Tag: Books: First Reads

Review: The Social Life of Ink

Posted 13 November, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

The Social Life of Ink
By: Ted Bishop
Format/Source: Advanced Reading Copy courtesy of the publishers via GoodReads First Reads Programme

Ted Bishop has made a career of investigating original texts, poring over stains on paper made by some of the greatest minds in literature. But what of the ink itself? This miraculous invention has mediated the flow of our culture, yet ink is so common that it is invisible. Bishop sets out to reveal the secrets of ink. From Budapest to Buenos Aires, he traces the lives of the innovators who created the ballpoint pen—revolutionary technology only decades ago. He visits an off-the-grid ranch in Utah to meet a master ink- maker who explodes linseed oil. In China, he discovers that ink could be an exquisite object, the subject of poetry and a means of entry to the emperor’s court. And in Uzbekistan, he sees the world’s oldest Qur’an, stained with the blood of the caliph who was assassinated while reading it.

Part travelogue, part memoir of personal discovery, The Social Life of Ink asks us to look more closely at something we see so often that we don’t see it at all

When I first saw this book on GoodReads, I thought it was really cool and interesting because it was a subject I didn’t really see in the nonfiction sections of the bookstores. Sure, you learn a bit about ink and art and Gutenberg’s printing press and literacy rates in history class, but unless you studied book-making or this element of cultural history, it’s just something you don’t often think about. So I was pretty excited when I learned that I won an ARC of this book via GoodReads. This book was released on 4 November 2014.

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Review: Nothing is True and Everything is Possible

Posted 23 October, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia
By: Peter Pomerantsev
Format/Source: Advanced Reading Copy courtesy of Public Affairs via LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme

In the new Russia, even dictatorship is a reality show.

Professional killers with the souls of artists, would-be theater directors turned Kremlin puppet-masters, suicidal supermodels, Hell’s Angels who hallucinate themselves as holy warriors, and oligarch revolutionaries: welcome to the glittering, surreal heart of twenty-first-century Russia. It is a world erupting with new money and new power, changing so fast it breaks all sense of reality, home to a form of dictatorship—far subtler than twentieth-century strains—that is rapidly rising to challenge the West.

When British producer Peter Pomerantsev plunges into the booming Russian TV industry, he gains access to every nook and corrupt cranny of the country. He is brought to smoky rooms for meetings with propaganda gurus running the nerve-center of the Russian media machine, and visits Siberian mafia-towns and the salons of the international super-rich in London and the US. As the Putin regime becomes more aggressive, Pomerantsev finds himself drawn further into the system.

Dazzling yet piercingly insightful, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible is an unforgettable voyage into a country spinning from decadence into madness.

I’ve been seeing this book around quite a bit recently. I love the title because it reflects much of the hope, but also the complexities, of modern Russian society, and was keen to read it. I was fortunate to have been approved an ARC of this book via LibraryThing and the publishers. This book will be available on 11 November 2014.

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Review: The Sharp Hook of Love + Giveaway

Posted 20 October, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 5 Comments

The Sharp Hook of Love
By: Sherry Jones
Format/Source: Paperback courtesy of the publishers as part of The Sharp Hook of Love blog tour by France Book Tours

“To forbid the fruit only sweetens its flavor”

Among the young women of 12th century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God.

But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever. Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the Nôtre Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. His controversial reputation only adds to his allure, yet despite the legions of women swooning over his poetry and dashing looks, he is captivated by the brilliant Heloise alone. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.

Sherry Jones weaves the lovers’ own words into an evocative account of desire and sacrifice. As intimate as it is erotic, as devastating as it is beautiful, The Sharp Hook of Love is a poignant, tender tribute to one of history’s greatest romances, and to love’s power to transform and endure.

I had long heard of Heloise and Abelard and how their love story was one of passion, intellect, and forbidden. We all know of Romeo & Juliet’s tragedy, Tristan and Isole’s story, of Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s affair, but there’s something about Heloise and Abelard’s story that’s intriguing–is it because they were both scholars? Because they were bound for a life of service in the church? I was delighted to learn that their story was brought to life in a historical fiction novel, which also prompted me to finally get around to reading their letters just before reading this book. This novel was released on 7 October 2014.

Thank you to France Book Tours for letting me take part in the book tour for this novel. I am also hosting a giveaway at the end of this review for a chance to win a copy of this novel (open internationally!).

Also, be sure to check out this post for an interview with the author!

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Review: Tell Everyone: Why We Share & Why It Matters

Posted 14 October, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

Tell Everyone: Why We Share and Why It Matters
By: Alfred Hermida
Format/Source: Advanced Reading Copy courtesy of Random House Canada via GoodReads First Reads programme

Every day more than 500 million messages are sent on Twitter, 800 million people share four billion stories, links, photographs and videos on Facebook. Every minute, 100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube. And the flow is ever-increasing. In this new era of media saturation, what do we mean by “the news”? Is “the most trusted name in news” today a veteran anchor on television or an undergraduate tweeting from Tahrir Square in Cairo?

The day before yesterday, news and information was scarce, coming from a few newspapers or broadcasters. Now, not only are we able to connect and collaborate to create our own media, but for the first time have access to a global audience. Together we can help to bring down governments or chasten international corporations. We can hasten the spread of gossip, rumour and lies. We can market our products more widely and efficiently than ever–if we take the trouble to discover why people share and to whom.

In this groundbreaking work, online news pioneer and social media maven Alfred Hermida examines how our ability to create and share news is shaping the information we receive and depend on to make informed decisions, from choosing politicians to doing business. Drawing on historical examples, real-world experiences and leading research, he equips us with the knowledge and insight to navigate successfully the social streams of information that shape how we view the world.

It’s really curious how social media has become a part of everyday life. When I started using Twitter years ago, I wasn’t entirely sure if I was using it for anything in particular; these days I use it to plug with the blogosphere, interact with fellow bloggers, authors, to scan news headlines and articles. So it’s pretty cool that someone wrote a nonfiction title on the subject and how it’s changed the way we interact and bring the news, and I was pleasantly surprised to have won an ARC through GoodReads. This book will be available on 14 October 2014.

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Review: Rebellion – The History of England (Volume 3)

Posted 2 October, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

Rebellion: The History of England from James I to the Glorious Revolution (A History of England, Vol. 3)
By: Peter Ackroyd
Format/Source: Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley

Peter Ackroyd has been praised as one of the greatest living chroniclers of Britain and its people. In Rebellion, he continues his dazzling account of The History of England, beginning the progress south of the Scottish king, James VI, who on the death of Elizabeth I became the first Stuart king of England, and ending with the deposition and flight into exile of his grandson, James II.

The Stuart monarchy brought together the two nations of England and Scotland into one realm, albeit a realm still marked by political divisions that echo to this day. More importantly, perhaps, the Stuart era was marked by the cruel depredations of civil war, and the killing of a king. Shrewd and opinionated, James I was eloquent on matters as diverse as theology, witchcraft, and the abuses of tobacco, but his attitude to the English parliament sowed the seeds of the division that would split the country during the reign of his hapless heir, Charles I. Ackroyd offers a brilliant, warts-and-all portrayal of Charles’s nemesis, Oliver Cromwell, Parliament’s great military leader and England’s only dictator, who began his career as a political liberator but ended it as much of a despot as “that man of blood,” the king he executed.

England’s turbulent seventeenth century is vividly laid out before us, but so too is the cultural and social life of the period, notable for its extraordinarily rich literature, including Shakespeare’s late masterpieces, Jacobean tragedy, the poetry of John Donne and Milton and Thomas Hobbes’s great philosophical treatise, Leviathan. Rebellion also gives us a very real sense of the lives of ordinary English men and women, lived out against a backdrop of constant disruption and uncertainty.

This book follows up from the first two volumes in the series, Foundation (review) and Tudors (review). I was quite excited when I found it while browsing through NetGalley as I enjoyed the first two volumes. Peter Ackroyd does a wonderful job in laying out events in English history. This book will be available on 21 October 2014.

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