#bookclub Feature by SJV
This week on #bookclub we have something a little different from Zarina de Ruiter who runs the awesome Page to Stage Reviews blog… first up is her A Day in the Life…. feature, and then a cracking review of Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan that publishes in January 2018.
A Day in the Life Of….. Zarina from Page to Stage Reviews.
Do you have a ‘day job’, and if so, can you tell us what you do?
I’m an Editor for an global conference company, which means I’m in charge of all the content production (including in-depth reports, research, interviews, podcasts and videos), commissioning and subbing for a website in one of our key focus areas, in addition to working with marketing on activities such as social media management and media partnerships.
How did your journey as a book blogger begin?
Back in the day (early 2000′s) I had a personal blog on Livejournal which turned in a travel blog when I went travelling for a few years after uni. And when I moved to London in 2010, Livejournal had been bought up by a different company, losing a lot of engagement and followers that had made it such a great community. I decided to set up on Blogspot instead to aggregate reviews I was writing for the Waterstones reviewers panel, Goodreads and my then day job in one place. The initially strictly book and theatre blog has over the years evolved to also include fun things I see, do and eat in and and around London with the occasional dash of travel thrown in (often with a literary angle to bring it back to my blog’s origins).
Is there such a thing as a typical day in the life of a book blogger, and if so what does it look like?
There isn’t really for me, especially since I have a very busy day job with long hours and my blogging time is super restricted. My book reading happens during my commute to and from work, events I often go to in the evenings, and the actual blog writing and photo editing happens on the weekends only when I schedule everything for the week ahead (unless I am away during the weekend, in which case I get up an hour earlier a few times during the week to catch up on blogging).
We’re obsessed with other peoples TBR piles, how high is yours?
I have two Billy book cases in my room, one of which has three jam-packed TBR shelves. Two of those are filled with review books and one with books I’ve been meaning to read for years (gifts or my own purchases), but are always pushed aside when something new and exciting arrives in my mailbox for review.
What’s the best and worst part of being a book blogger?
The best part is getting to discover real gems before anyone else, being a part of the buzz leading up to publication and being able to share my love for that book with everyone once it’s out in the wild. The worst part is that so many books are being published each week, many of which catch my eye, but I’ll never be able to read everything I want to as there simple isn’t enough time (see also my TBR shelves).
On average, how many books do you read in a year?
I used to read 130+ books a year (thanks Goodreads for keeping track for me), but this year I’ve been slammed with work and I’ve only just hit 55 – so I assume I’ll hit around 100 this year.
Is there an author you’d sell a limb to meet?
There are a lot of authors I admire but I’ve been fortunate to see many of my favourites already, so to lose a limb would be a bit extreme… Actually, who am I kidding, J.K. Rowling, 100%.
Your favourite book of 2017 and why?
I’m going to be cheeky here and mention three books, because one I read in 2016 is only published this year, the second one is from 2017, and the third while being read this year isn’t out until 2018.
1) Caraval by Stephanie Garber – In a young adult market over-saturated with similar titles exploring similar worlds and themes, it’s a rare joy to find something so unique, imaginative and exciting as Caraval. This is a world, and novel, unlike anything I’ve ever come across before. Focusing on an annual theatre performance, festival, treasure hunt and life-changing (and potentially life-ending) game, the novel has elements of a fantasy, a dystopia, a fairy tale and oodles of magic. With its innovative setting and world-building it is one of the most atmospheric and highly original YA novels I’ve ever read.
2) When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – This is the heart-wrenching story of a neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with incurable cancer and not only views and feels the harrowing diagnosis from a patient’s point of view, but from an expert’s one as well. With the clock thinking on every turning page this was a hugely powerful and fascinating read, as Kalanithi’s clinical observations blended with the emotional and personal.
3) Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan – Focusing on an alleged rape case involving a well-known fictional politician, this is a court room thriller, political thriller and marriage thriller all wrapped into one incredibly gripping package. With incredible plotting and story developments, and amazingly complex characters, this is already one of my favourite books of 2018.
What book do you most recommend to others?
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I always call this book a Shakespearean dystopian masterpiece. Its post-apocalyptic setting is different from any other I’ve come across, being elevated through its beautifully atmospheric writing and unique theatrical storyline strands running throughout. Both highly imaginative and achingly realistic, I was drawn into the world of Station Eleven from the very first page. And the novel was completely enthralling and unputdownable, making it without a doubt one of the best books I’ve ever read.
What has been your favourite book written by a Books and the City author and why?
Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey, a book with a dual time-frame narrative set in both the present and the Second World War. The novel’s conclusion was heart-clutchingly beautiful and devastatingly sad in equal measures – I definitely shed a tear, or two. The characters were written so vividly by Iona Grey, their relationship feeling completely authentic, that I felt a real connection to them, like these were real life people rather than fictional characters. And when that happens, when you almost, truly believe that what you’ve been reading in a novel has happened to people you know, it’s a testament that the book is an exceptional one.
And lastly our quick fire trivia round…
Thing you’d never leave home without? So predictable, but a book
Favourite place to read? Curled up in a rocking chair
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? Vancouver, Canada or a castle in Scotland
What’s the secret to success? Being bold and making success happen rather than to wait for it to knock on your door
What’s on your current reading pile? Where to start… Books I’m aiming to read in the next few weeks include: A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke, Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaardner (reread of a childhood favourite), The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton (thanks BATC), and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Staying in or Going out? Staying in
What’s your signature dish? Boerenkool stamppot
Beach break or city break? City break
Favourite literary hero? Hermione Granger
Famous last words? All was well
‘You don’t know what the word ‘gripping’ means until you’ve read Anatomy of a Scandal. Wow. I’d been intrigued by the concept of this novel ever since I heard about it back in February at the www.booksandthecity.co.uk Spring Blogger Event at the Simon & Schuster offices and was absolutely thrilled when an advance copy arrived in the mail – especially since it’s not out until January 2018. Talk about an early proof!
And what a privilege it has been to discover the world so meticulously created by author Sarah Vaughan. Focusing on an alleged rape case involving a well-known fictional politician, this is a court room thriller, political thriller and marriage thriller all wrapped into one incredibly gripping package. Seeing the events unfold from the eyes of the wife of the politician at the heart of the scandal as well as the the lawyer hired to prosecute the case provided a fascinating dual insight that made me question everything that was being said and done, as both sides seemed completely believable, ensuring I was on the edge of my seat throughout.
This is actually not the genre of novels I generally tend to read, but I have loved Sarah’s books all the way back to cosy women’s fiction delight The Art of Baking Blind (which definitely appealed to me because of my love for The Great British Bake Off) and the hugely intriguing concept of Anatomy of a Scandal completely pulled me in. And I’m so glad it did, because it has expended my reading horizons and now I’m keen to read more novels like this one (though I doubt they can be as good…).
With incredible plotting and story developments, and amazingly complex characters, Anatomy of a Scandal is one book you cannot miss in 2018!