brown film was made featuring Hanks. Angels and Demons was an appalling film and even worse than The Da Vinci Code. I know it's appalling as on my Honeymoon in Sri Lanka, the only TV channel we could get was a movie channel that played Angels and Demons, Coraline and Iron Man on repeat. Due to a deafening ear infection (literally) I was in bed for 4 days with the TV. I have seen these three films about 6 times each in 4 days. It kinda made me think that actually the books might be a bit rubbish, but having only read The Da Vinci Code which I liked, I can't substantiate this.

RottenTomatoes.com has given it a dour 25%, with the public giving it 64%. I agree with the critics. It's not a disastrous film, just more a mess. My wife really enjoys it though. On the nose with the most agreeable quote comes from the critic Rob Gonsalves from eFilmCritic.com

"Any Movie with a sulking albino assassin begs for campy, self-aware treatment, but Howard and scriptwriter Akiva Goldsman serve it all up straight-faced"

"If I look down, maybe no one will notice how bad this film is"
Brown's new book is released in a few weeks and will again will sell in the millions. Maybe it's time I re-read Da Vini Code or gave one of his other books a go to see if my taste has changed. Get your Dan Brown fix from our (superior) books right HERE.

What did you think of the book and film?



Michael



Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Hunger Games - Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins


Those who read my Hunger Games review will know that I loved it so there was a lot riding on the sequel. It has taken me a surprisingly long time to get through it (about a month) but this is not due to the book, it's due to the shop falling through (twice), World Book Night and also birthdays (I turned 30! and my wife turned  ****, our birthdays are a day apart). I read the first chapter or two then left it and failed to read for ages then, last week I picked it up and zoomed through 200 pages in an evening. I was hooked.

It follows on from where the Hunger Games ends with Katniss and Peeta about to embark on a tour of the districts as winners. The book is split in three with this all happening in the first part. Treated like celebrities by The Capital and heroes of sorts by the District, it quickly gets to the nitty-gritty politics and balance of power with a shocking scene involving an old man praising them for showing up the Capital and the subsequent punishment. For a YA book it doesn't hold it's punches.

The mid section takes care of Katniss finding what her life will be now, for ever. Suzanne Collins paints the candy-land metropolis of The Capital vividly and peppers it with outlandish characters with faces like cats and 'Auto-puke' drinks, with just enough glimpsed to see how extravagant yet totally unaware the citizens are of the wider picture, much more so than the first book. The third part is where the action kicks in though.

I saw it coming. It's a Quarter Quell where every twenty five years since the Hunger Games began, there is a special rule, a uniqueness to all the other games that came before it. I pretty much guessed it once the Quarter Quell was mentioned but if you don't want to know what the third part is then skip a paragraph....gone? OK, so you must know, Katniss, along with Peeta and all the other remaining winners of past games get put back into this years Hunger Games. Despite the repetitive idea, it feels fresh. From the training right through to when Katniss arrives in the arena there is a renewed danger, a familiar yet completely different approach. Everyone knows what to expect, they've all done it.

I loved it all and have Mockingjay, the third in the trilogy, ready to go and can't wait to delve into it. I gave The Hunger Games an 8 on the comfometer so I'm going to give Catching Fire a 7.5, losing 0.5 just because of the sometime stubbornness of Katniss.

I've also held off watching the trailer until I finished the book and I've just seen it. It looks amazing. Roll on November 22nd!

What did you think?

Michael

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

World Book Night today!

Today see's World Book Night hitting 3 years old. It started in 2011 and has grew quickly year on year, with tens of thousands of people applying to be givers in 2013. I am one of the lucky ones to be chosen.

The list of books this year varies drastically from literary, to humour and biography and even graphic novel. The book I will be giving out today is Jeanette Winterson's biography 'Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?' From 2 til 3 I'll be in Nuneaton town centre giving away all 20 books then tonight from 7 til 9 at the Nuneaton Library, there will be a chat with local author (and the new Catherine Cookson) Rosie Goodwin along with Warwickshire based writer Penny Freedman.


Friday, 19 April 2013

Breaking Dawn - The Friday Adaptation

Our second Friday Adaptation comes from the 'love it or hate it' world of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. The last film Breaking Dawn part II has just been released so lets have a look at the last book in the series and how it compares.


The newest popular Hollywood technique to get as much cash as possible is to split the last part of a series in to two parts (Harry Potter and Hunger Games have done this too). We've yet to receive the Hunger Games film but the Harry Potter final instalment gained millions of dollars (as expected) but actually (in my opinion) made two very good films, and cramming all that happens into one film may have lost a lot. This is where Breaking Dawn falls down. Flat on it's face.

Awesome action! Isn't it?
Let me say though, I have not read the book. I know, this is a comparison for the book, but I've asked an expert (my wife, read it once) and here is what she said:
"I can't remember the book very well but not a lot happens in it." but she does mention that a whole chunk was missing from the final film. "There was a whole back-story for a load of the vampires that wasn't touched in the film." Why split a book that not a lot happens in, into two films, then miss out a load of stuff that would help the viewer (me in this case) understand better? Having watched Breaking Dawn part 1, where absolutely NOTHING happens for an hour and twenty minutes, I have to ask, surely moulding the two films together would have made a better adaptation?

Stephenie Meyer - Author 
I have sat through all the twilight films and generally not enjoyed them. I know it's not aimed at my demographic but more at teen girls. I did like the odd bit in a few films. Anyway, the last film...

At last some action! There is a slight (major) spoiler here so look away and skip a paragraph if you don't want to know the ending. The last twenty minutes of the film absolutely had me glued to the screen. Suddenly, out of nowhere, main characters die, horribly. It's not the action per se that I enjoyed (although it was by far the best of the entire series) but the shock at the characters, and the amount of characters, that perish. Fifteen bloody, shocking minutes this goes on for. Absolutely excellent. Then...It's all a dream. I'm not kidding. It's a 'wtf' moment. The baddies say " alright then, see you, thanks very much" and that's the end. The end of one of modern days most bankable series. It's so appallingly bad I was angry. The fifteen minutes before we're so so good. It's like eating a hearty bloody steak with chunky chips and a Belgian beer, followed by a cheese cracker that's fallen buttered side down on the dirty kitchen floor picking up all the grime and cat hair. But that's my opinion. What did the public and critics think?

RottenTomatoes.com have given it 48%. There is one review that I agree with and it's by Jeff Bayer at The Scorecard Review:

"I rolled my eyes, laughed at, and laughed with this film. I was entertained. It's a sloppy enjoyable mess, and the most fun I had watching a 'Twilight' movie."

I agree with this. It was silly, harmless fun. The whole series takes itself too seriously and when there is a slight funny moment, it's pretty laugh out loud! If I ignore Breaking Dawn part 1 and the very ending of part 2 I'd say it was fun.

The book obviously made a mint as by the time it was published the Twilight phenomenon was in full swing but it may suffer from the 'guff' factor; just too long. This is again, from my wife. Blame her, not me.



Buy Stephanie Meyer books from the shop HERE

Michael

Thursday, 18 April 2013

World Book Night in Nuneaton

World book night happens on 23rd April this year. I have been chosen as a giver. I have just come back from picking up my books and I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl, if they still get giddy, what with PC gone made and all.

I have chosen Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal.

Watch this future award winning vlog.


TTFN.

Michael

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A local author - David Whitehouse


David Whitehouse, a local author, released his d├ębut novel Bed in 2011 and it was received amazingly well with The Guardian celebrating a new voice in literature. I have just ordered a copy of Bed and I'm super excited to read it. Once the shop is open he has said he'd love to pop in so maybe we'll get a reading or signing from him.

He's currently writing his second book whilst tweeting jokes that get retweeted over 10k times.




Friday, 12 April 2013

The Hobbit - The Friday Adaptation

Every Friday we'll be discussing one film or TV series that has been adapted from the book or graphic novel. We'll be discussing which version is better, why the adaptation happened and the critical response to both book and film.

The first Friday adaptation comes in the shape of this weeks new DVD release of The Hobbit.


With the success of the Lord of the Rings films it was only a matter of time until this prequel saw the light of day on screen. It wasn't plain sailing though as the original director Guillermo Del Toro after a few months left the directors chair, with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson taking over. It was always going to be Peter Jackson's baby though.
Peter Jackson has decided to broaden the story on screen by splitting it into not two but three films. Another trilogy. Everyone loves a trilogy but there has to be material there for it to be split and The Hobbit is a fairly slender book. Added to The Hobbit trilogy are parts from other Tolkien books I am told but even so, there was far too much slow motion and panning of huge vistas in it for my taste. It's pretty, but at 163 minutes you kinda just want it to stop faffing with all the lovely fields and get to the gritty action. I am in no way an expert though as I read the book when I was a wee lad and not since (on my to-read list) so I asked some dedicated Tolkien fans on Twitter whether the adaptation succeeded. Thomas Mathie AKA @Headphonaught is an avid collector of The Hobbit books. I asked him if the film lived up to expectation.

"Yes & more. I loved it. What did I like? The Dwarves. The Trolls. The Goblin King. Seeing Erabor in all its finery. I also loved seeing Bilbo, Galadriel and Saruman. Radaghast was brilliant too. Oh and the music...I loved the soundtrack". 



Anything you disliked?
"Didn't like the introduction of Azog the Defiler. Understand why he's there but I didn't like him"

Another fan of the book is fellow musician Lew Bear AKA @LewBearMusic

"I liked it, but wish the dwarves were less comical (in the main). Radaghast was awesome though! :)"
He also agrees with Thomas about Azog.
"...the army is led by Borg in the book and would have worked better."

So it looks like the fans of the book were satisfied, but what about critics? On RottenTomatoes.com it gets a fairly average score of 65% with fantasy magazing SFX saying "There is a good film here, but with many double albums, you have to sift through a lot of padding to find it." In Empire Magazine it got 3 out of 5 stars and this tends to be the consensus amongst most.

The book came out in 1937 and instantly became a hit, winning several awards. It became so popular that the publishers asked Tolkien to write a sequel, which became the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

My memory has erased much of the book so going into the film fresh may have helped me. I do feel it is over long but nonetheless I thoroughly enjoyed it. The casting of Bilbo was exceptional. Martin Freeman does bumbling yet confident with perfection. And in a little side note, my wife's old Uni colleague is one of the dwarfs. 

Peter Jackson, director of Tolkien films
As always there is always going to be something missing from a film version of any book (see my Hunger Games book review) so there will never be a 100% correct answer, but The Hobbit film adaptation was a pretty big success.


Buy Tolkien from the shop HERE
Comment below with your opinion...

Michael

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I read this classic a few weeks back and only just got round to letting you know what I thought. In short, it was OK. I read it on the Aldiko e-reader on my phone which may have been part of the problem. At the start I was lapping up page after page but slowly started to only read a few at a time. By page 150 I was stuttering on a few pages a day at best due to 'life' ie kids, shop falling through etc. I fell into a bad habit and need to rectify it once more.

I enjoyed the story and am looking forward to the lavish adaptation taken on by Baz 'Moulin Rouge' Lurhmann this summer but think I may have to read it again in the future, in BOOK FORM, to really 'get it'.

Six cushions on the comfometer

Here's the trailer for the up-coming film with the 'Can-do-no-wrong' Leo DiCaprio.


Michael

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The first Big Comfy Bookshop stall!

On Easter Monday we took part in the Stockingford Easter Fun Day. It was our very first venture in Nuneaton and it went down a storm! The one major question I was asking myself was 'Do people still buy books these days?' and the answer was a resounding 'YES!'

We shall be going out and about in the town and getting involved in other craft fairs (some already booked!) and raise the profile of the bookshop some more. A new page will be added to this site to say where we'll be.

Thank you to the wonderful people who came down just to support the shop.


Michael