Book Review – Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie

Hello readers!

This weekend, I finished reading the crime novel, ‘Death on the Nile’ by Agatha Christie. Below is my review of the novel from a writing perspective, which was originally posted on Goodreads. I must add, that the analysis of this novel was a huge challenge, because of the pure excellence in its creation. Please be warned, this will contain spoilers!

From the outset, I loved how Agatha introduces us to the large cast of characters. Introducing a large cast of characters is not an easy task in writing; especially when the cast is in a detective plot. But Agatha uses wonderful methods without compromising the plot. We meet some of the characters through the eyes and movements of Hercule Poirot, the detective. We meet related characters through their own ‘dialogued’ scenes. And we meet characters for the first time through the dialogue of other characters (where these characters have met in the past). These are effective methods in which to introduce an array of characters that know, or will come to know, each other. These varied methods also ensure that the process of each character introduction does not become repetitive and mundane to the reader.

I was slightly concerned during the beginning of the book whether I would remember all of the characters, and whether this would distract from the plot. But thankfully Agatha seemed to have already thought this through by ensuring that some of the traits and actions of the characters were repeated just in the right places later in the novel. This process triggered my memory (and no doubt other reader’s memories) of past scenes in the novel. Moments such as these remind us of how quickly a reader can forget a scene and quickly be brought back to it when systems such as these are used.

As the characters embark on their journey, we get to know them, and their relationship with each other, in more detail. And each detail builds towards a perfectly woven crime plot – where any of the characters can end up being the culprit. Every possible story that Hercule pulls together has us believe that he is correct – until he makes us aware that this is not the full story and that there is a hole! Hercule is such a wonderfully clever detective, that he unravels everything for us slowly (also holding us back, leaving us itching at times!). In the end we wish we had his detective solving skills, because we just didn’t see what was coming.

What is interesting about this book is that the first half is a suspense story that builds through tension, and the second half of the book becomes a who-dunnit mystery. I found that this switch made the read very exciting.

There are many great things to say about this novel. I loved how Agatha addressed some clear themes in the book – social class, love, envy – and how she pushed the morals within these themes into the story through dialogue. i.e. ‘all that is gold does not glitter’ – Hercule Poirot.

We are introduced to some beautiful words of the era, such as HON and fey (I will leave them for you to research). This tells us that Agatha absolutely adored language, and that she wanted to teach us, her readers, new words; teachings that go beyond the story and novel. I believe that if you can teach a reader something new (a word, a fact, a new subject) then you have done a wonderful thing as a writer.

In my view, Agatha was not only one of the finest novel plotters, but she was an exceptional detective! To have concocted these plots without any flaws is truly genius. I love how she once quoted that she did most of her plotting whilst doing the dishes. I believe that it would definitely take more than sitting at a desk and writing to formulate finely woven plots such as these.

I would recommend this book to any reader and writer, just for the pure excellence of her plotting. This book was a truly enjoyable read, and I hope to fork out more of her novels (and hopefully read them just as fast as Agatha wrote them!)

Until next time.

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review – The Book of You, by Claire Kendal

Hello Readers,

This week, I finished reading my fifth book of 2015 – the psychological-supense thriller, The Book of You, by Claire Kendal; and I must say what an exciting read it was. I flicked through the pages, eager to know what would happen.

The following paragraphs detail elements of the book that I liked from a writing perspective. Please be warned, there are spoilers! This review was originally posted on Goodreads.com.

The opening scene began in the first person, as a diary entry, written by the protagonist, and this diary-entry-pattern is continued throughout the book. I instantly loved how the novel began this way, because I knew there would always be a specific date and time as I read on; I didn’t have to think too much about time moving through the narrative in methods such as season changes etc. I also believe this gave Claire more room to focus on the conflicts of the characters, rather than outside conflicts of weather, which often appear in novels.

The opening scene / diary entry introduces us to the two main characters; via the protagonist writing of her problematic encounter with the antagonist, through an action that has happened in the past. I instantly knew that their encounter was not the first, and that this scene pinpointed a moment in time when their conficts were mid-climax, and both characters were already suffering for their own very different reasons. By throwing the reader into the mid-action, we feel like we have joined the heroine on her journey as though we have collided with her on the street. Claire manages to capture all of the important elements of a novel introduction; from the hook, style and voice, main characters, conflict, themes, mood, and goals. All these things, among other elements, are a magical combination with which to grip and keep a reader.

The best part of the novel for me, besides the stalker theme (which always seems to fascinate me) was the strength in the protagonist’s voice. I was drawn into her claustrophobic and troubled mind, and I felt her fear of her stalker in my bones. Claire created a very rounded and very real protagonist, and placed her in a court case that contained shocking happenings which were parallel to ones she was experiencing, or about to experience – and this powerful combination added to the frightening suspense and build-up of the novel.

Although the novel had a fairly conventional ending for this genre, I had not predicted it’s final outcome on any of the build-up pages. I honestly did not know if she would win or lose. Claire is such a clever writer, who offers us surprise and shock in her work – she is a woman brave enough to approach some awkward subjects and themes, and I salute her. Finally, I also believe she could turn any normal scene into something mesmerizing, and that is why I shall look forward to her forthcoming books.

Tomorrow, I will be choosing my sixth book of the year, and will be placing my review here when done and dusted.

Wishing you all a happy Easter!

Best Wishes,

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review – Daughter by Jane Shemilt

Hi Readers,

Today, I finished reading the thriller, Daughter by Jane Shemilt. I must say that this has been my least favourite book I’ve read this year, and I have explained the reasons in my review below (originally posted on Goodreads.com).

I love mystery books, and I was particularly drawn to the beautiful pastel-coloured cover, and the ‘missing-plot’ synopsis. I enjoyed the first chapter; however, as the story unfolded, I grew frustrated, and eventually bored with the entire book, for various reasons.

Firstly, I didn’t find the characters real or well rounded, and I certainly never loved them enough at the start to really care what happened to them. However, I did read on, purely out of curiousity; to see if the author would apply a twist, and to see how early on the villain (if there was one) had been introduced to us. You could say that I was analysing the book from a writing perspective; and the actual story became secondary! I must mention the dog ‘Bertie’ too; because he frustrated me enormously. This dog was a minor character that seemed to be used in the story only as a means of adding a red-herring to the plot – by digging up bones that were not Naomi’s – honestly, why so many paragraphs about him running around fields and twitching his nose!

Even though some of the author’s poetic description was good, I felt that it was detached from the story; beginning solitary at the start of almost every chapter, but never weaving itself into action or dialogue. This is a big flaw in writing; and one that will distract the reader away from the storyline. I also felt the author had used art (the main characters hobby) as an excuse to play on her poetic visions – because in the end the art had played no role whatsoever in the outcome of the story.

My review is harsh; but I have to admit that everything about this book annoyed me – from the characters, the empty and poorly weaved plot, the ambiguous outcome, and the written style. Very disappointed, but I have learned much from a writing pespective.

Well on a more positive note, it’s time to start reading my fifth book of 2015! But rather than decide on the book tonight, I will let tomorrow’s morning mood guide me. Will it be a thriller or something more lighthearted, I wonder? I just love the mystery of a new day…

Oh readers, I must also let you into a little secret! This week I sent off my first assignment to the college – the first step in completing my Novel Writing Diploma. I submitted a 1000 word novel manuscript, and a brief account of the type of novel that I want to write. If I pass this assignment, then the next one will be about characters. Exciting!

Well March is finally with us, and the stems of the Daffodils are piercing the ground! I am very much looking forward to Spring and the birth of new writings.

May inspiration be with you all,

Best Wishes,

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Rootless

She had woken in a loveless society that admired nothing more than its own reflection. She had commuted dank streets for years, with her coat collar tucked protectively in the crook of her neck; masking the putrid breaths of strangers, their voices ripe with pessimism. She had died savagely at the hands of stony scavengers, in their quest for food. But, she had drawn her last breath with a smile; having observed a set of doors that had opened into a new and fragrant society.

April finished reading the last paragraph of her manuscript, placed it on the kitchen table, and looked at her Mother, who was standing at the kitchen sink, daydreaming into the garden.

“What do you think, Mother?” She asked, rotating her thumbs in her sweaty clasped hands.

Her Mother turned to face her. “I’m left wondering what the new and fragrant society was like.”

April grabbed a pen. “Then I shall write on, for you, Mother.” She spoke the words of her story as she wrote; her fingers dancing eloquently across the page.

She had woken in glorious sunlight with a diamante heart encrusted on her brow. A stranger had greeted her with open hands; had given her his maps, his compass, his lifelong supply of food, his honest smile. And on her journey of life, she had looked to the psychedelic colours of the skies; had glimpsed the wings of eternity. And all the while, she had smiled, loved, and had thanked the universe.

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review – The Little Old Lady who Broke all the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sunderberg

Hello Readers.

Today I finished reading my third book of 2015, The Little Old Lady who Broke all the Rules, by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg.

This book certainly made a lighthearted change from the first two books that I read this year – the first being The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, followed by the suspense thriller, Never Tell by Claire Seeber. I am making a wholehearted attempt to rotate the fiction genres that I read; as I feel that a writer and reader can become stuck-in-a-rut if they stick with the same genre of books for too long – and the same genres over again can certainly limit your visions. I think it was Stephen King who said to ‘read great books and awful books’ – because you can learn just as much from the awful ones, as you can the great ones, as a reader and a writer.

I must say that I have learned some interesting elements of writing by analysing the work of the wonderful author that is, Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg. Here is my review, originally posted on Goodreads.com.

This book was an enjoyable, humorous and inspiring novel. The group of characters known as ‘The League of Pensioners’ were well-rounded, and were certainly not stereotypical pensioners; although in places, Catharina did capture hints of their age very well, through the use of their zimmer-frame mobility, actions, tastes in food and drink, and their oldie dialogue. Martha was the leading role in the story, but she could never have existed as boldly without her colourful companions, Anna-Greta, Christina, Rake and Brains; who all brought their own skills and personalities into the story. This novel is a perfect example of how two controversial ‘news/tabloid’ stories can be merged into a unique plot. Here we have the controversial story of poor care-homes vs. the not-so-badly-kempt prisons. It could end up being a very depressing story, but with the brilliant skills of humour that Catharina infuses, the idea becomes very lighthearted, and quite often, comical. Catharina is a bestselling children’s author, and this shined through in her writing style; the simplicity of the words left us pause-free, creating a good and steady pace for the exciting adventure plot. After finishing the book, it left me feeling positive about the strength of human nature. I will certainly be thinking differently about the next pensioner I see with a zimmer-frame! We are all unique and are capable of the most amazing things if we put our minds to it, and age is not a barrier. The author has mentioned that she likes British humour – and this humour certainly brought a smile to my face – even on the train!

So what is the fourth book I am going to read this year? Well I have decided to return to the suspense thriller by reading ‘Daughter’ by Jane Shemilt. A daughter goes missing and the story unravels…nothing more needed to prompt me to turn those pages!

Until next time, happy reading, happy writing!

Donna x

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Book Review – Never Tell by Claire Seeber

This week I finished reading a twisty thriller called Never Tell, by Claire Seeber. Here is my review, originally posted on Goodreads.com.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I thought the plot was cleverly weaved together and twisty, but I felt that the loose ends were too conveniently tied up, and some of the suspense went on for way too long, which was so frustrating that I found my foot was tapping with anxiety – as I just wanted to get through the pages and finish the book. I enjoy a plot that alternates problems and solutions, but this book just dragged on with the same problem throughout. On a more positive note, I enjoyed Claire’s writing, and I think she is very strong with regards to dialogue. I loved how she captured the nature of child speech! I also enjoyed the past storyline – the university years – the young Rose and Dalziel are great characters. A good, but often frustrating read, and I lots learned from a writing perspective.

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Augusta

Sandy hair coiled coral, combing the marine; a tangled frenzy.

Barren breath like glitzy moth wings, quivering a thousand beats.

Red-raw meat humours a famished mouth,

Gone astray, hailed in the wild.

 

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Hush

Words strangle my throat; I try

Three thousand ways to

Come crawling to your bare feet

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Book Review – The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Hello Readers,

I have decided to add the reviews that I write on Goodreads.com to my blog. I think it will be a great way to keep my blog more active!

Today, I finished reading The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was a completely new genre for me, and I was thoroughly immersed throughout. Here is my short review;
‘In a world of uneasy and troubled times, it is more than a pleasure to escape into the fantasy world of ‘The Hobbit’. This book escorted me from the train (my real setting during most of the reading) into the wonderful and magical world of mountains, woods, rivers and caves. The settings were immaculately designed, and the characters were fully rounded, lovable and intriguing, which are assets that make a reader always remember them. This is a truly exceptional novel, and a remarkable piece of art – no wonder it was adapted into movies (all of which are next on my list!)’

Lastly, I must say, that Friday is my favourite day in which to finish reading a book. I shall definitely be looking forward to Monday, if only for the chance to meet some new characters and follow a new journey!

Until next time 🙂

Donna x

 

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My 2015 Reading List!

Hello Readers,

I have finally researched and compiled my 2015 Reading List!

There is a total of 150 books on the list; which I doubt very much I will be able to complete in 2015 – but at least it will act as a guide – and for those that I do not get round to reading, they can always be added to my 2016 reading list!

I am going to attempt a different reading approach this year. I generally read at a medium speed, and by doing this I am averaging around 15 books a year. So it is time to speed up and do some scan reading in the places in a book that I see fit! Places like action scenes and scenes that tend to drag on in description will be great places to start. I also have a habit of re-reading certain paragraphs or scenes that are written beautifully or tend to take my breath away, and although this is ‘nice’, I must remember that this is taking away the time that could be spent on other books. If I were to do this even a few times on every book then the time certainly accumulates.

On the list, I have included Classics, Biographies, Teach yourself books, Poetry and a wide range of fiction genres, plus some real-life stories thrown in for good measure! This year I needed include other books that are away from the usual genre areas with which I am familiar. I think that by expanding my literary horizons, I will be colouring my experience as a writer.

Here is the list. I hope you enjoy!

Book Author
The Red House Mystery A.A. Milne
Naked, Drunk and Writing Adair Lara
Hausfrau: A Novel Jill Alexander Essbaum
The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty Amanda Filipacchi
All Fur Coat Andrew Holmes
The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes Anna McPartlin
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Anne Lamott
The Hound of the Baskervilles Arthur Conan Doyle
From A to Biba: The Autobiography of Barbara Hulanicki Barbara Hulanicki
West End Girls: The Real Lives, Loves and Friendships of 1940s Soho and its Working Girls Barbara Tate
Bare Necessity (Original Title: A Compromising Position) Carole Matthews
The Little Old Lady Who Broke all the Rules Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
Love, Rosie (Original Title: Where Rainbow’s End) Cecelia Ahern
Great Expectations Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
Never Knowing Chevy Stevens
The Double Bind Chris Bohjalian
The Orphan Christopher Ransom
The Book of You Claire Kendal
Never Tell Claire Seeber
Brooklyn Colm Toibin
Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano Dana Thomas
Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
Rebecca Daphne du Maurier
Life Expectancy Dean Koontz
Innocence Dean Koontz
The Unloved Deborah Levy
Swimming Home Deborah Levy
Writing From the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within Dennis Palumbo
The Zookeeper’s Wife Diane Ackerman
My Little Friend Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch Donna Tartt
Teach Yourself: Understanding Psychology Dr. Nicky Hayes
The Power of Now Eckhart Tolle
The Raven Edgar Allan Poe
The House of Mirth Edith Whalton
After Birth Elisa Albert
Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True Elizabeth Berg
Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte
Room Emma Donoghue
Elizabeth’s Missing Emma Healey
Men Without Women Ernest Hemingway
Scoop Evelyn Waugh
Middlemarch George Eliot
1984 George Orwell
Animal Farm George Orwell
Life: A User’s Manual George Perec
Gone Girl Gillian Flynn
Dark Places Gillian Flynn
The War of the Worlds H.G.Wells
The Time Machine H.G.Wells
A Little Life Hanya Yanagihara
The People in the Tree’s Hanya Yanagihara
Alys, Always Harriet Lane
Put Your Heart on the Paper: Staying Connected In A Loose-Ends World Henriette Klauser
Moby Dick Herman Melville
The Black Book Ian Rankin
The Hobbit J.R.R.Tolkien
The Call of the Wild Jack London
The Poser Jacob Rubin
Ulysses James Joyce
Write Great Fiction: Revision and Self-editing James Scott Bell
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
Emma Jane Austen
Daughter Jane Shemilt
Take Joy: A Book for Writers Jane Yolen
The Catcher in the Rye JD Salinger
Into the Forest Jean Hegland
The Glass Castle Jeanette Walls
Three Men in a Boat Jerome K. Jerome
The Executor Jesse Kellerman
The Miniaturist Jessie Burton
Blue-Eyed Boy Joanne Harris
A Kind of Intimacy John Ashworth
The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris John Baxter
On Becoming a Novelist John C Gardner
The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writer’s John Gardner
The Wild Life: A Year of Living on Wild Food John Lewis-Stempel
Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck
Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift
Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
Songbird Josephine Cox
The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron
Chanel – The Legend and the Life Justine Picardie
Teach Yourself: Get Your Book Published Katherine Lapworth
The Buried Giant Kazuo Ishiguro
Get in Trouble; Stories Kelly Link
The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
Find Me Laura Van Den Berg
Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
Leonard Cohen: Poems 1956-1968 Leonard Cohen
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
Little Women Louisa May Alcott
Apple Tree Yard Louise Doughty
The Dice Man Luke Rhinehart
The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood
Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell
Improve your Written English Marion Field
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
London Fields Martin Amis
Runaway Martina Cole
Quant by Quant: The Autobiography Mary Quant
Frankenstein Mary Shelley
The Scold’s Bride Minette Walters
Brick Lane Monica Ali
Writing Down the Bones Natalie Goldberg
The Scarlett Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times Neil Astley
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances Neil Gaiman
Land of the Living Nicci French
The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde
The Price of Salt Patricia Highsmith
Amnesia Peter Carey
Want You Dead Peter James
The Courage to Write: How Writer’s Transcend Fear Ralph Keyes
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Ransom Riggs
Zen in the Art of Writing Ray Bradbury
The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff Richard Carlson
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and other Short Stories Robert Louis Stevenson
Story; Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting Robert McKee
Why we Run: A Story of Obsession Robin Harvie
Serena Ron Rash
Revolution Russell Brand
Clarissa Samuel Richardson
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Seth Grahame-Smith
Trafficked Sophie Hayes
The Host Stephanie Meyer
Everything’s Eventual Stephen King
The Stand Stephen King
The Shining Stephen King
The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath
Dying for Christmas Tammy Cohen
Finding Your Writer’s Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction Thaisa Frank
Tess of the D’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy
Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy
The Murder Bag Tony Parsons
Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew Ursula K. Le Guin
The Hunchback of Notre Dame Victor Hugo
Les Miserables Victor Hugo
Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolfe
Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
Novel Shortcuts – Ten Techniques That Ensure a Great First Draft Whitcomb
The Woman in White Wilkie Collins
The Moonstone Wilkie Collins
Lord of the Flies William Golding
The Elements of Style William Strunk Jr and E.B. White
The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Novel Writing Writer’s Digest
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Seasons Greetings!

Hello Readers,

Firstly, I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas!

It has been pretty mild weather here in London (UK) with Christmas morning having been made up of clear blue sky and a blazing sun. But the weather forecast predicts a cold spell ahead, so I am hoping we might see some snow before the new year.

It has been a wondrous, inspirational year for writing and reading, and I hope you have also experienced the same.

Here is a list of 15 books that I managed to read in 2014, with reviews that I made on Goodreads.

I will post again in the new year,with my new 2015 reading list; as well as catch up with you all 🙂

Delilah by Eleanor De Jong

I loved this book! Eleanor writes with such brevity, creating colourful characters in a beautiful setting. I usually read horror and thriller novels, but for me this was so refreshing, and a wonderful insight into the Israelite and Philistine worlds – and of course human nature. This book is a fine example of great storytelling.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Revolutionary Road is a literary masterpiece. All of the elements of novel writing are tightly woven together to perfection. The setting is a character in itself; adding both atmosphere and emotional boom to the story. Yates is masterful with his use of metaphors, and he cleverly works humour into the reader without distracting them from the plot – and the humour acted as a light release from the overall moodiness of the themes. Having watched the film first, I visualized Winslet and DiCaprio as being the main characters throughout reading the book – and this, for me, coloured the story tremendously – because these two actors had the exact same chemistry as the characters in the book. This is an addictive read with lovable characters – you just fall into their hearts and live their stories with them. This novel will stay with me forever! 5/5

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

The magic and mystery of the blurb on the back of the book grabbed me straight away. I loved the protagonist, minor characters and setting. The plot had me guessing all the way through – I was eager to know the answers. This is the first book I have read by Cecilia Aherne, and I was not disappointed; she weaves a fine plot and satisfying story. If you like magical stories then I recommend this book.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

This is an ace play! Tennessee writes a beautiful setting; he transports us right into the era with his description of skies, music, and street dialogue. You can almost smell the roasted chestnuts cooking! Tennessee must have had a strong love of poetry, for it comes out full bloom in Blanche’s dialogue. This is a flowery play with dark undertones, that all lead to a heartbreaking climax. A masterpiece that I will definitely read again!

Write by The Guardian

This was quite an addictive and enjoyable read! I am always intrigued by the ‘how to write’ books; but this one even more so because it was full of good advice from fine writers. I have taken away some good tips from this book for when I start work on the second draft of my novel. I recommend this book – it is short and snappy and you can digest it all in a day or two.

Ten New Poets by Bernardine Evaristo

A beautiful collection of poetry about the universal elements of life. The book contains a short biography of each poet, a selection of their poems, and a brief explanation of each reflecting on style and theme. A truly inspiring read.

102 Ways to Write a Novel: Indispensable Advice for the Writer of Fiction by Alex Quick

An essential book for novelists! In just 102 sections, this book manages to address and answer all of the important elements that are needed to write a successful novel. The book is written with much brevity, something that most other books in this subject often fail to do. The 102 steps can be dipped into time and time again as you work through your novel. It is a great guide for ensuring that you are including everything that you need to in order to create that bestseller! Go buy!

Joyland by Stephen King

Joyland takes you into the world of a 1970’s amusement park – with murder, supernatural and coming-of-age elements all thrown in to one super story. A thrilling ride!

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The first few pages of this book were gripping and I was excited by the plot. However as I read on, I grew bored, for two reasons. 1) The author creates new characters as we reach the middle of the book. According to novel writing, all characters should be well and truly established before we get to the middle. 2) The author over-explained things and I found that this slowed the plot. All I wanted was a story – not a poem. Over all, I was not gripped by this book. There is no doubt that the author can write beautifully, but he didn’t quite grip me with his story telling. In the end I skipped to the last chapter and got my friend to fill me in with anything that I had missed.

Atonement by Ian McEwan

This book starts out with a ‘play’ scene that reminded me of the beginning of Revolutionary Road. This process of placing the characters straight into a point of action such as a play, is so powerful in novel writing. From the outset, Ian manages to pull you right into the main character’s (Briony) mind – so by the end of the book, you feel like you have lived her life and made a lifetime friend. This book is not just a book of fiction, it is a book of psychology. It demonstrates some of the deepest and darkest elements of humanity, and Ian lights them up on the page. A truly stunning book by a masterful writer. The film was stunning too.

Single White Female by John Lutz

This is psychological thriller perfection! A great cast of characters, a lovely weaved plot, and lots of mystery and suspense. The pages kept turning right until the end. I loved Allie and Hedra and the entire doppelganger concept. John takes this element of humanity that exists in us all, in small amounts, and then magnifies them into a form of madness. I love the film also, but the book has different scenes which added even more spice when reading. This book/film will always get five star rating from me.

The Evil Seed by Joanne Harris

I have mixed feelings about this book. The premise and the characters were very captivating, and I especially loved the Cambridge setting and the dark, other-worldly themes, however, I felt that the book was confusing in places, for two specific reasons. Firstly, I struggled to determine from the outset, which characters were narrating the different chapters in the book. Secondly, I was distracted from the plot because of the long sections of flowery description. Don’t get me wrong, the description was gorgeous and it added to the feel of the book, but for me it caused distraction – all I wanted was the story. There is a lot to be said for simplicity in writing! All that aside, this is an excellent debut novel from Joanne. She is an expert storyteller who managed to weave a complicated plot and tie it neatly at the end. For me, her skill definitely lies in artistic descriptive writing. If you love art, symbolism and atmospheric writing, then this book is for you.

One Door Away from Heaven by Dean Koontz

This book is the first Dean Koontz book I’ve read. It is a whopping 757 pages of pure excellence! Dean creates a cast of beautifully named, well-painted, rounded characters, and we are drawn into their minds so fantastically. With them, we embark on a huge adventure that is full of atmosphere, suspense, danger and fear. And Dean certainly knows where to place those cliff-hangers, because I was turning those pages as fast as that Fleetwood on the highway! Dean writes some interesting views on bioethics and humanity, through the perspectives of his characters – and this book keeps you thinking about your own existence and place in this vast universe long after you have finished. If you love metaphors and similes then Dean is your writer; occasionally I had to re-read his descriptions because they blew me away. Dean is a superb writer and I am left wanting to read more of his books.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Being an avid horror/thriller reader, this book was something a little different for me to try. I found the plot intriguing, but I felt that the characters were portrayed from a far distance; we rarely get to know their feelings, or what prompts them into their actions, which I found rather disappointing. I felt the writing had a screenwriting quality to it, and it very much reminded me of books like ‘A Streetcar named Desire’ – may be because of the quantity of dialogue throughout the book. There is no doubting that Fitzgerald has a beautiful hand in writing, and there is some magical descriptive writing in this book that bring you right into the elegance of the era, in which this book is set.

Katherine Mansfield Short Stories

These short stories are excellent! They deliver everything they need to with regards to all of the short story elements, yet they breathe brevity. We are immediately introduced to the character, and we live out the plot through the character thought and feeling. I particularly liked ‘The Tiredness of Rosabel’ and it’s theme of loneliness and darkness in an every day situation. Katherine manages to pull the darkness of life into most of her stories, and this is really my cup of tea! I truly recommend this to any reader who likes a quick reading fix. Also, any short story writer who wants to study the art of short story telling, then this book is a must!

 

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Wishing you all a frightful evening…

Hello Readers,

Well the sun is setting and the moon is brightening, on this still and autumnal Halloween in London.

I cannot think of a better day than to send out a big THANK YOU to all of my readers and followers; for their support and their likes on my blog. You all give me the encouragement to continue writing and blogging. From today, I am going to make a promise to visit and support every blog that supports mine.

So what have I been up to in the world of literature, of late?

150 Word free-writes…

I have been spending my early-morning commutes undertaking 150 word free-writes. I start the process by searching for a random image on Google and studying it for a few minutes. Then I visualise the image as I write, conjuring up whatever words and sentences come to mind. The trick to this process is to write without stopping, and to allow the mind to run wild like water. Sometimes the final piece naturally turns into a piece of prose, a poem, a character biography, a descriptive setting or a flash fiction; and the excitement lay’s in the unpredictable outcome. So why am I doing this? Well, it keeps me writing and achieving every day, which is great practice, but my ultimate goal is to create a portfolio of 150 word pieces that I can re-work into a collection of prose and poetry – which I aim to send out to publishers when dusted and polished.

Nano-Wrimo…

I have been working on the first assignment towards my Diploma in Novel Writing, which, if I am honest, has taken me too many months! But I am almost finished! The task was to create an outline of a plot, for a novel, to include all of the basic elements of novel writing. I will be submitting the assignment to the college very shortly; but I won’t be putting the plot to waste. I have decided to use it as inspiration for November 2014, 30 day Nano Wrimo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge; which starts tomorrow. I had better sharpen my pencil. I am not sure what to expect of this write, but I am going to follow the free-write process, let my imagination run wild and let the story lead. I am extremely excited to get started!

My Debut Novel…

Earlier this year I undertook the Camp Nano Wrimo ‘50,000 words in 30 days’ writing challenge. These 50,000 words became the first draft of my debut novel – a psychological thriller/horror – a story that has been growing in my mind for many years. After completing the 50,000 words, I tucked it away in a draw for several months (a bit longer than Stephen King’s recommendation of several weeks). However, this weekend, I plan to dust off the 70x A4 pages, dissect the daily writes, and place them in chapter/plot order. As you may have guessed by now, I free-write most of the time, and tend not to write in any particular order.

Reading…

I am currently a third of the way through a terrific thriller/horror novel called ‘One Door Away from Heaven’ by Dean Koontz. The novel is a great setting for this time of year; it’s dark and uneasy plot coincides nicely with glowing candle-nights. I have read 12 novels this year, which is less than the 22 books I had predicted on New Year’s Eve. However, I need to accept that some novels are a slower and longer read – and that I just need to take my time and enjoy the process. I have set myself a new goal of reading at least two chapters of a novel every day – and follow the concept that smaller steps lead to big achievements.

Well that’s it readers. I hope you have enjoyed this post and it has inspired you to continue with your projects.

Have a fantastic Halloween weekend!

Donna x

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Ralf

I take a turn, my feet pace

To a double beat

Down dreary street

I’m clipped of all good fortune

My lip is blue, broken

From the devil’s punch

Blood-winced, I wail,

Like a big-mouthed lion with a repressed paw

I take a turn, my head raw

Up to my latched room

Where I subsist

In pallor

 

©2014.alittlebirdtweets.

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Sunrise

A mind, a whirlpool, a sky;

Amid wild orchards,

Apple cider, sweet rapture

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Rootless

Hello Readers,

This month I was given the wonderful opportunity to write an exclusive flash fiction called ‘Rootless’, for Paula Lawes, who owns and runs an online magazine called ‘Tips for Growers’ at thedailygrow.com.

The theme of the magazine this month, and the theme with which I had to create a story, was ‘Love Yourself First’. This proved to be both exciting and challenging, and it certainly brought me out of my comfort zone of the thriller and horror genres, in which I write.

“Rootless leads us on a light and dark thematic journey. It highlights how, if we open our eyes and use our minds, we can transform ourselves and the world around us.”

To buy a copy of Paula’s 46 page magazine, please visit thedailygrow.com. The magazine not only contains my exclusive flash fiction ‘Rootless’, but it also contains some inspiring articles by guest bloggers, original photos and inspirational quotes.

Thank you!

©2014.alittlebirdtweets

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