Tag Archives: Writing

Prism Dreams

I long to roll down the river called Prism Dreams; to feel the night sky percolate the open pores of my skin. But I heard that the riverboat overturned last winter; had kicked all of the stars out of kilter, had halted the flicker of dragonfly wings under a wearisome moon. I heard that life had become receptive to the fear that had flourished in the eyes of the submerged.

@alittlebirdtweets2016

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Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Hello Readers,

Last week, I finished reading ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed, and since then I have been organizing the review notes that I had typed into my phone whilst I read the book. The review notes were typed mainly on my commute to work, with my phone rested on the opened book. I was switching from reading to typing, which proved to be tricky in those moments when I had no seat, and the train had me rocking me back and forth!

In the past, I have had the tendency to over-analyse books whilst reading them, and this has been due to me wanting to untangle, discover and capture every writing element that I possibly can from the book. Although this process has taught me to better understand writing, I also think that it has slowed my reading, which in turn, has gone on to impact my annual reading goals. So this year, I am going to attempt to analyse a book ‘naturally’, rather than force the process. But, this will require me to have my sixth sense ‘open all hours’, and it will require me to capture those important messages when they magically emerge. During this sixth-sense process, I will look to capture emotional triggers, theme, symbolism, notable progressions in plot, character changes, description etc. And as always, I will include these discoveries in my reviews, to share with my readers, and other writers.

Before I begin my review of Wild, I would like to highlight to any new readers that might be reading, that I analyse and review books from a writing perspective (not from a synopsis step-by-step perspective). My reviews will certainly contain spoilers, (including elements of plot) so please bear this in mind if you plan to read the book, or watch the movie. But please do revisit once you have experienced it with your own eyes.

In a nutshell – Wild is about a young girl called Cheryl Strayed, who decides to backpack along the Pacific Crest Trail, in America, following the devastating loss of her Mother, the breakdown of her family, and the crumbling of her marriage. It is a non-fiction book, and Cheryl Strayed, is the author and main character in the book.

I have always had a fondness for books with an ‘adventure’ plot – plots where a character decides to embark on a journey, either for the purpose of escape and self-discovery, or because they are intrigued and excited by unknown lands. I have read some breath-taking books that contain such story-lines – The Backpacker by John Harris, The Beach by Alex Garland, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. These are books that have certainly opened my senses, and have taught me more about the world we live in. These books have also managed to rekindle the child in me – the child that desired adventure – the child that had spent countless summer holidays riding her bike with her younger sister (and pet Chihuahuas) in parks, woods and streets, seeking an imaginary world far beyond the one we knew.

Wild is written in the first-person point-of-view. The first-person point-of-view creates the closest protagonist-reader connection. It is certainly the best choice of perspective for this book, and any book where focus needs to be placed on the main character and his/her perspective of the world within the story (and where less focus needs to be placed on the perspectives and thoughts of other characters).

Backstory is introduced mostly when Cheryl’s memory is triggered by an event or situation in the present that directly links to an event or situation in her past. I haven’t noted this connection with any other book that I have read until now, so it is certainly an exciting discovery. One example of the present-to-past connection is when Cheryl touches the image of her own horse tattoo. The image of the horse directs her thoughts to her Mother, and allows Cheryl to describe her Mother’s desire for owning and riding a horse, and her life with a horse that she had come to own later on. This connection allows the writer to introduce deceased and past characters that are no longer a physical part of the character’s life, but are yet still very much alive and breathing in his/her mind. During this process, the writer has the chance to choose the best scenes in which to capture the personality of that character, and the reasons for their part in the story. During the present-to-past scenes, we get to witness Cheryl’s childhood – scenes that include her Mother, Father and Step-Father and siblings, as well as her more recent-past, romantic relationships. These scenes contribute to the various themes in the story, which help to build on the reader’s emotional response at the end. These past scenes slowly teach us to understand Cheryl’s history, and why she came to journey the Pacific Crest Trail.

In the early part of the story, we see Cheryl prepare her backpack with various essential and non-essential items. As writers, we must ensure that an item we introduce in the early part of a story is introduced in the later part of the story. This is an essential element in writing. One of the items that Cheryl introduces early on, whilst packing, is a whistle – and later we witness her blow the whistle to deter animals. Cheryl decided to name her backpack Monster, due to its heaviness and burden (symbolic of carrying a load), and she learned key lessons along the way. Characters informed her that certain items were not required for the journey and were only weighing her down. Cheryl had also carried books with her, and so she learned to rip and burn the pages of books that she had read at night (in her tent). A list of books burned and those not burned are listed at the end of the book, which is quite fascinating. It is from these books that we are informed of other writers and poets that inspired her.

During her journey along the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl describes the changing scenery that she witnesses. It is in these moments that she gives the most beautiful and poetic sentences. As a writer, I believe that the best time to ‘play poet’ is when describing a setting. Cheryl describes the setting through her five senses. She describes trees and plants by their names, which definitely assists in creating good description. We know from the story that she came to know these trees and plants species either from her experience of living in her hometown of Minnesota, or from the guide books that she carries with her on her journey. This brings to mind ‘intelligence of the character’. As writers, we must ensure that the intelligence of our characters is accurately translated through their thought, knowledge and dialogue. We cannot expect a character to be informed about something if that something has never been experienced in their life. I believe it is a wonderful thing when a writer provides the reader with new, interesting, and factual information about the world we live in. It’s a gift from the author.

Conflict is a crucial writing element in any book. Without conflict, we have characters that are unchallenged, and able to reach their goal easily. As readers we want to see our characters stumble and fall, because it makes the victory in the end feel so much better. Also, as readers, we also want to learn from their difficult situations and understand what we would do if we were faced with a similar situation. On finishing a book, a reader should feel that they have been on that peak and trough journey along with the character, and that they too have learned from the experience.

Conflict exists in various forms within Wild. There are internal and external conflicts that challenge Cheryl’s journey – and these are all used to different degrees, from minor to life-threatening. From the outset, Cheryl questions her ability to walk the trail. But she continues, pushes forward, and finds comfort through her connection with nature and the universe, and through the encouraging words from characters that she meets along the way. The external conflicts and obstacles included; meeting / potentially meeting various dangerous animals such as mountain lions, rattlesnakes and bulls, encounters with strange men (as a female solo traveller), extreme weathers (that threatened her survival), a lack of supplies (water) which threatened her life, and external forces such as companies letting her down with deliveries (her new boots). During these scenes of desperation, the plot had me thinking, ‘Is she going to make the journey?’, ‘Will she be involved in a terrible incident, or even die?’ The suspense was great, and I was on the edge of my seat throughout wondering about her outcome. Internal conflict came mostly from Cheryl’s past, and with her having to deal with the emotions and trauma that arose from it.

Conflict also came from ‘trail’ information (dialogue) that was given to Cheryl via other characters. These were conflicts that would have impacted her future journey – conflicts such as heavy snow on the trail beyond, and wild fires happening nearby. I thought this added to the suspense of the story and boosted the ‘What will happen?’ question that was on my mind throughout reading. The information gave me a glimpse into the kinds of dangers that she was about to face ahead. At this point I was asking ‘Will she continue? The story was very powerful in capturing the past, the present and the future. I liked how the story lived in all three places in time.

As mentioned previously, Cheryl encounters numerous characters along her journey, ranging from fellow travellers to local people that live in the places she passes. Cheryl enters into dialogue with these characters, and it is through the other character’s speech that we see Cheryl from different perspectives. This really helps to round her character. Dialogue is a particularly strong method with which to illustrate other character perspectives on a particular character, especially when the story is in a first-person point-of-view. Cheryl meets and separates with several friends along the way. The friendship characters inform her about information on the trail, they give her tips on how to use backpacking equipment (such as an ice axe), they inform her on how she can lighten the backpack load, and they also provide her with words of wisdom, which helps to give her strength. Two characters give her spiritual mascots to take on her journey (a Bob Marley t-shirt and a Black Feather). The black feather acts as symbolism in the novel – meaning ‘renewal’. Cheryl also embarked on a 24-hour romance that highlighted her loneliness, and her weakness for men. It is something she disliked about herself, and by the end of the story we witness her change (as she doesn’t take up the offer of a date with a businessman she crosses paths with at the end of the book). Throughout the story, Cheryl opts to leave other characters in order to be alone, and I believe that it was in the moments in which she was alone that she was healing the most.

Throughout the journey, Cheryl reaches milestones, and we are told of them throughout the book. It is important to keep the reader on par with the time-frame of a story, and in this particular story the nautical miles covered was the most suitable form. We watch the days pass and the nights arrive, and this also acts as a great short-term time-frame. A day beginning and a day ending can form great frames for creating scenes. Milestones also helped her with her own journey because it was a way in which she could track her progress. The milestones also informed the reader of specific geographical places and the distances between them. Kennedy Meadows, known as the gateway to High Sierra, was one of Cheryl’s most anticipated milestones, and we really feel the distance involved in her reaching this particular point. As her journey progressed, we see how she began to connect with nature and how it helped to soothe her internal pain (pain from family, relationships, drug abuse) and external pain (ruined feet, sore hips). She grows stronger and stronger with each passing day, and her mind and body are changing for the better. Character change is such an important element in writing, and this book is a fine example of a character changing both internally and externally.

Cheryl witnessed her own physical change, in the form of a mirror. She glimpses a look at her new athletic frame, and she wonders how Greg (her 24 hour romance) will view her. She also experiences her own change in taste for food and drink, and she caves into luxuries such as Snapple lemonade and ice-cream. She turns to foods that she would never have been drawn to in her previous life. When she hears music for the first time in days (whilst being picked up in a truck), she realizes how much she had taken the sounds for granted. Cheryl is aware that she is changing, and the reader is given examples through several of the senses.

At the end of the book, she feels the desire to touch the Bridge of the Gods, the final part of the trail – this is the finishing moment – like the breaking of the tape after running a marathon. During the trail, she often contemplated where she would live afterwards, and regularly mentioned that she would move to Portland with a friend. She does just this, and manages to write this very book, both in Portland, and in other locations.

Cheryl tells us how she would never have known that she would be married with children, that she would have tracked down friends from the trail. This is definitely information that the reader would have wanted to know. Because the book was about healing and finding strength, we would have felt cheated without it. As writers, we should always be asking ourselves whether we are including everything that we need to within our writing. We should ask ourselves, ‘Will the reader have any remaining questions once they have finished the book?’

Lastly, there is one powerful sentence that Cheryl mentions in the book, and for me it summarizes the entire novel perfectly.

“It was the idea of not doing it that scared me.”

Wild was an inspiring and exciting read, and it is certainly a story that will stay in my mind (along with all of the other wonderful adventure stories that I am grateful to have discovered in my life).

Until next time,

Happy reading and writing!

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2016

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Torn

The roses in the garden were wilting, as though they were nodding their approval of your ignorance towards me. So I tugged them from the earth, removed their mocking heads, and threw them into the sad September breeze. The stalks they cried. The thorns they hailed. And the embers of petals floated back to me, and melded to my sweating body like greedy leeches. The embers still remain there, burning into my soul, like a wild and sorry tattoo.

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Blink

A medley of Bach was the only thing that could silence her mind, in this racing city. She pressed the volume up on her Ipod. The iconic chords managed to dumb-out the sound of her heavy stilettos upon the pavement; a sound that seemed to mimic the screech of a pneumatic drill in concrete. She longed to hear the pigeons coo; but even they failed to take a breath amongst the madness. They bobbed past her feet aimlessly, in their search for mangled morsels. She watched one blink, and she winked right back.

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Wildfire

If you were stood here watching my eyes, you would see a reflection of what I see before me,

Of smoking clouds punching at the forever seas, crashing waves to starry heights.

You see, there is an alluding mystery that pins me to this place,

Like a song playing on loop,
Tangled hair buffering in the breeze.
There is certainty in memories repeated.

If you were here, you’d hear me humming your biker name,
Stood in clad leather, a girl in the gang, your girl called,

Wildfire.

You would tune into the fine red threads that pass over my eyeballs like road maps.

And I know that you’d know, that they are red thread highways, carved away over time,

by my desert love.

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review: The Memory Game by Nicci French

Hello Readers,

Last week I finished reading the psychological-thriller, The Memory Game, by Nicci French.

The following review focuses on the book from a writing perspective, with less focus on the sequence of events/plot. Please note, there will be spoilers.

Before I begin the review, I’d like to mention that one of the first books that really moved me as a reader (and actually made me want to write my own novel) was the psychological-thriller called Beneath the Skin, by Nicci French. I had immediately been drawn to the dark and frightening ‘stalker’ plot, the closeness of the first-person point of view, and the ‘zoomed-in’ attention to detail in description – it had me gripped! This book had inspired me to read more Nicci French books, such as Safe House and The Red Room. However, although I enjoyed reading these books, they never did have that packing punch that Beneath the Skin had delivered to me.

This led my mind to think about something completely different – why does a book become a bestselling book or even a classic? May be there is some kind of universal magic that bonds us all. For me, Beneath the Skin would have to be a Nicci French classic – but then is it a universal book, would it speak out to us all? This is something we can all consider in our own writing if we are aiming for the bestseller lists. We have to dream big!

The Memory Game is Nicci French’s first novel, which was released in 1998 – and this is clearly evident from the writing. It is full of old-fashioned dialogue and slow-paced writing which I found rather author-lazy and off-putting to read. When we think of thrillers we think of fast-paced, edge-of-our-seat, twisting plot-lines – but this book was very much the opposite. The beginning was long-drawn out, and introduced too many characters at once, leaving me confused, annoyed and foot-tappingly anxious. I understand that the practice of introducing characters can be a useful tool when we want to create a murder-mystery set-up (such as in Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie) but it does not work in this book. The big cast of characters caused me to focus on the ‘family tree’, which is one of my big pet hates in fiction. The character’s should be weaved in effortlessly, and introduced to us in a way in which we will remember them and how they are related. In this book it was a case of ‘who is this character again?’ It was made even more irritating due to the fact that some of the characters did not play any real part in the plot – they could have been axed without any real effect – this is a big flaw in novel writing. Writing books constantly tell us to axe characters that are merely just extras or side props with no purpose. Even a minor character needs to push the plot forward in some way – whether it’s by them prompting a plot action, or through dialogue with the main character (to show another side to the main character) etc. There is also a big risk of losing a reader for good when the author does not set up an emotional lead character bond early on. I find that readers do not want numerous characters that we only get to know on a superficial level. You will find that the only time this method works best is in the plot-driven ‘who-dunnit’ mystery or suspense novel – where the big question is raised, and our intrigue is held. I have come to learn that we must fall in love with our characters early on – we must have an emotional attachment, or a similarity with which we can relate in order for us to care and read on. Unfortunately, this book and it’s characters left me bored. So why did I finish it? Well I have gathered that you can learn a lot from books you dislike and learn all of the sins and bad habits that you would never want to include in your own writing.

Nicci French has a terrible habit of giving her characters food and drink addictions – and she throws these over us like confetti when it is really of no importance. In this book it tends to happen in those moments when we are plot focused, wanting answers and actions – and all we are given is a character’s burning desire for a skinny mocha or latte, whilst they suck on a yellowing Marlboro. The character habits are repeated too much in this book, and the habits only really needed to be hinted at once or twice to give us an idea of the lead character’s personality. Readers are intelligent and will remember the habit the first time around. Repetition such as this can also show us that a book may have surpassed several, crucial, editing stages. If any one happened to re-read this book, then these flaws would have been clearly evident and likely been removed.

Personally, I love psychological fiction and traumatised characters, because it is in these types of characters that we learn about the darker sides of humanity; we learn how the weakest of characters can pull through a nightmare situation. The most interesting part of the book happened to hit on the area of psychology – with the psychotherapist and the lead character undertaking sessions, in an attempt to get the character to face her problems (the trauma of her missing school friend – who is later found dead – and the murderer having been a family member – ending spoiler!). The psychotherapist prompts the main character to talk out her feelings while all along we are wondering if she is hiding something that is the bigger answer to the bigger question in the book – what happened to Natalie?

I was very disappointed with this book and found it boring to read. I don’t like to put works of fiction down, because I do admire any one who manages to write even one novel in their lifetime, however this book just wasn’t cutting it for me. However, there are some good reviews of this book on Goodreads, and one person’s hate is another person’s love! So please don’t let my judgement put you off reading the book. Nicci French (wife/husband pseudonym) is an excellent writer, and we must consider the fact that this is their first novel.

Ironically, even though this is one of the worst books I have read, one of my favourite books (as mentioned above) happens to be ‘Beneath the Skin’, and I highly recommend this book to readers who love a psychological-thriller. It takes pride of place on my bookshelf.

Until next time,

Thanks for reading,
Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review – Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

Hello Readers,

This week, I finished reading ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’, by Maggie O’Farrell.

The review below contains my thoughts on the book from a writing perspective. Please note that there will be spoilers.

The title of the book ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’, and its cover design, were the first things that made me pull the book off the shelf (in a charity shop in my home town). I admit that sometimes I am guilty of judging a book by it’s cover, but I do believe that a book title and cover design, which have both evolved together beautifully in modern times, play a powerful part in informing us of the genre of a book and what we are to expect from it. I believe the cover design should be a big bay-window into the world of a story; illuminating theme, plot, mood and feeling. For instance, a key chain hanging from the back of a chair, might indicate to the reader that there is a deep-set mystery in a house that needs to be unlocked. A bridge over stormy waters might indicate that there is a dangerous, suspenseful adventure to endure, across continents. I have always been intrigued by cover design. When I finally finish writing my first novel, I will hope to have had some input into the cover design – to ensure that it is giving the reader a precise visual story into the world of my novel.

The cover for Instructions for a Heatwave depicts a still-life table setting situated in front of a window; with a light fabric curtain blowing in the breeze. Through the open window we see white clouds on a backdrop of light blue sky. Words that summarize this setting are pastel-stripes, sun, summer, heat, domestic setting and home. This cover summarizes the book perfectly because the setting takes place in London, in 1976, when a very long and uncomfortable heatwave had occurred. Having read this on the back of the cover, I have a very good reason to believe that I might not have actually chosen the book after all; but that the book had chosen me! The very reason for this, is that my Mum had been pregnant with me in that very summer of 1976, and she has often recounted how tiring and uncomfortable that very summer was carrying me around, under her cotton Seventie’s dresses! This book had an immediate personal affect on me, even if it was only because of the time and setting. I was intrigued to know more – to get insight into a time and a world, when I had not yet seen daylight.

Throughout the book, the reader is placed amidst the tremendous heat, beside the characters, inside their houses. To summarize the story, it is one of family, and the chemistry between that family, through a moving event in their lives.

The story begins with a Mother, a Wife, carrying out a domestic action in the kitchen. We are then introduced to a Father, the Husband, who decides to go to the shop that morning (as he usually does) but doesn’t return. The author then holds the suspense of the disappearance, by introducing us to the three siblings and their worlds. We enter their homes, their lives, meet their partners and their children. And here we learn how siblings can turn out to be very different; even when they have derived from the same close-knit family such as this one. The Mother and Father, unsurprisingly, have had a powerful impact on their children, throughout their lives. The author writes so authentically about this family’s chemistry, that at times it mirrored my own family! We see the arguments, the psychological mind-games, the care, the ‘not-talking’, the laughs, the bonds, the knowing of each other inside-and-out. This book is family-drama writing at it’s best.

In this story, we have siblings that embrace the Irish Catholic family traditions – such as wanting a loving and caring family of their own. And we have siblings that tend to knock the tradition sideways and tell us that we live in modern times and old beliefs are no longer valid – as in when we see the younger sibling ‘Aoife’ (Eve) moving away from her family and home. I had a strong sense of the Mother psychologically struggling to try to keep the Irish traditions valid in her children – whilst they are up against a new, evolving, modern world in which they are living.

You could say that although the theme of this book is about a missing person, it doesn’t entirely focus on this part at all. It is not really an investigation into how the Father disappeared, or where he is; but it is how a family are brought together and how they deal with such an awful event in their lives (and how they are going to solve it). We have the characters search their homes for clues of his disappearance, but there is no sense of urgency, no police or search teams.

As the book goes on, we learn that the Mother had told her children lies and had held the lie for many years. And these lies were (from my perspective) an attempt to keep the Irish tradition alive – for a Mother and Father to set a perfect example for their children.

But in all of this, we realise that lies cause damage and although humans are capable of forgiving, it is in the forgetting that we have trouble. There is no doubt that these lies had a negative affect on the children, but at the same time, we understand why the Mother may have hidden the truth through the pressure of religion and tradition at that time. We understand that there may have never been a right moment for her to speak the truth – and so the lie had festered – until one fine day it had been revealed to all. At the same time that these lies are revealed, so are other family-related issues in the past that appear on the Father’s side; and this leads us to the very reason as to why the Father had disappeared.

I found myself tearful at times when I read certain paragraphs in the book; that spoke of the childhood memories. It reminded me of my own family – my Uncles, Aunts, Nans, Grandads, Mum, Dad, and my three Sisters – and all the great times we have enjoyed and still speak about to this day. Isn’t it ironic that sadness exists in happy memories? I think that there is a certain sadness in time moving forward – and this story is very powerful in bringing that concept to light.

This story shows us how parents and our own childhood have a profound impact on our adult lives, in our thought processes, in our beliefs, and in our actions. On a darker note, we also learn how we are all capable of lying to protect loved ones; sometimes even to set good examples, become good role models.

At the end of the book, we learn that even after the character’s became aware of the lies, they were still able to forgive each other – because they are family. Learning to forgive, might possibly be one of the most important things that we can all learn in life.

At the end of the book, the Father returns – having dealt with certain problems in his life that happened long before he had met his Wife. It appears that it may have been important for the author to have the Father deal with his own problems away from his family, and for the Mother and siblings to deal with theirs, together. May be the separation was a powerful contrast to the pulling together of family in the end.

Looking at the book, as a whole, we feel like we have dropped in on this family’s life for a short but important moment in time; just like we would with a soap opera. We have confidence that when the Father walks through the door again, that their lives will continue – even though the chemistry and opinions between them may have changed. This tells a perfect story of life-continuing and getting through it’s ups and downs. We have faith that this family will stick together through thick and thin.

This was a great book to read about family. I must admit that this review was a huge challenge to write – partly because it is far from the genres I know well, partly because it was so tightly woven and cleverly written, and partly because I had to think more deeply about the life-themes in this book.

This book was unlike any other book I have read; where I could pick out certain obvious plot points, clever twist workings, character changes etc. Everything in this book seemed to meld into one fine, natural, roll of fabric that was hard to pucker. This is why I had no choice but to focus on the themes.

I do hope I have given the book justice. If there are any elements of the book that you would like me to discuss or dig into further then please ask. Thank you for reading.

The next book review will be on a horror novel called ‘Life Expectancy’, by Dean Koontz; which I am three-quarters of the way through reading.

Until next time, happy reading, happy writing!

Love,

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review – The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Hello Readers,

Today, I finished reading the haunting, magical and suspenseful novel, ‘The Miniaturist’, by Jessie Burton (her debut novel). The review below contains my thoughts of the book from a writing perspective. Please be warned, this may contain spoilers! This review was originally posted on Goodreads.com.

In the first chapter we are introduced to Petronella, the book’s main protagonist, who is entering a new house, a new world, to be with her new husband; Johannes. I find this to be an interesting beginning in novel writing; usually, plots in novels will begin with a character living out there daily lives, when suddenly, they are thrown off path for whatever reason. Here the author has placed the trigger in the past, and has planted Nella in the result of the trigger. In the beginning we want and need to know where Nella is, why she is there, and what she will be facing – this creates that essential initial suspense in writing.

On the title header of the chapter, the author states the place and date (seventeenth century) of where the book begins. This helps the reader visualise the period. This method is also good when we don’t want to place the time, date and era in the actual story for whatever reason – it allows the author to focus on description and story of that time period – which also hints at the ‘show’ don’t ‘tell’ rule in the narrative.

We meet some of the other character’s of the Brandt household in the hallway. This is a perfect setting and stage for their interaction. The setting helps to build the claustrophobic and haunting overtones and themes of the story to come – in fact the setting is a character in itself!

The characters are given clear physical descriptions and unique traits from the outset – which are all essential elements in ensuring the reader gets an instant ‘early’ image in their mind of the characters; which will stay with them throughout the book. It is also through physical description, action and dialogue that we begin to understand the relationships and chemistry between the characters – the differences in the character’s personalities helps to build the conflict in the story.

The author had undertaken considersble research of Amsterdam and it’s history in order to write the book. After I finished reading it, I felt I had come away with a good understanding of Amsterdam’s history – and it is always great to learn something new through fiction! I learned about seventeenth century Dutch houses, Churches, laws, trials, religions, food, currency and professions. I loved how the author had initally visited The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; where she had viewed real-life Petronella Oortman’s miniature house. She had walked away inspired, wondering who would have owned such a beautiful thing. I guess this really does tell us that some of the best inspirations come to us when we question something,  and want to know more about it. It’s the ever magical why, what, where and when of fiction – and that wonderful trigger of when research begins.

I can only guess that the author wanted to keep the miniaturist character as mysterious as possible, because this mirrored the author’s mysterious feeling’s towards the miniature cabinet. I felt that the miniaturist character did have her own story to tell far away from this book – I would still love to know what she looked like, how she acquired these foretelling skills, and (in more detail than this book explained) why she chose to impact other’s lives by using these skills. A new book from this character’s viewpoint would also be amazing.

There are some strong themes in the book; love, obsession, jealousy, secrets, lies, superstitions, violence, fear, regret, death, decay, among many other’s – and they all entwine into a fantastic carefully woven plot – which has several twists!

I thought the ending was carefully wrapped up with all of the loose ends tied. Although the very last event was inevitable, I still wondered whether something magical was going to happen to save the day – and that process is ‘suspense working the reader’ at it’s best. The fact that no magic happened in the end made the story very raw and real.

Finally, one thing that really blew me away was when I visited the author’s Pinterest page (a collection of research images that she used as inspiration for the novel). I had clear visions in my mind of the character images, based on the author’s descriptions; but it was only when I visited the author’s Pinterest page that my visions were confirmed to be almost identical! This itself was a magical experience, and can only highlight the author’s excellent eye for detail. I also recommend creating storyboards for your writing’s – they become great inspiration and prompts when needed.

I recommend this book to those who enjoy a haunting, suspense-thriller. This book is a truly amazing read by a brilliant debut writer. I will look forward to Jessie’s next book called ‘Belonging’ – set in Spain and London in the 1960’s.

Until next time,

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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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 – 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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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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Life

Ernest Burroughs pulled the well-thumbed life manual close to his face. His cataract eyes failed him; so he sniffed out the written words with his white-haired nostrils. The words travelled his nasal paths to his brain; where he chewed on them vigorously, squeezing them of their collective meaning. Billions of random words danced atop his eyeballs like small dazzling clouds, when his chest tightened. And before he could impart the revealed recipe of immortality to mankind, a force pulled him through a white tunnel.

©2014.alittlebirdtweets

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Catatan Perjalanan Hidupku ^^

Karena setiap detik perjalanan hidup adalah pelajaran, dan akan menjadi kenangan yang akan selalu membuatmu bersyukur :)

Le paradis de Noémie

les pieds dans l'eau

Goodnight Moon

This is where you'll find the hidden pieces of me

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What we see depends mainly on what we look for - John Lubbock

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Create Your Own Happiness

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where abstract thoughts become concrete words

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Learn the art of silence so that nothing is left unsaid!!

burninskyblog

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tarun81

fiction, poetry and inspiration

❣Emotional Queen👑

🎭दो चेहरें हैं,दो लहज़े हैं मेरे...और हर सवाल के दो जवाब "एक मैं जो लिखती हूँ दूजा तुम जो जानते हो"!! 👑Queen Of My Own Thought❣ #MyBlogMyFeeling

TheGirlOnTheGo's Blog

Exploring all perspectives in a blogosphere! :)

301.83

borderline personality disorder

Unsaid but Written

Releasing this flood of words from my soul into this empty page.

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Inspirational,Motivational, Lifestyle, Daily Living, Positivity, Religion

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Walking blogger exploring London's hidden gems, sights and history!

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