No matter which way the wind blows,
or how the snow lands on your lashes,
inside your stormy winter roads,
out here in the dust and frozen clay,
you are hell-bent on survival,
because the camera loves you.
No matter which way the wind blows,
or how the snow lands on your lashes,
inside your stormy winter roads,
out here in the dust and frozen clay,
you are hell-bent on survival,
because the camera loves you.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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,
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,
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.
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!
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!
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!
|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|
|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|
|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|
|Elizabeth’s Missing||Emma Healey|
|Men Without Women||Ernest Hemingway|
|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 Call of the Wild||Jack London|
|The Poser||Jacob Rubin|
|Write Great Fiction: Revision and Self-editing||James Scott Bell|
|Pride and Prejudice||Jane Austen|
|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|
|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|
|Quant by Quant: The Autobiography||Mary Quant|
|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|
|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|
|Pride and Prejudice and Zombies||Seth Grahame-Smith|
|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|
|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|
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!
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.
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.
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!
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