The Book Ferret: Nude Reading is Sexy

I found this through the Daily Radness of the very lovely Biblio Babes, and couldn’t resist using it for a Book Ferret post.

Nude Reading is Sexy

So yeah, it’s basically a website with pictures of people reading naked and anyone can submit one. And apparently there’s something called Naked Reading Sunday too. How awesome is that? The pictures have varying degrees of nudity, from none at all to full frontals, so if you’re sensitive, you’ve been warned. I really like how relaxed the pictures are – all body types, messy rooms in the background, people just being themselves. Lots of sexy reading glasses too, and bold, sexy geekiness throughout. It really is rather alluring.

My absolute favourite is this one of a cute guy reading in the bath with an equally cute cat chilling on his shoulder (on page 7, at the time):

And now I’m really tempted to submit one of my own.

The Book Ferret is a Violin in a Void feature that will showcase interesting book-related finds – gadgets, websites, book stores, events, cover art, quotes, new releases, etc.; anything bookworms would enjoy hearing about.

If you’d like to do your own Book Ferret post, grab the picture, link it back here, and let me know about it in the comments. I’ll be sure to mention your post in my next Book Ferret.

How personal should book reviews be?

Image by debsch

In a recent comment, a reader stated that s/he would have preferred the review to be more objective, as it was too biased by personal taste. In reply, I stated that yes, my reviews are very subjective, but that’s the way I want them to be. I still feel that way, but the comment got me thinking – how personal should book reviews be? What do you consider subjective and objective?  Who are you writing them for, and how does that influence your opinion in the objectivity/subjectivity debate? A reviewer for a literary magazine, I imagine, should be as objective as possible. At the other end of the spectrum, a blogger writing simply for enjoyment and mostly sharing the blog with friends can make it as personal as they please.

To me, Violin in a Void falls somewhere between these extremes. It’s entirely my own initiative, no one expects or pays me to do this, and thus I have the independence to do and say as I feel.

On the other hand, this blog is not simply a means of sharing my thoughts with people who know me and are familiar with my preferences. For that I have sites like Goodreads. Here, there are readers who I have never spoken to and who, I presume, are looking for useful reviews, insights and information. I want to be able to give them that, and to increase my following, which would mean maintaining interest largely through the quality of my reviews.

At the same time I can’t and don’t want to ignore the fact that reading, and reading novels in particular, is normally quite a personal thing. We all bring our own experiences and preferences to a book, and when I’m reading I’m very aware of how taste influences my opinion of a text.

As a result, my reviews tend to be fairly subjective. And as I said, I want it to be that way. To suppress my biases is not just to avoid saying something negative and potentially mean about a book, but also to avoid speaking passionately about books that I loved. The former might be frowned upon at times, but the latter is always encouraged. In my opinion, reviewers should be free to do both.

But with that freedom comes responsibility. In being candid and subjective, I feel that I should explain myself, that I should say why I feel the way I do. After all, I am writing book reviews that are available to everyone, to people who know nothing about me and my tastes. My blog is not particularly noteworthy or influential, but I take it seriously, and I take reviewing seriously. Consequently, I need to give readers a means of judging whether or not they would agree with my opinions on a piece of writing. So if I say that a novel is boring, then I explain that it’s because there’s too much romance. That way, romance fans will understand that they might feel differently, while those who dislike the genre know they would be more likely to feel the same way I do.

At times I also try and imagine what other readers might think of a book. A sci fi novel that I loved might bore some of the genre fans because it focuses on characters not technology, so I point that out. Such suggestions can be especially useful when writing a negative review for the kind of book I don’t typically enjoy – it’s a way of saying “this is how I feel, but the people who this is written for would probably disagree”. A more objective review would probably take this point of view as often as possible, with the reviewer putting themselves in the shoes of the intended reader. I’d rather not attempt this. I think it’s essential to judge a book based on what it’s intended to be (don’t expect a literary masterpiece from an escapist crime novel, for example), but I feel it’s disingenuous to try and insert yourself into a different persona for the sake of a review.

That’s more or less been my strategy thus far, but it doesn’t work for everyone, so I’m throwing a few questions out there, because I’m curious to know what others think and it might be good to reassess my reviewing style. How personal do you think book reviews should be? Is it ok to let out your personal tastes show? What do you consider subjective and objective? If you review, who are you writing reviews for, and how does that influence your opinion in the objectivity/subjectivity debate?

The Book Ferret: The Exclusive Books Sale!

This one is for South Africans – the Exclusive Books sale is on! My wallet is lighter, my shelves are even more over-packed, and I’m hoping this weak feeling in my left arm will sort itself out soon – all signs of a great book-buying evening. While normally rather pricey, Exclusive Books makes up for it by offering some epic bargains at their sales, with discounts of up to 75%. In particular I relish the chance to buy brand new hardcover editions for less than half what you’d pay for the paperbacks. You can pick up some quality titles and a surprising amount of popular fiction too – this certainly isn’t a sale of unwanted leftovers. This time around EB is also giving out 20% discount vouchers to the first 1000 customers per store to buy 5 books or more, so if you get there soon you might be able to get one.

Here’s my score, from the top down: 

There’s some cool cover art here. The Chess Machine is a novel that caught my attention when I saw it on a list of best cover art. I was able to buy a paperback edition at the last EB sale, but it didn’t have the cover I wanted, which is this:

I also love the old-world look and feel of this one:

Now I know you can’t always trust blurbs, but I took The Last Witchfinder because it was recommended for Neal Stephenson fans and his quote is on the cover. Plus, it’s a book narrated by a book and it takes you on a historical fantasy/sci fi adventure that depicts “the clash between reason and superstition” (the Stephenson quote). And that just sounds awesome, Stephenson-endorsed or not.

I replaced my paperback copy of Air with this hardcover and its ethereal image:

Some of the other books I spotted at the sale include:

Some of these were in hardcover and the rest were in trade paperback, but there were multiple copies of each so there’s a chance that you could get one. I didn’t check their prices, but they will most likely cost between R30 and R70.

For those who are planning on checking out the sale, I just thought I’d add a few notes about it, as someone who has worked at Exclusive Books and bought piles of books at every sale for the past few years:

  • You’ll find a lot of the same sale books at different stores, so if you’re interested in any of the books I’ve mentioned here, see if you can get it at your local branch. I saw multiple copies of everything except Touchstones.
  • See all those cardboard boxes? There are more books in them, so if you can, go back every now and then to see what else has been unpacked.
  • In the last days of the sale, the remaining books will be discounted by a further 50%. Woohoo!
  • The sale will last for about a month.

If you’re doing your own Book Ferret post today, you can use it to let others in your area know about book sales or let us all know about online specials. But whatever you’ve found, I’m looking forward to checking it out!

The Book Ferret is a weekly feature on Violin in a Void that will showcase a cool or interesting book-related find every Thursday. Notable new releases, great bookshops, events, cover art, websites, gadgets and accessories – anything to make bookworms happy.

If you want to join in, grab the Ferret pic, link it and your post back here, and add your name to the Linky list. WordPress doesn’t allow me to show the Linky list in post, so you can also leave a comment here to say what your post is about.

The Book Ferret Linky

The Book Ferret: Bookworm fuel on

I don’t get to go to many literary events. There just aren’t that many in South Africa (or in most places, I imagine) and when you do happen to hear about one, chances are it’s not in your province or it’s not of much interest to you. And the likelihood of meeting international authors is slim. So naturally I got over-excited and went download crazy when I discovered, and their Books tag in particular.

On you can watch and download videos (or audio, if you want to conserve bandwidth) of authors giving talks about their works, discussions on books and writing, and lectures on philosophy, culture and politics. All the cool stuff your mind can’t otherwise enjoy because you can’t afford to fly your body all over the world. How did we ever live without the internet? describes itself as “the leading online destination for intelligent video programs on the people, issues and ideas changing the world”. Check out Neal Stephenson and William Gibson on sci fi, Neil Gaiman on his collection Fragile Things, and authors like Ian McEwan, and Zadie Smith. Find out more about how storytelling is changing in the 21st century or how journalist A.J. Jacobs tried to follow all the rules in the Old Testament (hilarious!). Salman Rushdie has several FORA videos, and he became one of my favourite speakers after listening to him on I also discovered how fun and funny Mary Roach can be –she’s the author of books like Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

Since this is a book blog and I am an unapologetic book nerd, I’ve focused on FORA’s book content, but the website offers far more – videos on politics, technology, music, science, art, the environment, religion… just check out their tags.

FORA was free when I first heard about it, and while you can still watch their content for free, I’m afraid you now have to pay for the privilege of downloading it, in either video or audio. Membership is priced at $4.99 for a month and $49.99 for a year. Which is fair, considering the opportunities you get in return.  FORA’s philosophy is “that there are brilliant ideas expressed everyday, everywhere, and [they] don’t want you to miss them”. I’m not going to say no to that.

The Book Ferret is a weekly feature on Violin in a Void that will showcase a cool or interesting book-related find every Thursday. Notable new releases, great bookshops, events, cover art, websites, gadgets and accessories – anything to make bookworms happy.

If you want to join in, grab the Ferret pic at the top of the page, link it and your post back here, and add your name to the Linky list. WordPress doesn’t allow me to show the Linky list in post, so you can also leave a comment here to say what your post is about.

Click here for The Book Ferret Linky

Introducing: The Book Ferret

ferret to search for something; a person who searches assiduously and tenaciously

Welcome to The Book Ferret, a weekly feature on Violin in a Void that will showcase a cool or interesting book-related find every Thursday. Notable new releases, great bookshops, events, cover art, websites, gadgets and accessories – anything to feed a bookworm’s happy addiction.


Lu from Lu’s Bloody Big Book Blog suggested I open up The Book Ferret to other bloggers, so I will provide a linky at the bottom of each post, allowing you to link your own Book Ferret find back here and browse the other discoveries. The concept for the post is very simple, but very flexible:

  1. The Content: anything related to books and reading that you want to share, especially something that other readers can read/use/buy/attend.
  2. The Length: your call. Go slapdash and copy and paste a favourite quote, or spend the week researching and writing an essay on an obscure novel.

The first post will be on Thursday 20 January (tomorrow), so think about what you’d like to post if you want to join in. My little Ferret is just a baby, so any suggestions are welcome, and I hope you will share the idea with fellow bloggers to help it grow. At the same time, have lots of fun with your own!

“Oh yes, I’ve always wanted to read one of his books.”

I say this very often. Every now and then, I follow through. Usually though it means “Oh yes, I’ve had one of his books on my shelf for three and a half years” or “Oh yes, I always pick up one of her books in the store, read the blurb, stroke the cover, then put it back”. In shamefully uninformed moments it can be translated as “Hmm, that name is sounds familiar and prestigious”.

Yesterday I learnt my lesson. I was at Exclusive Books, browsing for something to go  with my coffee and the couch at Seattle. I picked Blonde Bombshell by Tom Holt. I’ve always wanted to read one of his books. He writes humorous fantasy and sci fi, genres that often deliver that brand of weird which, for me, makes a really good read. Some of his books have enticing titles like You Don’t Have to be Evil to Work Here, But it Helps and Snow White and the Seven Samurai. For three years I worked at a branch of Exclusive Books that was perpetually well-stocked in Tom Holt titles, but I never once applied one of my sweet staff perks and borrowed or bought a copy.

It still hurts a little from when I slapped myself.

Three pages into Blonde Bombshell and I’d have bought it, it if it weren’t an overpriced trade paperback and I didn’t also know that the smaller paperbacks have much cooler covers. Ten pages, and I’m hooked on the mystery plot. At the end of chapter three I actually gasped aloud at the chapter’s cliffhanger. When I hit chapter five I went to ask a sales assistant if they had any of Holt’s other books. They didn’t. I gave her my name and asked her to pick anything they had on order and reserve it for me.

The point of this post? Stop phaffing about when it comes to those books you’ve “always wanted to read”. Kick aside your mental blocks and try new things. Chances are there’s a good reason you wanted to do it in the first place, and you’ll be missing out if you don’t.