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Author of the Week, General Chatter, On This Day

Happy Birthday George R.R. Martin | Author Focus

By Rebecca Reed

George Raymond Richard Martin was born on the 20th September 1948. He is often referred to as George R.R. Martin and is the American novelist and short story writer in the fantasy, horror and science fiction genres. He is best known for his epic A Song of Ice and Fire series that has been adapted into the critically acclaimed worldwide phenomenon Game of Thrones by HBO. He serves as the series co-executive producer and has also scripted four episodes of the series.

He has been dubbed the “American Tolkien” and in 2011 he was included on the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.

George was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, and whilst growing up his world consisted of a journey to home and school between First Street and Fifth Street. This made him want to travel and experience other places, but he could only do this through his imagination, so he became an insatiable reader. He then began to write monster stories and sold them to other neighbourhood children for money,with the price it included a dramatic reading of his work. He also wrote stories about his pet turtles.

Whilst at High School, George became an avid comic book fan, he developed a strong interest in the superheroes published by Marvel. He often wrote letters to the editor of Fantastic Four and they were printed in various issues.

George R.R. Martin began selling science fiction short stories professionally in 1970 at the age of 21. His first sale was “The Hero” sold to Galaxy magazine and it was published in the February 1971 issue. He continued to write short stories in Science Fiction until 1983 where he published a vampire novel titled “Fevre Dream“. This was his most successful story thus far and was quoted as being “without question one of the greatest vampire novels of all time” George followed it up with “The Armageddon Rag” in 1984. The commercial failure of this story “essentially destroyed his career as a novelist at the time”. However, this did lead George R.R. Martin into a career in television. He became a writer, producer and, executive producer for many shows.

In a brief return to writing in 1991, admiring the works of J.R.R Tolkien he began work on what would be his most well-known work A Song of Ice and Fire. George R.R. Martin originally conceptualised it as being three volumes, but at this current moment in time, it is to compromise seven volumes. We are all eagerly waiting for the penultimate volume “The Winds of Winter” and as many are now aware the TV show has surpassed the books.

George R.R. Martin’s work has been described as having “complex story lines, fascinating characters, great dialogue, perfect pacing”. We love him and his work here at World of Books, have a fantastic birthday George R.R. Martin!

Author of the Week, On This Day

Author Focus | Beatrix Potter

By Rebecca Reed

To mark this fantastic author’s birthday today we are celebrating all things Potter (no not the wizard), Beatrix Potter, the marvelous creator of Peter Rabbit and the gang.

Helen Beatrix Potter, more famously known as Beatrix Potter was born on the 28th July 1866 to Rupert and Helen Potter in Kensington, London.

Beatrix and her brother Bertram loved to draw and paint and they often made sketches of their many pets, which included rabbits, mice. frogs, lizards, snakes and a bat! Beatrix’s earliest models were pet rabbits; Benjamin Bouncer, (he enjoyed buttered toast and joined the Potter family on holiday in Scotland, where he was walked on a lead). Peter Piper followed Benjamin and he had a talent for performing tricks, he accompanied Beatrix everywhere.

They were always encouraged to draw and this revealed an early fascination for the natural world, that would continue throughout her life. Beatrix never went to school, but she was intelligent and an industrious student. Her parents employed an art teacher, Miss Cameron, and a number of governesses including Annie Moore to whom she remained close with.

The Potter family traveled to Scotland every Summer for 3 months, this was her most exciting time of the year because Beatrix and her brother could explore the countryside. When she was 16 they stayed in Wray Castle, where Beatrix fell in love with the Lake District and the countryside.

Before she became a published author, Beatrix drew illustrations for some of her favourite stories including Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella. Her first story then came from a picture letter originally sent to Noel Moore, her governess Annie Moore’s son. It was rejected by many publishers so Beatrix made the decision to self-publish “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”. She printed 250 copies for family and friends in December 1901. Due to the book’s instant success, this encouraged Fredrick Warne and Co, who had previously turned it down, to reconsider their decision offering to only take it if it was re-illustrated in colour. In October 1902, it was published in colour and became an instant bestseller. The next year she published “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin” and “The Tailor of Gloucester”. As well as originally self-publishing her book, she also designed the first Peter Rabbit doll in 1903 and registered it immediately at the patent office. The makes Peter Rabbit the oldest licensed literary character!

Beatrix found a suitor in the form of her editor Norman Warne, her parents did not approve of him as he worked “in trade”. Despite this, Beatrix became engaged to Norman in 1905 but sadly a month later he passed away after suffering from Leukemia. Beatrix loved the Lake District and it became her solace when Norman died.

Beatrix died in 1943 and as well as her literary legacy she left behind 15 farms and over 4000 acres of land left to the National Trust. Today more than 2 million Beatrix Potter books are sold around the world every year.

Her stories are timeless, passed down from generation to generation. Her art, books and merchandise are all a part of the enormous legacy that continues without her to this day.

So, we celebrate the brilliant children’s author that many have grown up with. Be sure to stop by our Beatrix Potter selection here at World of Books.

Author of the Week, General Chatter, On This Day

Celebrating William Shakespeare

By Rebecca Reed

Here at World of Books, we appreciate the truly magnificent classic writers of times gone by and the one that remains an important part of English history is the playwright, William Shakespeare.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question”. Hamlet (Act III, Sc. I). – Prince Hamlet

William Shakespeare is deemed as a mystery to historians, they have only obtained a basic outline of his life. One source they can learn from is his work and the other is official documentation from church and court records, although these only provide glimpses into specific events. Birth records did not exist in the 1500’s, but on the 26th April 1564 a William Shakespeare was baptised in Stratford-upon-Avon, it is believed he was born on or near the 23rd April 1564. This is the date scholars acknowledge his birthday.

“There’s a skirmish of wit between them.” Leonato – Much Ado about Nothing.  Quote, Act i. Scene 1.

He married Anne Hathaway on 28th November 1582 in Worcester, they had three children Susanna (26th May 1583) and twins, Hamnet and Judith (2nd February 1585). Hamnet sadly passed away at the age of 11 due to unknown causes. William Shakespeare is then lost to history for 7 years, historians call them ‘The Lost Years’.

“Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more”. Quote (Act III, Scene II). Brutus – Julius Caesar

In 1592 William Shakespeare began earning a living as an actor and playwright in London and by 1597, 15 of the 37 plays written by Shakespeare were published. With his success, he purchased the second largest house in Stratford-upon-Avon called New House. It was a 4-day ride from New House to London by horse, So, it is believed that William spent most of his time in the city writing and came home during the 40 day Lenton period when the theatres were closed.

“If fate wants me to be king, perhaps fate will just make it happen and I won’t have to do anything” – Macbeth – Quote (Act I, Scene III).

With his continued success in 1599, William Shakespeare and his business partners built the Globe theatre in Bankside on the Thames.

His first plays were histories written in the early 1590’s, they have been interpreted by historians as Shakespeare’s way of justifying the origins of the Tudor Dynasty. He wrote several comedies before 1600 and after 1600 he wrote tragedies and tragicomedies.

He died in 1616 – history has this stated that he died on his birthday (23rd April 1616) but many scholars believe this is a myth. Church Records show he was interred at Trinity Church on 25th April 1616.

 “The course of true love never did run smooth”. Quote (Act I, Scene I). – Lysander – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

150 years after his death, questions arose about the authorship of William Shakespeare’s plays. Much of this is stemmed from the lack of information about his background. Official records from the church and the government record the existence of William Shakespeare however, none of these confirm that he was an actor or playwright.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.  Romeo and Juliet (Quote Act II, Sc. II). – Juliet

Today, his plays are highly popular and constantly studied and reinterpreted in performances with cultural and political contexts.

So on what is believed to be the playwrights birthday, Happy birthday William Shakespeare. Be sure to stock up on our classic Shakespeare here at World of Books.

General Chatter, On This Day

There and Back Again…

By Sarah Kneath

There and Back Again…

I attribute my love of all things fantasy fiction to The Hobbit. I remember being very jealous of my brother, when he was reading the book. Telling me all about trolls, elves and magic powers. It sounded amazing.

As soon as I was old enough, I read The Hobbit with gusto, practically devouring every page and giddy with excitement. It was like nothing I had ever read before. Being a youngster, I was used to reading the likes of Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis so imagine my sheer joy, when I discovered the little furry-footed fellow living in Bag End, Hobbiton.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…

The story follows a young, well-respected Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins as he is tricked into going on an adventure with notorious disturber of the peace, the wizard “Gandalf the Grey”. Along with a band of dwarves they set off to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim it as their own, along with all the treasure, from the dragon Smaug.

Far over the misty mountains grim
To dungeons deep and caverns dim
We must away, ere break of day,
To win our harps and gold from him!

In the wild they encounter the Elves of Rivendell, pass over the Misty Mountains, where they’re ambushed by goblins. Whilst trying to escape, Bilbo Baggins is separated from the rest of the group and stumbles into the path of Gollum.

Poor Gollum is a loathsome creature who has been driven mad by his “precious”, a gold ring – which Bilbo happens to have found. Gollum challenges Bilbo to answer a number of riddles, in a bid to earn his safe passage from the tunnel.

After some while Bilbo became impatient. “Well, what is it?” he said. “The answer’s not a kettle boiling over, as you seem to think by the noise you are making.

Bilbo wins and manages to escape from the angry Gollum by putting the ring on and becoming invisible. He is then reunited with travelling party, who are saved from the band of goblins by the Eagles and taken to safety.

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks,” answered Gandalf, who knew the correct reply.

After they finally enter the Lonely Mountain, Smaug discovers that there has been intruders and sets out to destroy the settlement of Lake-town.

His rage passes description – the sort of rage that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy suddenly lose something that they have long had but have never before used or wanted.

Bard, the defender of the town learns of the dragon’s weakness from Bilbo and then slays him. The dwarves are then free to reclaim the mountain.

Word is received from Gandalf that there is an army of wargs and goblins approaching so the dwarves, elves and men band together to fight the Battle of the Five Armies. After the battle, Bilbo returns to the Shire with his share of the treasure…

Wow… What a story for a young child to read. In my teens I went on to read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which again, I absolutely loved! We’ll save that blog for another day though.

I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movie franchise, and was excited when Peter Jackson decided to make The Hobbit too. Whilst I think the films are… okay. Nothing beats the book. The language and the scene they set can only be conjured in your imagination and not on film. Although, the casting of Sir Ian McKellan was spot-on for me!

J. R. R. Tolkien created a whole world, that so many generations have had the pleasure of exploring. An incredible story-teller, his tales continue to capture the hearts of many.

He is a firm favourite of ours here at World of Books and his stories continue to be amongst our bestselling titles.

Author of the Week, On This Day

Happy 115th Birthday John Steinbeck.

By Rebecca Reed

To the author who has given students many an hour studying chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph; ‘Of Mice a Men’ remains a glorious addition to the literary world, John Steinbeck was born 115 years ago, today.

John Steinbeck wrote a total of 27 books which included 16 novels, 6 non-fiction books and 5 collections of short stories. His novels included the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Grapes of Wrath and the book that remains as memorable when I first read it in school as it does today, Of Mice and Men.

“No, Lennie. I ain’t mad. I never been mad, an’ I ain’t now. That’s a thing I want ya to know.” – George

Personally, I enjoyed studying Of Mice and Men, I had not experienced a book like this in my reading life, my literature included a lot of Jacqueline Wilson and a-lot of teenage genre horror books. (point horror I look to you!)  I felt very grown-up reading this novella, the characters of George and Lennie were complex but easy to follow. We also got to read a section as a class in our English lessons, and then watch a part of the 1992 film with John Malkovich and Gary Sinise.

I then remember needing to purchase the study guide for the exams I faced in GCSE English, the little study guide featured a comic book strip of each chapter, which I found easy to visualise as well as read along with the key moments in the story. Before the film was introduced in the classroom, the comic strip helped with any confusing details.

“We could live offa the fatta the lan’.” – Lennie

We had many books throughout secondary school to read for mock exams, or even to go towards part of your estimated grade for your final year; we read The Crucible, Romeo and Juliet, Stone Cold. With each of these I did not get as obsessed with as, Of Mice and Men. I always wanted to finish the book, reading just a few pages each lesson I found irritating so I would find myself reading ahead. (naughty I know!) I also begged my parents for the DVD so I could watch the ending, which we borrowed from the local library in the end. I was not prepared. I don’t think any student is fully prepared for the tragic ending, reading it was tough, but seeing it on the TV screen it was emotional.

“The crash of the shot rolled up the hills and rolled down again.”

Without John Steinbeck, we would not have one of the greatest pieces of literature in history that is deemed as controversial for this modern day and age, with the language used. So, thank you for bringing possibly millions of students to the brink of despair in their exams and the emotional ride of the adventure of Lennie and George working on a ranch. But a sincere thank you for creating such a powerful novella that introduced me to a more mature theme of reading and carved the way for more books that required a more mature look on them, such as George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm.

Here at World of Books we have a great selection of modern fiction. Make sure you top up your collection here.

Author of the Week, On This Day

Happy Birthday John Grisham!

By Rebecca Reed

Today marks the birthday of our favourite legal thriller novelist, John Grisham. Here at World of Books, his books remain to be one of our favourites here in the office.

John Grisham was born on the 8th February 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas and practiced law for a decade. Specialising in Criminal Defence and personal injury litigation.

He overheard a harrowing testimony of a 12-year-old rape victim one day, and this inspired him to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl’s father had murdered her assailants. He woke up at 5am every day to write for several hours for how first novel ‘A Time to Kill’. John spent 3 years writing this novel, and it was initially rejected by many publishers, the publisher Wynwood Press published it in June 1988 who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing.

John Grisham, had begun his second novel ‘The Firm’ and this shot him into literary acknowledgement, when he sold the film rights to Paramount Pictures. The Firm once published by Doubleday spent a whopping 47 weeks at the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.

Since his first publication in 1988, John has released a novel a year. Nine of those novels were turned into films.

John took a break from his writing to return to the courtroom in 1996. He was honouring a commitment he made before he retired from law. He successfully argued his client’s case awarding them a jury award of $683,500. This was his biggest verdict of his career.

When he is not writing, his is raising money for many charitable causes, none more so than his Rebuild the Coast Fund which raises 8.8 million dollars in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

We hope to see more of his enthralling thrillers hitting our bookshelves very soon.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday John Grisham!

Stock up on his novels here with us at World of Books.