Review and Redesign | Light a Penny Candle

Book: Light a Penny Candle, by Maeve Binchy

(Review contain spoilers)

The Book Review

I told a friend that reading this book felt like watching Benjamin Button: it was like I was reading the story backwards, a happy beginning and a crescendo of unhappiness until it ends and leaves you feeling unresolved and unsatisfied. My friend suggested that I rewrite the ending in my head, and I did. (Skip rest of this sentence to avoid the ending spoiler) To me, the story ended with Aisling, Elizabeth, and Eileen moving to Aisling’s cottage in Kilgarett, to take over Sean O’Connor’s business and raise Eileen. In my head-ending, they also adopted lots of stray cats and lost Johnny Stone’s number.

I did love this book, though, Maeve Binchy did such a brilliant job telling the story of Aisling and Elizabeth, and I really felt part of their lives. In a way, it was very similar to reading the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. It was a similar time period and a lot of the story is told through letters. It’s interesting how characters come alive and become real through letters. Diaries rarely work as well as this. It was still frustrating at times to read the story, because of all that happens to Aisling and Elizabeth. Maeve Binchy spends time at the beginning making you get to know and care about those girls like they were your friends, and that makes it all the harder to see all they go through in their life.

I gave it a 4 out of 5 stars. I liked it, and if you like historical fiction, and books set in the UK, or books set in the 40s-60s, you may enjoy this as much as I did.

The Quote

...but mainly, she felt he brought a lot of it on himself. Not his deafness, not his veins, but his rejections and his disappointment. He went out halfway to invite it.
— Maeve Binchy, "Light a Penny Candle"

The Cover Redesign

pennycandle_hr.jpg

I’ve been really loving some more simple illustration I’ve been seeing on redesigned covers of classic novels. Although this is not exactly grand literature, I felt like that style of illustration would be perfect for the time period of this story. It’s similar to what I did on my redesign of Guernsey, and I really like this type of simple drawings. I also wanted the girls worlds to be flipped, with their hands extending to meet in the middle. It sort of looks more like they are waving at each other, now that I look at it, but…

Aisling’s bright red hair is my favorite thing about this. I loved the section of the book that talked about them as young girls, and that’s what I wanted to show here with this cover redesign. It might give the wrong impression that this is a happy story, but to be fair, I thought it was with the original cover too. I don’t know why, and it’s not that I am disappointed that it didn’t have a happy ending… But my drawing is sort of a nod to the ending that could have been.

Review and Redesign | Attachments

Book: Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell

The Book Review

I think Rainbow Rowell is great, and I’ve loved every book of hers I read. BUT (there is always a “but” isn’t there?), Attachments has two issues…

  1. The obvious issue with this book is that it is about someone reading other person’s emails, falling in love with that person, and then continuing to read emails. I mean, I do still remember 1999 vividly, and I know internet was still at its infancy, but it’s hard to read this book today and not cringe a bit. Hard not to think of Lincoln as a bit of a creep. And it’'s funny that the author often acknowledges in the writing that what Lincoln is doing is wrong, but it still feels like his redemption happened too quickly. Which leads me to point 2:

  2. The ending felt a bit too quick and happily ever after—I think I needed a few more pages to believe it was real. Curiously, as I was re-reading this book, Rainbow Rowell posted to her Twitter account about how much she does not like writing endings. “I don't like writing the ends of books, and I avoid it as long as I can every single time. With Attachments, I started a whole new second plot and worked on that for a year, rather than wrap things up.” I get it, I am not a writer, but writing conclusions for school papers were always the hardest part for me.

But even though this book had those, Attachments is still full of wonderful moments.

  1. Beth and Jennifer’s friendship is beautiful. I want to be friends with them.

  2. The 90s references warmed my 90s teenage girl heart.

  3. The good old days of internet. Y2k. I guess you just had to have been there.

  4. Rainbow Rowell is an amazing storyteller and if this book is the worst of them all, it’s still a pretty damn good and funny read.

The Quote

The worst thing about the internet, as far as Greg’s bosses were concerned, was that it was now impossible to distinguish a roomful of people working diligently from a roomful of people taking the What-Kind-of-Dog-Am-I? online personality quiz
— Rainbow Rowell, "Attachments"

The Cover Redesign

DISCLAIMER: This cover redesign might need a disclaimer if this is the first thing you’ve come across here: the point of this exercise is for me to have fun, and re-design a book cover in 2 hours or less. In the case of this book, Attachments, I am in no way suggesting that this would be a good cover for this book, but I wanted to explore a different style.

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, here’s why I redesigned Attachments like this.

  1. It's a joke.

  2. Thrillers with unreliable narrators are big right now, everyone wants to read/write the next “Girl on the Train” and/or “Gone Girl.” Considering this story has a major creep factor on the character of Lincoln—who is reading other girls emails and falling in love with them, and lightly stalking them—I thought it would be fun to play up that aspect, and turned this book into a thriller instead of chick-lit.

  3. It’s set in 1999, computers and technology play a major part, and we have the Y2K scare that the world would end thrown in the mix, I wanted to give this cover a post-apocalyptic vibe as well. As if the computers were all shutting off the moment the year ended. And Lincoln has read your emails. Run, girl.

Review and Redesign | Juliet, Naked

Book: Juliet Naked
Goodreads | Book Depository

The Book Review

In hindsight, maybe I shouldn't have read two Nick Hornby books in a row. I picked up Juliet, Naked at the tail end of reading Fever Pitch, and it was a bit trippy. Juliet, Naked is basically a novel about Nick (I call him Nick, just... deal with it), and all of its three main characters reminded me of the man I had just read about in his memoir (yes, we all know that all his books are basically about himself). Duncan, the obsessive fan; Tucker, the artist questioning why everyone likes the art he created but hates; and Annie, who just wasted 15 years of her life and now desperately needs something new. So yes, it took me a while to get into it and relate to it. It's just that at first glance, Juliet, Naked is sort of meta, isn't it? I got a little sick of hearing Nick waxing poetic about the weirdest shit, like “For the best part of 40 years she had genuinely believed that not doing things would somehow prevent regret, when, of course, the exact opposite was true” and “The truth about life was that nothing ever ended until you died, and even then you just left a whole bunch of unresolved narratives behind you.” It felt a bit shallow and like Nick was just hoping he'd be quoted on Instagram. 

Things finally got good and less "quotable" when Annie finally meets Tucker. From that part on, I started to actually care about what was happening to those characters. The romance element of this story was incredibly naive (maybe Nick has been writing too many movies and lost his touch?), but the friendship between Annie and Tucker felt real, and I enjoyed reading and waiting to see what happened. 

Overall, I did like Juliet, Naked, but necessarily because of the plot itself, but because it was just a flowery and complicated essay on art. What it means to people who experience it and to the people who create it. I found myself often thinking of my musical idol, Noel Gallagher from Oasis, and how growing up the songs he wrote meant something to me that years later I found meant something completely different to him. 

(I don't know how I always end up talking about Oasis when I talk about Nick Hornby). 

The Quote (I almost didn't want to do one this time...)

You are telling me that art is made up? My God.
— Nick Hornby, "Juliet, Naked"

The Cover Redesign

I had two things in mind for this redesign: the first one was that I wanted it to match the template I started with Fever Pitch, with the solid black background and the minimal look; and the second one was that I wanted it to be about art. I liked the idea of this conversation we were reading in which, yes, in very basic concepts, we explore the idea of creation and authorship. So I didn't want it to be about music, but about visual art. And I wanted it to be quite literal, with the classic Aphrodite statue, naked. I don't know if it is because art (sometimes) makes you feel "naked" in a way, raw and exposed. And then I added some fun shapes on the back, because I can't take anything too seriously, it's just not me. And in true Nick Hornby fashion, this is all about me. 

Oh, it was a complicated business, loving art. It involved a lot more ill will than one might have suspected.
— Nick Hornby, "Juliet, Naked"

Review and Redesign | Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging

Picked this slim little book, first in a long series by Louise Rennison, at the recommendation of a friend, as a good "comfort" read. Hah. 

Book: Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson #1)
Goodreads | Book Depository 

The Book Review

Georgia might be the most unlikable teen diary narrator I have ever encountered. But she is so perfectly unlikable, she is actually a delight. Selfish, self absorbed, and 100% clueless (and I really wanted to say something on the lines of "exactly like three other people I work with," but that would be a lie, as no one even comes close—am I lucky? Is this what they call perspective?). But I loved her. I actually thought.... wow, am I really going to say this? I am. I really am. I actually thought that this was the best diary-style book I ever read. Diaries BORE me. They are one-sided, whiny, unrealistic, and why are teen girls so down on themselves (rhetoric question, of course)? And not that Georgia wasn't any of those things, she was, and to an extreme level that tip-toed the line on annoying and delightful on every new diary entry. And who cares? She nailed every time. 

(Side note: British is so cute.)

anThe most absurd section for me was at the end, the Q&A with the author. It seems like this book was just incredibly auto-biographical, which is, well, shocking, because nothing in it sounds real. But maybe she is just pulling our legs. 

The Quote

I am going to become a writer for Cosmo—you don’t have to make any sense at all. Or maybe I’ll be a bloke, they don’t have to make sense either.
— Louise Rennison, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging

The Cover Redesign

georgia_hr.jpg

Here's the deal: I hate to dig at other people's work, but have you seen the cover for Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging? This is the one that graced my kindle edition. Cute, put together girl. Fluffy kitten. I mean... It could be a good YA cover... for the Princess Diaries series. But Angus (the cat) is not that chill, and Georgia (the girl) is not put together, she is a hot mess—which a typical 14 year old girl has all the right to be, and honestly, it's why we love her. So for my redesign, I wanted either a punk-rock cool but nor traditionally pretty girl, or a deranged wide-eyed cat. Turns out drawing girls are easier, and this "cover redesign and a review"book  project I am doing is about quick ideas so I wasn't about to spend the next week perfecting a cat. 

I'm pretty happy with the drawing, it is unpretentious and simple, as I wanted it to be. I wanted it to have that quick sketch look, with a limited color palette (I am a huge fan of limited color palettes!) and just some red lips and good teeth with some color. 

In the story, Georgia keeps using sello-tape to keep her bangs down. So I wanted to have the author's name on that tape, and also cover the girl's eyes. I've noticed that a lot of YA doesn't like to show the face of the characters on their covers, so the reader can see themselves in those characters. 

Also, eyes are hard to draw, and I'm keeping this post as honest as if I was Georgia writing on my diary.

And to finish it off, the t-shirt had to be a canvas for the title. Looking like a shirt you bought on vacation for $5 because it said something funny, but it's that really crappy itchy fabric that doesn't really feel good, and the t-shirt maker used the most boring font (Arial, Futura, etc) they could find on Microsoft Word... You get the idea. And yeah, shitty was what I was going for with this shirt layout. I mean, which publisher worth their salt would split "full-frontal" into two lines? But if the shirt was bought at a really crap stall just for fun, then yeah, I can see this happening. All it is missing is a glaring typo.

I had fun with this one. I'll probably read all other books as well, once my to-read pile is under a modicum of control.