Friday, 27 September 2013

Guest post by Lisa Fray - 'Do Books Make Us Better People?'

Today I am honoured to play host to an article by Lisa Fray about the impact of books on readers and the way they think. 

Do Books Make Us Better People?
Have you ever met one of those people who announces the fact that they have read a book with a sense of pride that suggests they just solved world peace, cured cancer, or at the very least completed a marathon? They almost seem to pause for your applause after telling you the title, and even worse, they might then go on to tell you how much they abhor "lesser" forms of entertainment like film, TV or (shudder!) video games. The myth that these people have fallen for isthat books are inherently more sophisticated and intellectual, and that the very fact that they have read one makes them a superior sort of person. It's easy enough to do, particularly if you've just made it through one of the heavier classics, or had your understanding of the world challenged by a great philosophical work, but we shouldn't be so quick to assume that reading alone is enough to turn us into better versions of ourselves. Books don't make us into better people simply because we read them. We only become better people if the books we read make us think about our own morality.

Origins of the Idea
It's hard to find a literary critic who doesn't think that literature has some sort of influence on the way we see the world, but modern theorists tend to focus on revealing the hidden ideologies that lieinside our favourite books, rather than on the way that books might make people better. The moral approach to criticism was more powerful during the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was believed that making sure people were reading the right kind of books would keep them peaceful and satisfied with their lives. Such a start for the idea that books can make us into better people hardly gives you confidence in the sort of morality that we might be developing as we read, but this is the origin of the belief that books are inherently good for us. If this were the only reason people believed in the power of books over morality, it would be difficult to believe in the intellectual superiority of the reader, let alone in their better moral character.

The Good, the Bad and the Amoral
Many stories have obvious morals, or were designed to teach us through showing how the "good" characters are rewarded and the "bad" ones are punished, but it has always been difficult for people to take these sorts of stories seriously. Samuel Richardson's Pamela, the story of an impossibly virtuous servant, was almost immediatelysatirised by Henry Fielding's Shamela, and it is often the bad characters who are most glamorous and attractive in fiction. If it were true that books could pressure us into being good simply by making us copy ourfavourite characters, we would be in trouble. Reading a moral book would make us good, but reading an immoral one would make us bad. All of the rest of literature, lacking a clear moral stance, would just leave us lost and confused.

Thinking About Philosophy in Fiction
The way that books change us is obviously more complicated than this. If books can make us better people, it is not by telling us simple morality tales. The difference that reading makes is that it encourages us to take the time to think about the unintended consequences of our actions and to empathise with strangers. Books make us think for ourselves, rather than trying to force us into the "right" way of thinking. The sorts of questions about what makes a perfect society that Thomas More raises in Utopia, or the ethical perspectives of Ayn Rand's protagonists in Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead can challenge us to look at the world in a new way. The difficult concepts that philosophers spend their lives studying can become clear when we approach them through fiction, even if some of the more challenging books force us to look beyond their pages to find out more about nihilism, solipsism or ethical theory. If we are willing to make the effort and engage actively with the ideas that we are reading about, we can actually learn a lot from our books, even if the text has been written before our time. Descartes, Locke, and Spinoza's publications on ethics can all reveal a better understanding of society before and how some of the ideas came to contribute to our world today.

Are We Better for Loving Books?
However cynical you might be, perhaps as a result of honing your mind with difficult philosophical books, it is hard to dismiss the idea that reading can make us more empathetic and thoughtful. It is much easier to laugh at the sort of moral control that the Victorians believed literature could exert and at the way that some people still believe that just reading a book will be enough to make them a better person. Books aren't in themselves morally good or bad. It is the way we read them that determines their influence. It is the way they make us think.

Here are some links to other articles she has written:

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Blog Tour for 'Maverick Touch' by Ashley Nemer

I'm honoured to host the blog tour for 'Maverick Touch' by Ashley Nemer today.

Reporter Nadia Maverick takes an adventure through the underbelly of her town, where she discovers that even the criminal life she had been reporting on isn't quite like it seemed.
Things turn bad for Nadia when in the middle of an investigation, the tables are turned and she becomes the one under the watchful eye of Mr. A. Everyone becomes a suspect when Nadia turns up missing.Who will be there to set her free?


Author Bio
Ashley is married and lives in Houston with her husband Tony. They have two dogs, Toto and Doogie. They have been together for over 8 and a 1/2 years and he brings her more joy than she could ever imagine as a child. She loves to read and has been hooked on the romance genre ever since her lifelong best friend Laura gave her "Ashes to Ashes' by Tami Hoag to read when they were younger.
Ashley finds her strength through her family, especially her parents. They always support her in life; they push her to strive for greatness. There once was a motto that Ashley heard in her youth through her Taekwondo life 'Reach for the Stars' and that is what Ashley has always done. It was through her upbringing that the values Ashley has and displays come from. With her parents always cheering her on in life she was able to grow up having faith in herself and her ability to conquer the world.


Author Information: Ashley Nemer Website Facebook Twitter

And, because Ashley is amazing and I love my readers: an excerpt from Chapter Eight:

Nadia was pulled from her short 15 minute nap when she heard Gabe and Kevin talking outside of the SUV. She looked around and noticed there were several cop cars lining the street. She opened the SUV door and stepped outside, her hands moving up and down her arms, the cool night air giving her a chill.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Guest post: Meredith Blake - 'More Holden Caulfield’s on the Horizon?'

I am pleased to introduce you to another blogger, Blake Meredith, who wrote this post on a new documentary coming out about J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye and his most famous character Holden Caufield.
Among the most famous of fictional characters to ever exist is Holden Caulfield. The 16-year-old protagonist of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is still an icon for teenage angst today. His rebellious spirit makes him particularly appealing to adolescent school children learning to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood. The 1951 novel is, in many regards, considered an American Classic, and around 250,000 copies are sold every year with total sales of more than 65 million books to date.
The book has also been the subject of controversy in American schools due to vulgar language, sexual references, blasphemy, and what some call the undermining of family values. With all the controversy surrounding the novel it has still managed to be one of the most loved and influential books in all of American literature. Holden Caulfield is very cynical and relatable for teens and those who have ever suffered from depression. He is a symbol of something we have all felt as some point in our lives. 
There is a long list of characters that were inspired by Holden Caulfield and J.D. Salinger. Without the bad boy Holden Caulfield we may never have seen characters like Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, Chris Chambers in Stand by Me, Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting, Juno MacGuff in Juno, Charlie in Perks of Being a Wallflower, or even Green Day’s Jesus of Suburbia. The list goes on and on. Salinger loved Holden Caulfield so much he felt protective of him and as a result we were never able to see the classic character himself come to life in a film version of Catcher. After the flop of the recent The Great Gatsby film, who could blame Salinger?
Holden Caulfield was the embodiment of teenage angst. He hated the adult world and thought everything was fake and pointless. When opening up a copy of Catcher in the Rye most teen readers think that somebody finally gets it. The pent up anger and disgust with the way the world works. At some point in our lives everyone feels that things just aren’t the way they should be. People hate growing up, but Holden Caulfield explains why. 
A documentary on the extremely reclusive J.D. Salinger is scheduled to come out September 6th. According to the New York Times the new film claims that the legendary manuscripts in a vault will be published in as early as 2015. Much of Salinger’s life was a mystery and it was rumored that after he quit publishing he continued to write. In her memoir, his daughter Margaret Salinger describes the detailed filing system her father had for his unpublished manuscripts: "A red mark meant, if I die before I finish my work, publish this 'as is,' blue meant publish but edit first, and so on." A neighbor said that Salinger told him that he had written 15 unpublished novels. The documentary, which will air after the release on PBS in American Master series, states that Salinger instructed his estate to resume publishing his as-yet unseen work after his death.
On the original Catcher in the Rye jacket cover, there reads a quote: "The boy himself is too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it."


It is unknown if J.D. Salinger wrote this about Holden Caulfield or not, but one thing's for certain; there is a place in every adolescent’s heart for a boy like Holden Caulfield.
Blake Meredith is an arts and entertainment blogger for GetDirectTV.org where she covers interesting topics ranging from classics to new releases in both television and film. When not catching up on her summer reading list Blake enjoys longboarding and exploring the city. She currently resides in Chicago, IL.

Virginia's Friday



Alison Can Read Feature & FollowToday is my last Friday as a 19 year old, which is hard to believe. In 5 years I'll be a quarter century old, which is just a really strange and strangely awesome idea! Anyway, let's get to the memes and the books.

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.
Bookshelf Tour. Gives us a tour of your bookshelf!

I only picked up my books yesterday from where I had stored them over the summer, so I haven't put them on my bookshelves yet. But here's a picture anyway, so I can at least partially show you. Most of my books are still at home, hiding under my bed and stealing space in my sisters bookcase.

I'd say there's about a 100 books in those two bags and I carried/pulled them through the heat yesterday. I have bruises on my legs from where the edges of the books pushed through the bags, but it was all worth it to have my babies back home with me. In the white bag there's mainly academic books. The two you can see are 'An Introduction to Middle English' and 'The Greatness and Decline of the Celts', the latter of which I have only partially read. I love these kind of books that are just full of wisdom and knowledge that I can soak up or be inspired by when I myself write.

The brown bag mainly has fiction books in them, apart from the obvious 'The Writer's Presence'. Shakespeare is in there of course, he'll always have a prominent position on my shelves. The Bronte's are in there as well, as is Jane Austen, Tolkien, etc. Some of my antique books are also there, carefully hidden away between newer paperbacks for padding.

Maybe I'll upload another picture when I have them all on their shelves.

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer.
What got you started as a blogger? Everyone has a story/reason, what's yours?


What gave me the final push was my English teacher who told us that keeping up a book blog would help us process our thoughts about the books we were studying. Because I had only just moved to England, I figured I could use any help I could get and started this blog. I had tried before, but sometimes it's like trying to keep up with a diary, there's just no pull. But something was different this time and I absolutely loved it. There was just so much more to blogging about books that I knew and before I realized it I had become part of the book blogosphere and knew what our memes were.

I've decided to give Virginia Woolf another shot after I completely failed at enjoying and understanding 'To The Lighthouse'. So I'm using 'Night and Day' for Book Beginnings (Rose City Reader) and Friday 56 (Freda's Voice).
BB:
'It was a Sunday evening in October, and in common with many other young ladies of her class, Katharine Hilbery was pouring out tea. Perhaps a fifth part of her mind was thus occupied, and the remaining parts leapt over the little barrier of day which interposed between Monday morning and this rather subdued moment, and played with the things one does voluntarily and normally in the daylight.'
One of the things I like about Virginia Woolf is how she seems to understand people and can find words for little every day things we do. Although I don't spend a lot of time pouring tea, my mind is always all over the place.

F56:
“I’m often on the point of going myself. And then I know I couldn’t live without this”—and he waved his hand towards the City of London, which wore, at this moment, the appearance of a town cut out of gray-blue cardboard, and pasted flat against the sky, which was of a deeper blue.“There are one or two people I’m fond of, and there’s a little good music, and a few pictures, now and then— just enough to keep one dangling about here. Ah, but I couldn’t live with savages! Are you fond of books? Music? Pictures? D’you care at all for first editions? I’ve got a few nice things up here, things I pick up cheap, for I can’t afford to give what they ask.”
This is quite a long "sentence" but I saw it and just loved it. I love being in London and one of my favourite views is from Waterloo Bridge, when you can just look both ways and see Parliament, the London Eye, St Paul's Cathedral and if I strain I can pretend I can see my favourite building: the Shakespeare's Globe. And the second part just described me, really.

 So, how does your book shelves work? And when did you start blogging? Leave a link or answer in the comments and I'll come check your blog out!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Guestpost: Liesel K. Hill on writing and 'Dark Remnants'

I am very honoured to be hosting a guespost by the lovely Liesel K. Hill today as part of her blog tour for 'Dark Remnants'. And in even more amazing news, 'Dark Remants' is available for only $0.99 during the blog tour, so hop over to Amazon or Smashwords

Hello All, and thanks so much to Juli for having me here today.

I’m a very eclectic person--I love variety in colors, shapes, sizes, organization, and yes, even book genres. I have no fewer than fifty-three goodreads shelves, and will probably add more in the future.

In my writing, I write across three major genres: sci-fi/fantasy, historical fiction, and crime drama. My historical fiction tends to be somewhat literary, but my real forte is in fantasy.
So, why stray to write thriller crime novels you ask?
Like most bookish people, I’ve always been an avid reader. When I was a kid, I read The Boxcar Children. I loved the idea of children solving mysteries. I loved the whodunit of it all. One day, I started a new volume, and two chapters in guessed who the culprit was.

Time to graduate to harder mysteries.

I was still young at the time, so I moved up to--drum roll, please!--Nancy Drew! It didn’t bother me that Nancy was eighteen for about sixty-five years, that her boyfriend was so perfect he was a flat character, or that she managed to out-smart every cop, lawyer, and bad guy she happened across. I was in it for the whodunit. Once I get my teeth into a mystery, I gotta see it through.
Sometimes, I don’t even car who did it, as much as why. What chain of events led to the tragic murder, or bizarre set of events? I’m what you might call a COAM: a Chronic, Over-Analyzer of Motivations (a.k.a. an author) so you can imagine how hard it is for me to put down a great mystery.
Eventually I graduated to adult reads such as Mary Higgins-Clark (the woman’s a genius) and a few others, but I’ve never lost my passion for mystery.
My favorite TV shows also played a role. I’ve been a fan of CSI pretty much since the first episode of the original series aired. I can watch it for hours, just to watch the mysteries unfold. Understanding human motivation is a powerful thing.
I’m also into Criminal Minds (my true love) and I’ve watched lots of cop or otherwise law-enforcement-oriented shows over the years, from Third Watch to Rookie Blue to the X-Files. I even remember watching the Commish with my mom when I was a kid. Anyone remember that show?
And then there are cops in general. I know a few in real life and they are just the most down-to-earth, heroic, generous people you can imagine. They’re so great, if they were characters in fiction, most readers would probably find them unrealistic. I have so much respect for them and what they do. 
All these things came together and I found myself thinking about a story about a fairly average--though ridiculously intelligent and brave--heroine who throws herself into a dangerous world for chivalrous reasons, and gets herself onto the radar of good cop. Once the story started to percolate, it didn’t matter that this genre wasn’t my forte. I knew I’d have to write it sometime or it would keep me up at night.
Since this is the first book in the series, don’t expect all the big mysteries to be solved by the end, but see if you can spot a mystery that the characters think has been solved, but really hasn’t.

This is a series I intend to put out quickly--a new volume every 2-4 months if I can manage it. If you enjoy a good thriller, an attractive cop, a spunky heroine, and plenty of mystery and intrigue in dangerous places, you might enjoy Dark Remnants.
Happy mystery-reading, Everyone! And may the whodunits always be shocking! :D
P.S. Dark Remnants if available right now for $0.99! Get it before the promotion ends!

Does 'Dark Remnants' sound like the kind of book for you? Hop on over to  Liesel's Facebook, Twitter or blog to find out more! In more news, there's a Rafflecopter giveaway!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Cover reveal: 'Perfection Unleashed' by Jade Kerrion


PERFECTION UNLEASHED


perfection-challenged-600x800Perfection Challenged, the thrilling conclusion to Jade Kerrion's multiple award-winning, bestselling DOUBLE HELIX series, will be released on September 17th and will be available in paperback and all electronic formats. Beta readers have declared Perfection Challenged "the best of the four books...the perfect ending to an amazing series." If you've never picked up the DOUBLE HELIX series, keep on reading for a special offer on Perfection Unleashed, the book that launched the DOUBLE HELIX series.

PERFECTION CHALLENGED

An alpha empath, Danyael Sabre has survived abominations and super soldiers, terrorists and assassins, but he cannot survive his failing body. He wants only to live out his final days in peace, but life and the woman he loves, the assassin Zara Itani, have other plans for him. Galahad, the perfect human being created by Pioneer Labs, is branded an international threat, and Danyael is appointed his jury, judge, and executioner. Danyael alone believes that Galahad can be the salvation that the world needs, but is the empath blinded by the fact that Galahad shares his genes, and the hope that there is something of him in Galahad? In a desperate race against time and his own dying body, Danyael struggles to find fragments of good in the perfect human being, and comes to the wrenching realization that his greatest battle will be a battle for the heart of the man who hates him.

Perfection UnleashedRecipient of six literary awards, including first place in Science Fiction, Reader Views Literary Awards 2012 and Gold medal winner in Science Fiction, Readers Favorites 2013. "Higher octane than Heroes. More heart than X-Men."

 Danyael Sabre spent sixteen years clawing out of the ruins of his childhood and finally has everything he wanted—a career, a home, and a trusted friend. To hold on to them, he keeps his head down and plays by the rules. An alpha empath, he is powerful in a world transformed by the Genetic Revolution, yet his experience has taught him to avoid attention. When the perfect human being, Galahad, escapes from Pioneer Laboratories, the illusory peace between humans and their derivatives—the in vitros, clones, and mutants—collapses into social upheaval. The abominations, deformed and distorted mirrors of humanity, created unintentionally in Pioneer Lab’s search for perfection, descend upon Washington D.C. The first era of the Genetic Revolution was peaceful. The second is headed for open war. Although the genetic future of the human race pivots on Galahad, Danyael does not feel compelled to get involved and risk his cover of anonymity, until he finds out that the perfect human being looks just like him.

FOR A LIMITED TIME, E-BOOKS AVAILABLE FOR JUST $0.99 (Discounted from $2.99) 
E-books available at Amazon / Amazon UK / Apple / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Smashwords Paperbacks available at Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository To be the first to receive news of Jade Kerrion's latest book releases, sign up for her New Release Mailing List. If Perfection Challenge makes it to the bookstores before September 17th, you'll be among the first to know. Connect with Jade Kerrion: Website / Facebook / Twitter