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Old 25th Nov 2009, 9:13   #1
Ang
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Default Costa Book Awards 2009

Costa shortlist announced, including Brooklyn and Wolf Hall.

As I've read two, I thought I'd try to read the other two, Penelope Lively's Family Album, and Christopher Nicholson's The Elephant Keeper.

I haven't heard of that last one. Anyone know anything about it?

I'm not sure how long that link is going to work - it has 2008 in it.
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Old 25th Nov 2009, 10:19   #2
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Default Re: Costa Book Awards 2009

I did have a copy of Family Album which Penguin sent me (unasked for), but I think I've passed it on to the charity shop now. I know our erstwhile member leyla didn't think much of it.

I do remember coming across The Elephant Keeper a while ago - I can't recall how - and being amazed that a book I'd never heard of had so many Amazon reviews (42 at time of writing). Then I realised most were from the Amazon Vine programme, which has this nifty trick of making books seem more popular than they are.
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Old 25th Nov 2009, 10:30   #3
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Default Re: Costa Book Awards 2009

Of the Children's shortlist I have got the Patrick Ness but unread as yet. I might possibly end up reading the Siobhan Dowd although I always finish her books with a feeling of slight disappointment.
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Old 25th Nov 2009, 11:23   #4
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Default Re: Costa Book Awards 2009

I have on loan from the library Christopher Reid's A Scattering (poetry section) whose subject is the death of his wife. Came across it in The Observer's Books of the Year (link posted in the Column McCann thread).
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Old 25th Nov 2009, 11:25   #5
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Default Re: Costa Book Awards 2009

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Originally Posted by John Self View Post
I do remember coming across The Elephant Keeper a while ago - I can't recall how - and being amazed that a book I'd never heard of had so many Amazon reviews (42 at time of writing). Then I realised most were from the Amazon Vine programme, which has this nifty trick of making books seem more popular than they are.
Goodness me, that is a LOT of Amazon Vine reviews on one book. I can't say I've noticed that with other books, but then I rarely read amazon reviews.
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Old 25th Nov 2009, 11:41   #6
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Default Re: Costa Book Awards 2009

It happens quite a lot once you start looking out for it, Ang. Here's another example, a book of short stories with 28 reviews but a sales rank in the 60,000s. I do think this presents a misleading image of a book's popularity, or 'buzz' - something people may take into account when deciding whether to buy it.

It did occur to me that the same accusation could be levelled against some books which get blitzed by bloggers via freebies from publishers. Take for example David Vann's short story collection Legend of a Suicide, which has been all over the blogs, thanks to the sterling work of its Penguin publicist, who has been trumpeting the book (from genuine enthusiasm, I think) all year. When it was finally published a few weeks ago, it seemed to come from nowhere - though it's fair to say that the reviews in the mainstream press were also numerous (and positive). I would have reviewed it (favourably) myself if I hadn't decided to take a break from blogging.

What it means is that lots of opinions appear about a book purely through free copies being distributed - the opinions are genuine, but their number would have been much lower, and the overall 'buzz' much less persuasive, if the book was reviewed only by people who had paid for it.

Anyway, that's off-topic. Quink, I read Reid's other publication this year, The Song of Lunch, and thought it was very good. Keep meaning to get A Scattering.
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Old 25th Nov 2009, 11:55   #7
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Default Re: Costa Book Awards 2009

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It did occur to me that the same accusation could be levelled against some books which get blitzed by bloggers via freebies from publishers.
Hm, yes, except the bloggers aren't selling the book, whereas amazon is. As long as the "Vine Voices" produce an honest review it shouldn't matter, and they probably do, but we are pretty sure from past evidence that amazon has a "policy" of publishing positive reviews over negative ones.
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Old 25th Nov 2009, 11:56   #8
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Default Re: Costa Book Awards 2009

Quote:
Anyway, that's off-topic. Quink, I read Reid's other publication this year, The Song of Lunch, and thought it was very good. Keep meaning to get A Scattering.
From memory, that was also mentioned alongside his poetry collection (by Wendy Cope, another poet).
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Old 25th Nov 2009, 12:56   #9
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Default Re: Costa Book Awards 2009

The Elephant Keeper is one that must have passed me by, but I do like the sound of it. Might get that one. I have Family Album but haven't got around to reading it yet. Either one would have to be pretty good to better Wolf Hall or Brooklyn though.

Of the first novels the only one I've read is The Finest Type of English Womanhood and I found it very mediocre and had to really force myself to finish it. I'm surprised to see it shortlisted at all.

Glad to see Siobhan Dowd getting a posthumous shortlisting in the children's category - I haven't read Solace of the Road but I did the cover for her book The London Eye Mystery a few years ago and she seemed like a really nice lady. Not that that by itself is a good reason to win a prize of course!
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Old 25th Nov 2009, 17:04   #10
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Default Re: Costa Book Awards 2009

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Goodness me, that is a LOT of Amazon Vine reviews on one book. I can't say I've noticed that with other books, but then I rarely read amazon reviews.
If I can find it, there was an excellent piece from a Canadian author, detailing the pressure he got from his publisher publicist to make sure he (the author) got his friends to post reviews at online publishers -- the publicist actually tracked the writer's performance on this count. The other Amazon trick to watch out for are books published by writers whose day job is teaching creative writing -- students love to swamp the site with their own "reviews" (a particularly popular Canadian teacher broke the 200 barrier).
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